27 Story Writing Tips for Beginners


Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

Looking for writing tips for authors? Here are twenty-seven to get you started. Maybe you’ve been thinking about writing a book, your first novel, or a short story. Here are some helpful hints.

1. Choose a genre you enjoy. Writing in a genre that you like makes writing much easier. Writing something you don’t enjoy becomes a monotonous task and can suck the joy out of your story. Understand popular tropes in your genre for different ideas.

2. Know your genre inside and out. Understand it. Know what shelf your book would be on in a book store. When it comes to marketing your book, this helps tremendously. This is important for your reader. Picking up a book that doesn’t touch on the expected details in a genre of book can be disappointing.

3. Narrow your genre down to a sub-genre. If you’re going to write a mystery book, you need to ask yourself what type of mystery book it will be. Will it be hard-boiled, a cozy, or more like a police procedural? If you’re writing romance will it be set in current times (contemporary) or be historical? Will it be romantic suspense or a romantic comedy? Choosing a niche can help your marketing game when you’re published.

4. Who is your ideal reader? What are their expectations of the story genre? Example: a romance needs a happily-ever-after. A mystery ends with a satisfying ending where the person at fault comes to justice.  Who is reading your book, and what do they expect from it? Reader expectation is crucial. If you don’t hit the mark, readers will move on from you and find another author to read.

5. Read reviews of popular books in your chosen sub-genre to see what people liked and didn’t like. There are great tips in browsing reviews! Maybe they felt the characters in a story weren’t believable, or maybe the conflict wasn’t large enough. You’d be surprised what you can learn by reading reviews. (Goodreads.com)

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6. Good book titles are important. Consider a keyword tool to help you find a well-searched word. It helps you’re your visibility on sites like Amazon better.  (Publisher Rocket, previously titled KDP Rocket ) There’s a book called “Don’t Make Me Think” which is about web usability, but the concept is the same. You only have a second or two for a reader to know what your book is about before they move on. Make it obvious. Know what a reader expects to see when they’re looking for a book in your chosen genre. Know what colors, themes, and words clue the reader in immediately that you fit what they’re looking for.

7. Did you choose your writing software? Ex: Scrivener, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Open Office, or Pages . It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It doesn’t have to be popular. It simply has to work. If you work linear, a simple blank page may be enough. If you write scenes out of order, you may appreciate something like Scrivener which allows you to move things around easily.

8. Pick a title that fits both the genre and your spin on the story. If you’re writing a post-apocalyptic story, a title like “The Cowboy’s Ranch” would put off a reader. They’re looking for specific trigger words that tell them what the book is about. Know the words that are common in your genre. Look at current and previous titles for ideas that pinpoint your genre.

9. Brainstorm cover ideas by looking at those that are selling. Are there certain vibes, moods, or color combinations being used? I find visuals great inspiration and many times a simple picture starts me on my way. Like mentioned above, don’t make the reader overthink. They should know immediately what your story is about.

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10. Have you considered a pen name? Do you need one? No. Think about your privacy. This may matter to you. It may not. When you write in multiple genres it can help with reader confusion. If you choose a pen name, make sure the domain (DOT COM) is available along with available social media accounts. (Adding the word Author, Writer, or Books can sometimes help you around in that situation.)

11. Start an email list. Do you really need one? Yes! The sooner the better. It takes a long time to grow a fan base. Start early! An email list is a great tool that gives you permission to contact your fans. That means you’ll get a front row seat to their inbox which is extremely valuable. A great resource about newsletters is a book called Newsletter Ninja. I highly recommend it.

12. Be sure to think of specific ideas for your story. Where does it take place? When does it occur? In the future? In the past? Current times? What is the book about? Who is it about? Know these details before you get started, as they can help you stay focused.

Create a Daily Writing Habit.

13. Write a little bit each day. Small blocks of writing time add up quickly. It’s not as overwhelming as saying you’re going to sit and write for five hours straight. I love 20- minute sprints (Pomodoro method). It’s amazing how quickly those words add up.

14. Try outlining your book. If you’re not an outliner (and are a pantser), at least know the basics of your story. It will give you a breadcrumb path and keep you on track. Fun, easy read, with great tips – Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing.

15. First drafts are for getting words down. Once the words are written, you can go back and polish them. Create the writing habit first. Don’t be critical of those first words. Get the idea down. You can’t edit a blank page. Words are the priority.

16. Remove distractions. Wear headphones if it helps drown out noise, or use a music channel like Brain.fm. They have a focus segment which I love. Everybody is different. Do you need silence? I can listen to music without words. If there are lyrics, I want to sing along, and I lose concentration.

story writing tips for beginners - writers and authors

17. A beat sheet might help your pacing. Jami Gold has a great one, along with Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (I like both versions — screenwriting/novel.) (Jami Gold – Worksheets for Writers)  

18. Try mind mapping to expand ideas about your story and help you see areas of potential growth. There are plenty of mind mapping tools out there. Bubbl.us is one.

19. Create a routine. Write at the same time in the same place. This way your brain registers that it’s time to write. You’re creating a habit– remember? I write in my office. When I sit at my desk, my mind goes into work mode. I’ve trained it that way. If I want to play a game, I do it on my iPad in another room. My office is for work.

Keep going… There are a few more writing tips to go.

20. Keep you story’s plot line simple. Getting too complex with your story can actually dilute the message of the book. If too many threads are left open, a reader will leave your book unsatisfied.

21. Give your character a measurable goal to accomplish. Then, put obstacles in their way. Measurable means, something that your reader can see and understand. If we don’t know how your character moved forward, there’s nothing to celebrate. If we don’t know how far they still have to go, it’s hard to cheer them on. Obstacles should be difficult to overcome…not silly, easy ones. Give the character the need to push through, so the reward is that much better.

22. Consider dictating if you’re having trouble getting your words down. Sometimes speaking will help you find the words you were looking for. (Dragon Speaking Naturally) Note: everybody has a different experience with this. One of the tips I was given when I struggled with this at first (surprise, since I love to talk) was to do something else while dictating. Sitting at my desk, simply speaking into my microphone and looking at the screen was so distracting. I felt like I moved slower! Instead, try going for a walk on a treadmill, do the dishes, something that engages one part of your mind, so you don’t overthink as you’re talking into your microphone. It uses another part of your brain.

23. Know who your audience is. Example in the romance genre…Are you targeting young adults who like to read angsty, maybe darker experiences? Or older women who prefer a gentler romance? Maybe you’re looking at inspirational romance. Knowing what the reader is hoping to get from a certain type of book will help keep your story in check. Repeat after me — reader expectations. Here’s an example: if you’re writing inspirational romance, your readers will expect an element of faith in the story. Let’s compare inspirational romance to clean romance. Clean romance books offer stories with a low level of heat and no foul language. Know your readers! If you’re writing a spicier romance novel, your readers want the bedroom door to remain open in your intimate scenes and are less sensitive to cuss words.

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

24. Make sure your character is likable. If a reader doesn’t like your character, they won’t be interested in going along for the ride. Immerse your reader in a story that offers a three-dimensional character. If they are unlikable, consider give them a redeeming quality. It makes a difference and reviewers are very vocal about characters they don’t like.

25. Figure out how your character changes over the course of the story. This is vitally important. A story is about a character that starts at point A and goes to point B. How do they change? If there’s no change, there’s little story.

26. The more you write, the stronger your writing will become. Look back at something you wrote a year ago. You’ll be amazed at the leaps and bounds you’ve made. It’s fascinating to read books that I wrote a couple of years ago. Whether it’s in theme, structure, visceral description, things will change. You will improve.

27. Most importantly, know your ending and finish what you started. The triumphant feeling of typing THE END can’t be overstated. Starting is a hurdle, but finishing is a massive prize. Keep at it, don’t give up, and know that every group of words you add to your project takes you one step closer to the end.

I hope this list has helped.

Once your story is written, check out: How to Edit a Book here.

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