Being well into the editing stages, and near completion of my first fantasy fiction novel, I thought I would share some nuggets of information. These are collated from several sources – online, in print and advice from other authors.
This advice is not focussed on fantasy and fiction but is general advice to help improve your writing.
- Adverbs – try to use these sparingly and definitely avoid using strings of them. Use ‘Andrew hurried across the street’ instead of ‘Andrew went quickly across the street.’ Adverbs often work better at the start or the end of a sentence.
- Adjectives – as with adverbs, try to use these sparingly and never a string of them. ‘Very’ should be stripped out as it is known as the weakest adjective.
- Delete redundancies – do not write the sky above or he stood up. Write the sky or he stood.
- Scrutinise every description and try to reduce long sentences to shorter, snappier sentences to help create pace and tension in a scene. Don’t try to describe what doesn’t need describing. New authors have a tendency to describe absolutely everything in a scene. If it does not add any value get rid of it. In a restaurant scene, the reader doesn’t need to know about every action such as picking up a fork, picking up a knife, cutting the steak, putting down the knife and fork and picking up the glass etc.
- Try to give a description in action. Do not say ‘Several flags stood atop the government building say ‘Several flags billowed atop the government building.’
- Whose eyes are we looking through? Is it clear the author is intruding and providing information the character could not possibly know?
- Do not open your book with a lengthy description of the weather. People will tend to sift through this and lose interest easily. This is a common mistake by newbie writers but everyone knows the variations in the weather. Get to the point and the characters.
- Keep exclamations to a minimum. I read a rough guide somewhere of 1-2 per 80,000 words on average.
- Avoid unneccessary confusion when describing acts. Do not say ‘His eyes travelled to the cockpit’ as this gives the impression his eyes moved to the cockpit.
- Keep going – sometimes it is better to let the words flow out of you and to just keep going regardless of what you are putting down. You are going to heavily edit it at a later stage anyway. In the first instance get your ideas down on paper and keep the writing flowing.
- Finishing your book – is this how you want your book to end? Does it leave the reader feeling as though there was a purpose to the time invested in reading your novel? Will they want to read more? Would they buy another of your books?
- Another key bit of advice I have received is to try to read your novel aloud. This may seem silly but it actually helps to understand the flow of your sentences and dialogue in a way not possible when reading your story in your head.
I realise I am only just completing my first fantasy fiction novel but I believe I have accumulated several key bits of advice that become crucial in the editing stage. They also appear to be points that are easily overlooked so it is worth reviewing a chapter of your completed book with the above in mind just to see if any of these have crept in without you realising.