Rules for Beginners to Follow
The creative writing process can be an overwhelming thought for any aspiring author. What’s funny is, there’s really no right or wrong answer. Every author has their preferred method. We have the outliners, pantsers, and hybrids.
I identify as a hybrid, usually taking time to create an outline before deviating from it at some point.
But, some of us think creative writing involves something reminiscent of the scientific method and it’s simply not true.
So, what are the “rules” of the creative writing process?
Well, there’s only a few authors should follow. Again, it’s not a matter of must, but one of should. Nothing is set in stone, but this will give all authors a peace of mind when going to write their great novel.
Rule Number One: Choose Your Style
Are you an outliner?
Outliners love to outline their whole work. Some outliners write a synopsis for each chapter, as I do. Others like to write a synopsis for every scene. And still others like to incorporate each. While this might make the process easier, if you’re scatterbrained as I am, you might deviate from this, as I’ll explain later.
What about pantsers?
Stephen King can identify as a pantser. What does he love to do? He’ll put his characters in terrible situations and write to find out what happens to them. I like this method a lot, but not from the first to last page.
What about hybrids?
Ah, this is me. Hybrids love to start with an outline, usually a small chapter synopsis, as where is this chapter going. We love to deviate sometime or another as our story develops. My second full-length work coming out, Swords of Destiny, is a good example of the hybrid model and it’s where I found my author identity as a hybrid.
So, choose your style now. You might need to experiment with different styles to really get a good feel for which one comes most naturally to you and go with it. Chances are, you’ll end up incorporating this style into all your works.
Rule Number Two: Avoid Plot Holes! Write then Edit
How to avoid a plot hole?
Write one day and edit the next.
Resist the temptation to write each day as you’re going to make a mistake. Yes, I’m going to be real with you here.
The only way you can go without making a mistake by writing the whole way unless you have a notebook in hand and take accurate notes. Even then, your notes might not match your manuscript.
So, save yourself some trouble and write one day, edit the next, write the following day, edit, and keep going. Resist the urge.
Your work is going to read much better by the end of your first draft.
Yes, your first draft doesn’t have to be terrible; it can be quite good. Why not do all you can to make it great?
So, write what would be your first draft on the odd days and on the even days, edit it and immediately turn it into your second draft.
Boom! You have two drafts finished after one draft.
Trust me, it’ll save you some heartache and soul searching.
Rule Number Three: Use Limited Point of View
First or third person works well. While rare, second person can also be used but it’s found in non-fiction.
First person point of view involves the character speaking as themselves telling the story. I, me, mine, etc.
Third person is also popular. It involves the calling the main character by their name. However, everything is shown through their eyes.
Second person involves the writer speaking to the reader, referring to the reader often.
You can also tell the story in the past or present tense.
But, you must pick one and only one per book. For instance, all of my works are told in third person, past tense. For instance, Cain walked, Cain did, Cain went to, Cain bolted, etc.
Why just one?
Because you’ll confuse the reader if you’re reverting between past and present, or first and third. The reader isn’t going to take the time to figure out what’s going on; they’re going to pick another book and throw yours to the wayside.
A lot of authors recommend starting with first person, past tense, as it’s the easiest to master. I considered, but ultimately third person, past tense came more naturally. If a certain point of view feels natural, feel free to go with it.
Rule Number Four: Go Small, Not Large
The Lord of Columbia Series and Northern Knights takes place on a national scale, but I’m not about to write it like a history text. Readers aren’t fond of this so instead of focusing on the macro, focus on the micro.
In Northern Knights, I focus on Cain’s story. Yes, there’s action going on all over the colony as they battle the empire but we’re focusing on Cain. The reader is aware of the ongoing conflict but their interest rests with Cain.
For instance, think Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We know the Death Eaters are coming and Voldemort’s taking over (again). But, our primary interest rests with Harry Potter and the other main characters.
Your readers are going to focus on your main characters and your main characters only. They will care about the macro-aspect of the book, but the micro is what makes the story itself.
Instead of focusing on the big picture, focus on the stories of the individuals. It’s more believable to the readers, especially if this happens to average characters.
For any new author, these four basic rules are musts to follow. Choose a style, whether an outliner, panster, or hybrid. Write on the odd days, edit on the even days. Your novel will look better at the end of the first draft. Really, the second. Choose a point of view method and stick to it. Focus on your point of view and main supporting characters. It’s them the readers care most about.
Alright, take action. Find the writing style that comes naturally to you and start alternating writing and editing days. Make sure you’re consistent with point of view and finally, keep the scope on the straight and narrow.