Skip to main content

The Core Elements of Fiction Writing

Kristen Howe is an author who's writing romance & thriller novels. She knows the different types of publishing venues out there for authors.

Get Ready to Write

Better late to never, sorry I didn’t get to post this belated writing hub from my spring half-day conference a decade ago. This was one of the last conference sessions I took and jotted down plenty of notes to share. This is handy and timely, since Nanowrimo is around the corner this fall. You can use it for Nano, Camp Nano/Julno, or writing at your own pace. This course was accompanied with a workbook via the free Udemy self-paced course, since we’ve gotten a free waiver. In actuality, it cost $50 to take the course. I'd included two screenshots of what the sheets of the workbook looked like, so you can make one at home and tailor it to your own fashion.

Place your butt in chair for writing. If you’re a writer, you create words on paper. You can finish a rough draft in 60 days, if you can commit to writing everyday. (Note: I’d tried to do this for Camp Nano that past spring and failed, since I’d managed to write 20K in April. I’d tried it again for Nano that May and filled out the worksheet everyday.)

A Page From the Virtual Workbook

This is  the first half of my workout I've gotten from my writer's conference a few years ago

This is the first half of my workout I've gotten from my writer's conference a few years ago

Second Half of Virtual Worksheet

This is the second half of the same worksheet from my writer's conference.

This is the second half of the same worksheet from my writer's conference.

Decision Time

The first thing you should do is make a decision. Treat your writing as a business with expenses on how to become a novelist, or on the same system to be published for Amazon.

In Stephen King’s popular writing book, “On Writing”, this tip was to try thinking about ordinary people dropped into extraordinary situations. The best way to start doing it is with prompts.

Tools of the Trade

Fancy software and tools aren’t necessary to write a novel. Just keep it simple. You can use Google Documents, Microsoft Word, an USB drive, and Scrivener.

Plan it Out

These are the skills I’d learned in this course and passing it forward over to you. Do you want to know a “secret?” If you write 1000 words a day or 500 words per session, that’s a good word count goal before you call it a day. If you write every other day, it took you about four months. If you have consistent production through discipline, you can “commit” and draw boundaries. Your family aren’t real good supporters for you to do your writing. When you finished writing, check the word count for your genre. For example, if you’re doing romance, aim for 60,000-80,000 words. That’s the ideal length of a novel. If you aim for 100%, you can cut that and add in your first draft.


Take Action

For every novel, there’s seven archetypes. We can mix them up for the framework of your storyline:

  • The Overcoming Monster is when the hero defeats and returns world to order.
  • The Rags to Riches is when the modest person has special talent.
  • The Quest is when a hero’s on a journey, searches for prize and has a sidekick.
  • The Voyage and Return is when an ordinary person becomes extraordinary and goes back to ordinary.
  • The Comedy is when there’s confusion, miscommunication, and some humor involved.
  • The Tragedy is when there’s no happy story, when the ego/pride goes awry.
  • And the Rebirth is when someone’s redeemed, a dark force is closing to winning, and the hero saves the world.


As for genre, you write what you enjoy reading.

Story Arcs

There are three parts to every story arc for your novel:

  • The Basic Arc is the beginning of your story line when there’s a set-up with the main character introduced with the inciting incident.
  • The Middle Arc is when there’s confrontation, when you’ll encounter resistance, deal with minor challenges.
  • Then in the End, there’s the resolution, when there’s a climax as the hero faces main evil force.

The Basic Arc should be 25% of your story line, whereas the Middle is 2x bigger at 50% of your story, and the End is also at 25% for your novel.

Final Writing Tips

As for the workbook, feel free to use it and to create your own template. Write early in the morning and have everything you need in your writing space. Stand up and turn off distractions. Hit the word count you planned for the day, no matter what. Back up everything to save it. Create a quiet space, or use white noise or headphones from distractions. There’s an app called RelaxWriting for your iPhone or Android or tablet.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Kristen Howe

Comments

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on January 05, 2017:

I will Alan. It would be a long while, though, if I land a pub deal. But I'll keep you posted if anything changes.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on January 05, 2017:

Scroll to Continue

You can do no more than your best, Kristen. As well all do. Let me know when it's out.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on January 05, 2017:

Not really. I don't have the right experience for it. I do mainly self-editing and go to a writing group and have two beta readers. But I do have money from Upwork to use. I'll try Alan.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on January 05, 2017:

Thought about being your own editor? These things cost serious money, editors being what they are and having inflated ideas about their talents. Writing on a shoestring, I do my own editing. I also know how I want my work to be read, with OE place names and personal names. You know how you want your work to read, edit to that end. Rules on grammar as taught in school don't always apply, you have to be 'flexible' yet still make sense overall. Go to it, Kristen. Let's see what you're made of!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on January 04, 2017:

Alan, thanks for stopping by. I do have some agent interested in my novels and one small pub on one. I have two R&Rs and do need to figure out how to hire an editor to make editing smooth as possible.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on January 04, 2017:

Well Kristen there's another year gone, more words under your belt and mine. I've added another book to my list and started number seven - about sixteen chapters of twenty but not 'wordy'. More like Pathe News with more description. Funny old b*****s we are, us scribblers. How have your projects come on? Have a good 2017, but don't overdo the work ethic (makes the rest of us look bad)!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on January 03, 2017:

Good idea Meg. It can work for poetry and nonfiction. I've averaged 2000 words a day for over a year.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on January 03, 2017:

1000 words a day works well for other writing too, not just fiction. I found learning about freewriting helped me.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on May 21, 2016:

You're welcome.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on May 21, 2016:

Thank you for such a helpful article. The 1,000 words a day seems most doable....I hope....for... me....

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 21, 2015:

Thanks KoffeeKlatch Gals. 500 is a good goal. 1000 is even better. I hope it helps everyone to be better writers.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on December 21, 2015:

Very interesting and extremely helpful. I think setting A goal is important when writing. The 500 a day word goal is within reach.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 21, 2015:

Thanks V for stopping by and commenting. You're welcome.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on December 21, 2015:

Very nice article with much useful tips on writing fiction. Thanks for sharing your experiences at this talent.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 17, 2015:

Thanks Billy for stopping by my hub. It takes practice for sure.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 17, 2015:

I seek that which can never be attained....perfection in fiction writing. :)

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 09, 2015:

Cynthia, other than dealing with a nasty cold, I'm hanging in there. Good for you for trying to write 4 novels! Don't give up. For sure, nothing wrong with that.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 08, 2015:

Nice! I have attempted four novels now...maybe five, hehe. I admit that I still don't think I have anything worth publishing. But well, I have a knack for art and drawing...nuthin' wrong with that. ;)

But I'll definitely check your hubs when it comes time to editing some of t these short stores and things I've written. Hope you're well!!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on November 19, 2015:

My pleasure Deborah. Go for it! You can do it! I've managed to hit the 1K goal and surpass it for Nano this month with 2K a day in the morning.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on November 19, 2015:

Thank you for this. I have one novel that's half-finished and another that is taking form in my brain. I just need to sit down and start working on it!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 28, 2015:

You're welcome Ann. Go for it, if you're doing it. If not, no worries. Thanks my friend!

Ann Carr from SW England on October 28, 2015:

I'm still thinking about doing it; will have to make up my mind soon!

Interesting tips here, thanks.

Ann

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 28, 2015:

You're very welcome. And thank you for commenting on my hubs, Flourish.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 28, 2015:

This was very helpful (particularly the themes). Thanks for sharing this information.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 27, 2015:

Thanks Rich. See you around here, Rich.

Richard J ONeill from Bangkok, Thailand on October 27, 2015:

Well, I look forward to it!

See you soon. :)

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 27, 2015:

Hey Rich, long time no see my friend. You're welcome. I'm happy to share what I've learned--I have more to post this fall, when I get to it.

Richard J ONeill from Bangkok, Thailand on October 27, 2015:

Hey Kristen,

Long time no speak. ;)

Nice hub. There were a few refreshers here for me.

I try to keep to 6000 words a day but it's not easy. Even as a full-time writer. Sometimes, the words run out and you have to take a breather.

Thanks, and take care.

Rich

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 27, 2015:

You're very welcome Alicia. Yes it does. Let's see what happens if we put them to use.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 26, 2015:

Thanks for sharing your notes, Kristen. They contain some interesting ideas for writers.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 23, 2015:

Thanks Jill. I think we all can do 500 words if not 1000. You're welcome! We all need a boost of encouragement, every now and then.

Jill Spencer from United States on October 23, 2015:

The 500-words-a-day goal is doable for me, I think, but committing to it when life gets in a way is the hard part. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement, Kristen. Good luck w/your novel!

Related Articles