Writing Literary Fiction

In literary fiction writing, the story is usually focussed on a person or an event, in which there is a dilemma so cataclysmic the world will fall apart if the problem is not resolved. This is what makes good fiction great. Every writer’s work that I’ve ever read has started their story by stating the protagonist’s problem, letting things get better, then worst for her or him, then makes the author makes the situation appear impossible, and finally we arrive at the resolution.

Trouble writing prose? Perhaps you’re hung up on what your protagonist, (your main character) should be up against. That is where theme comes into play. There is man vs.man, man vs.nature and man vs.himself. Nothing coming to mind still? Here’s what you can do:

Brainstorm. Take a word, any word, now write it down. Profanity is not encouraged but if you do swear I promise I won’t be the one to say anything about it. From that first word you picked, write another word that in some way relates to it. For example, I write the word, pencil. Drawing a line out from the word pencil I write keyboard, because lets’ face it, writing is dead. But that’s another blog. And so on and so forth until you have an entire page of words you associate with that word you wrote in the first place.

The other thing you can do, is pick up a random photo from your family photo album. Define the, who, what, when, where, why and how of that photo as it relates to what you are looking at in the image. Now, change the person’s sex, their age, their intellect and a few other details, and voila, you’ve created a character you can potentially use in your story. As for creating conflict for your character, drawing from real life is always inspiring, but I don’t advise you to use your own life’s conflicts, unless you are writing a memoir.

Now freewrite. Freewriting is the simple act of placing your fingers on the keyboard and typing until your fingers feel like they are going to fall off, and then feel as if they actually have. It is where whatever you are thinking or feeling meets the blank page, like I am doing at this moment. It creates a piece of work commonly referred to as a first draft.

In the first draft, crappy prose is fine. The point is to get your ideas out of your head and placed somewhere visible. Freewriting allows you to type, without looking back for grammatical or structural errors and you simply write and write and write and write…I could keep writing…until every time the sentence, blank space, wants to finish, and write, has come out of me and I feel as though I have nothing left to say.

You get the picture.

When that happens, put your work aside. Do not, under any circumstances, e-mail it to a publisher in the same breath you have created it. Trust me… I have been there, done that and certainly would not do it again, at least intentionally, for the life of me.


After you have separated yourself from your work for say, 48 hours or so, look at it again. Print it up. Read it through the first time without marking it up. This is how professional editors’ (or so I’m told) approach a writer’s work. Now that you have read your work from top to bottom, left to right and hopefully (Not) inside out, ask yourself what the plot is about. On a separate piece of paper, write that down. Got it? Good. Now, check for grammatical and structural errors. (It is helpful to keep your work double spaced so there is room to write any notes or revisions you would like to make later.)

Once you have revised your first copy, put it aside and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re on your way to being published.

Research your market. While you are enjoying a break from the arduous editing you had at hand, take some time to review potential publishers. Look at authors’ whose work is similar to your own. Can’t find any? Check again. Try going to a library in person – a dying art with the digital age. Still can’t find any? Super! You’ve got something a publisher out there will be interested in.

Query potential publications. Simultaneous queries are, I find, the best route to getting your writing published in a timely manner and more importantly are helpful to finding just the right publication for your work. Does more than one publisher want your work? You may look into getting a literary agent, or you may decide to go ahead and negotiate the contract with the right publisher for you on your own.

Getting paid. In my many years of experience as a writer, very seldom has it happened that the publishers I dealt with didn’t honor their cheques or pay on publication, which is often the standard for article writing. With book contracts, an advance is usually worked out between the author and the publisher.

Building a platform. In the dark ages, word of mouth was often good enough to get an author noticed and building their fan base. In contemporary times, many authors use social platforms to build followers and loyal readers’. Some will also go on tours, promoting their books through writing workshops and readings of their latest novel.

For journalists, the trick is to have either a blog or a column in a community or national publication where people are consistently seeing how the author’s work develops over time. Links to their articles on social networks are also a valuable tool as they connect the reader directly with the author’s work. List any awards or achievements in your creative resume are also advisable.

For authors, similar techniques are effective, but there is a greater presence in the community as authors’ go on book tours and writing workshops.

Writers’ groups; if you can’t find one, why not start one yourself? They are a lifeline for the struggling and advanced writer. Here’s why…

When the ideas won’t come, writers’ groups are an incentive to devote the most you can to your craft. Many offer constructive criticism, support, and a specific focus on how, or where your work could use improvement.

Be a role model. There are a million unknown writers’ plus out there. Why not encourage someone you know? Don’t know any? Offer to run a creative writing course at your local library and use what you know as a base for teaching. Make a difference in the life of a young or new writer today.

And if your courage fails, and instructing a writing course is not for you, encourage a writer with a book on writing, or a good piece of literary fiction.

Other blog posts you might like: How to Write a Children’s Book and Get it Published






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