So You Want To Write That Mind-Blowing Fiction?

So You Want To Write That Mind-Blowing Fiction?



cartoon - a3bcfrontrow dot wordpress dot com

Being an avid member of Naija Stories, the online forum for aspiring Nigerian writers, I’ve seen newbies join the forum and post their first drafts of stories, poetry or articles and over time blossom into better writers. I’m not surprised at the growth and changes that take place as the forum offers many opportunities for that.

You get to write and get reviewed; comments open your eyes to more facts or hidden glitches within your work, you learn from the criticisms. You also get to read works by others who have carved a niche on the forum by their writing prowess. Unknowingly to most writers who read the works of others, there are a number of things happening each time you post a story on the forum, get comments and critiques, and each time you read works and also comment.

You are indirectly training yourself as a writer.

This makes a good alternative to attending courses on learning to write. 

Overtime I’ve  come to pick up a variety of tips that are quite useful for every budding writer. You might want to consider these tips which I have also used when writing some of my most recent stories on Naija Stories. They are tips that work nicely and help you come out better in the nick of time. These tips may be useful for bloggers, editors and journalists as well. 

 

1. Don’t beat about the bush.

writing2_sm - napkindad dot com

Too much flashbacks, back-stories, intros or long anecdotes are a waste of your reader’s time. Get to the point. In advertising the gimmick to grabbing and keeping attention is offering a lot in less info. Get to your point quickly too before your reader loses patience and moves on.

 

2. The first draft is for the cooler.

 cartoon-of-woman-using-a-typwriter-where-it-sits-on-the - changingpaces dot com

 

 

 

 

 

Normally when you write the first draft of your story, you’re so full of the story and you feel you’ve churned out a good piece. It is recommended that you write your first draft and then put it away in the ‘cooler’ to rest for a while. How long it stays away depends on you. The fact is, when you take a second look at it days later, you’ll see differently and may even re-write or edit it to be better.

By doing this you allow your mind to be refreshed and get to later look at your work from a detached and clearer perspective.

One of my stories titled ‘Love Jazz’ had three different endings. The final ending got my readers hooked. I wrote each ending on different days before deciding the final gripping one. 

 

3. Cut down on words.

Lesson-3-Napkin-Dad -napkindad dot com

The temptation to be spontaneous in your use of words at times can get you carried away and thus you clutter up your narrative. On a second look at your work, take time to remove the unnecessary clutter of words. It’s time to get rid of those lexical nuisances you have an emotional attachment to. 

While you’re at it, be mindful to keep it balanced. Removing too many words may end up killing the flavour of your story. 

Flash fiction offers the opportunity for this. I also recollect a periodical Naija Stories ‘Writing Prompt’ competition which served a good training ground for decluttering of words in writing.



4. Be relatable and realistic.

writer-cartoon

Have in mind that you’re writing to be read and it’s necessary for those reading you to comprehend and relate easily with you. Writing is a form of communication between a writer and his readers. When your readers don’t get you, then you’re talking to yourself. 

Being relatable makes you realistic. And don’t get it twisted – being realistic does not discredit fiction with fantasy elements. It doesn’t matter if your fiction is fantasy, Sci-fi or abstract, your story must be believable.  Even make-believe must have an appearance of truth in it.

One of the laws guiding literature is the law of verisimilitude which means fiction must be believable because that’s what helps the reader to connect to the world you created on those pages.

How human are your characters? Can we connect to them? Can we relate to what they are going through? Do they react to situations realistically? One of the best ways to achieve this is to fashion your characters or locations after an existing person or place. Its one of the best ways that aid character development.

A character called ‘Shedrach’ in one of the story ‘Strange Women’, was modelled in full description and mannerism after a colleague in my office while the femme fatales in the story were modelled after three wild ladies in the Client Service department at my workplace.

 

5. Don’t give a damn what others may think.

 

the-critic

Critics will nail you; your work will get ripped to shreds by others and at the same time others will shower admiration or praise on you. Whichever the case, don’t crave for emotional feedbacks; don’t write because you want to get a kick from reactions. Rather, write because you’ve got the passion to, and keep writing – picking up useful info from all that’s being said and keep doing it the way you’re inspired to do it. You can never satisfy everyone. No matter how good your story may seem, someone, somewhere will still crap on it. 

Don’t listen too much to your critics; otherwise they’ll end up cramping your style and killing your inspiration. There’ll always be critics since it’s usually easier to talk about someone’s work than to write your own.

 

6. Meet your own expectations, not theirs.

draft_lens8618921module74995571photo_1261302981frustrated_writer_thinkin   - susancushman dot com

This has to do with being unpredictable in fiction. Never let your readers imagine the end of your story before its ends. Throw them off board; piss them off if necessary with what they least expect. The fact is, even if it’s not what they expected, you’ve shocked them and gotten their attention. This is why a number of Stephen King’s fiction is uniquely infamous for catching readers off balance with shocking endings.

Sometimes readers would desire a certain kind of ending. Don’t fall for it. Give them what they don’t expect and watch the residue of the story’s imagery remain stuck on their minds and provoke their thoughts.


7. Read, read, read!

reader - colourbox dot com

Just in the same way we are adept to picking up tunes and unconsciously storing them in our subconscious memory, the same goes for when we read – we end up picking up stuff that hides somewhere in our subconscious mind. 

Also, you get ideas and learn how to do things as well as how not to do things. You also get to broaden your creative horizon. Many times I read someone else’s work and I’m fascinated by the style employed or the dexterity of the descriptive power. It eventually inspires me to want to attempt something new and differentiate a bit in my writing.

When I first read Ayi Kwei Armah’s ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ in Secondary School, I was stupefied by the writer’s descriptive power. I found myself modelling my descriptive ability after the Ghanaian author.

Also let’s not forget that information is power…the power to write most notably.


8. Write, write, write!

175525_600 - jkathleencheney dot wordpress dot com

This is why it makes sense to own a blog if you’re a writer because you actually become good at writing by actually writing! In fact, to succinctly put it, anytime you feel like writing, just get a computer or paper and pen or typewriter and get to work. There may be something big waiting to drop from you that moment.

When I started this write up, I had a direction in mind but as I wrote it the direction changed, simply because I decided to write. Don’t ever procrastinate on any opportunity to write. 

The aim is to ensure you write much more and thus become a better writer. Never pass off the opportunity to write. A blog helps since you are kind of obligated to keep updating.

I always make sure that I keep writing. When I’m not inspired to write a story, I do a poem, when the poetry muse isn’t kicking inspiration, I then do articles – like this one.

 

 *Inspired by: ‘Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer’ by Henrik Edberg

 

Images courtesy:

www.jkathleencheney.wordpress.com

www.a3bcfrontrow.wordpress.com

www.susancushman.com

www.napkindad.com

www.colourbox.com

www.jasonlove.com

www.changingpaces.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments


59 thoughts on “So You Want To Write That Mind-Blowing Fiction?” by Afronuts (@Afronuts)

  1. Thank you.

    1. @Nalongo You’re welcome!

  2. Avatar of Hymar
    Hymar (@): Newbie - 0 pts

    Good compilation. Am sure some newbies, greenhorns and even some senior scribes will benefit from this.

    1. Thanks @Hymar.
      You know…even I found myself being refreshed and reminded when putting it together.

    2. Anybody can learn from this, not necessarily ‘newbies’ or ‘greenhorns’
      Thanks @Afronut for this one. It’s very educating.

      1. @Chime221

        You’re right Chime.

        That’s why I hinted it in the beginning.

  3. Thanks. This was really helpful.

  4. @bunmiril

    Glad it helped!

  5. A reminder all writers need.It was refreshing to read this. Thank you Afro.

    1. @Mimiadebayo

      You’re welcome mimi!

  6. Good. Thanks. Still, even when our critics are unnecessarily troublesome, we can learn one or two if we are patient.

    1. @psalmy

      Yes we can. We should just be careful to sieve out destructive criticism and stick with the constructive one.

  7. @Afronuts, great article.
    You should be giving classes.
    Putting my work away and looking at it again doesn’t work for me though. I never get detached.
    Even if I put it away for a year, I still get back to it, enveloped in that feeling you get when you start something new. Hence, I am forever adding words rather than trimming. I’m working on this flaw though.
    Thanks Afronuts.

    1. @olajumoke

      Well, as long as you’re adding to it, it means you’ve still managed to detach to an extent. Why didn’t you decide not to add to it at all? You had more ideas of stuff to add and thus beefed up your work the more. I wasn’t saying that you actually start something new entirely. The detachment may result in you having to add more. Sometimes it may mean trimming whichever the case.

    2. Hehehe…@olajumoke, I can relate but I am learning to trust some writer friends to be your ‘detachment’. If you give your work to three people and two of them have issues with a particular area in your work, it might help to be ruthless and rewrite that part or remove it. I did that last week to a story I wrote a year ago. It was painful letting go of the 1000 words I deleted from the 3000 word story, together with the scenes and characters that vanished with them.

      But the story is better for it.

      Because I allowed friends to judge.

      1. @chemokopi, I am learning to be ruthless…..lol.
        I have two friends now who can sort of tell me which parts need chopping because I get so attached, deleting a sentence makes me wince….hehehe.
        This wasn’t the case with the series though, I had to write as fast as possible because I had quite a busy schedule, so I didn’t get too attached.
        I am working on my attachment issue by writing shorter stories and focusing on aspects of the stories rather than the whole ‘junk’ in my head.
        I also try to finish writing before I start editing so that I’m not adding on words when I’m supposed to be trimming.
        Thanks Chemokopi. You are a star.

  8. Ah, Nutty. This is helpful.. i would take it all to heart. Your illustrations made it absolutely fun to read. No 3 cracked me up cos I know I have met people guilty of that crime.
    Thanks for sharing. Well done, Afronuts. $ß.

    1. @sibbylwhyte

      You’re welcome Bubblina.

      I had to equally apply it to this write up too.
      The No.3 point is a rule so many authors break…which makes it easier for many to read pop fiction than highly intellectual fiction.

      I believe you can still be intellectual without jargon.

      1. And there are pipz who think that the difficulty of your grammar indicates that you are intelligent and therefore better than those who write simply.
        That’s a reason why I dislike Obiahagbon… The guy is full of (sh)it and cracks me up big time.

        1. @sibbylwhyte

          i heard that he reads dictionary daily like a bible. Just like him, lovers of jargon just kill art rather than give life to it. Obiahagbon unfortunately thinks he sounds intellectual…whereas he’s just a comic relief.

          1. @sibbylwhyte, I have to laugh here before dropping my comment….HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

            1. @afronuts @clemency @funpen.
              I have translated his ‘speech’ to normal english twice, and seriously guys, in normal english it showed as words strung together with absence of simple things like verbs. He obiaghagbonises his verbs. Eg: eating suya means suyaing and to eat goat head is goatheading.
              And oh, he said millions of people inbox him to teach them his english.
              Such a genius! Na who wan try ehn?

              1. @afronuts

                Haaa! People want to learn from him?
                LMAO!…you really took time to dissect the guys BS and discovered it was a load of crap…I like that! In fact, your discovery needs to be written as a funny article…something like ‘Deciphering obiaghagbonese’. That should make a fun read…hahahaha!

              2. @sibbylwhyte

                Haaa! People want to learn from him?
                LMAO!…you really took time to dissect the guys BS and discovered it was a load of crap…I like that! In fact, your discovery needs to be written as a funny article…something like ‘Deciphering obiaghagbonese’. That should make a fun read…hahahaha!

                1. @sibbylwhyte laughing again, I think you should take Afro’s advice and write a piece on it. My brother and I once looked up his entire contribution to The Ikemba’s biography. Jargons, though I somehow was in support of him because I’m guilty too. I was kicked out from a group chat tonight for sesquipedal.

                  1. *being sesquipedal

                  2. @clemency

                    Ewoo!

                    He contributed to Ikemba’s bio?
                    Ha…people must have suffered reading it!

                    1. Asiiiin, with all the English wey I sabi, I no grab anything at all…

  9. Interesting points indeed, well done @Afronuts

    1. Thank you isaac.

  10. Educative and very true. Thank you. Sometimes we get so caught up in the art of writing, we forget to horn our skills with some of these tips.

    1. @funpen

      yes.

      In fact, every writer is in the danger of developing an ego if he or she fails to stay open-minded to the honing of skills

  11. Helpful tips. Basic. Essential.

    1. @kurannenbaaki
      Basic indeed, giving the fact that they are simple.

  12. Thanks for the Diploma, @Afronuts.

    1. @HemingBird

      lol….thanks for graduating!

  13. I like this a lot.

    1. @khadijahmuhammad

      Thanks. Glad to have appealed…

  14. I love what you did with this piece.
    Its amazing how if you give your story enough time to brew it comes out better because your first idea is not always the best.
    Also liked how you acknowledged the appropriate people.
    I have always liked jumping straight to the action. These days however I am learning that backstory does have its part. I think the idea is not to eliminate it but to give it in bits rather than dumping it on the reader so that it makes for a seamless reading.

    1. @osakwe

      Well said bro! In fact your comment sheds light on the matter from another perspective.
      Thanks for the comment bro.

  15. @sibbylwhyte
    @afronuts

    Using phone app made it hard to comment under your mention of obiahagbon, how can u not like that guy? (Lol) He is my absolute favorite person to listen to on TV especially if I’m having a bad day. I learn how NOT to use English words from him.

    1. @funpen

      Thank God you learn HOW NOT to use English form him.
      Like I said, the guy is just there for entertainment…lol.

  16. @Afronuts, this piece is long overdue. Well written and everything well said and illustrated. You’re so thorough, just look at the pictures… And about Naijastories, you’re just right, I remember how good my first post was and how better subsequent ones are…

    Retweeting @hemingbird thanks for the diploma…

    1. @clemency

      lol…I wish our handles kinda worked on twitter.

      Thanks for the comment. Thank God I didn’t procastinate on it as I nearly did. I had been wanting to put it up but kept delaying for some time till I decided to sit tight one day.

      I can’t do without adding picture illustration to my articles…though when it comes to stories, I like letting imagination create the picture

      1. I wish that too, imagine the number of followers…

        Thank God you didn’t put it off longer, God knows we needed this.

        I noticed your illustrative article style, referencing your Nollywood article, its admirable. You’re a cartoonist too?

        1. @clemency

          Well…I’ll call myself a self-trained cartoonist though I also have an illustrator friend I do stuff together with too.

          I think I may need to do another article on making write-ups interesting because I find the need to illustrate what one says in an article from time to time is key.

          Thanks for the note.

          1. Good man you are. Honour to peddle knowledge with you.

  17. Thanks so much for this exposition…. God bless

    1. @Fadehan

      You’re welcome. Hope it was very helpful.

  18. Good article, @Afronuts.

    #2 and #4 have been very useful to me.

    1. @TolaO

      Thanks bro. Glad it helped.

  19. Excellently written article. Insightful points, too.

    Practice makes perfect seems to have been a phrase fashioned for writers. It is unbelievable how much better one becomes by frequently writing AND COMMENTING. I always encourage people to construct their sentences properly and spell out words completely on social media, even if they are twittering 140 characters on Twitter. The little pieces of comments you take your time to construct daily become a big part of your writer training.

    The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born? Oops. That is the only book I remember I never finished because of how much it bored me. But maybe it’s because I read it in JS3. Well… :)

    Nice one, friend. Lovely one, here.

    1. @chemokopi

      LOL!

      You won’t believe it bro. I actually hated ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ when I was in Junior secondary school too and never finished reading it until I got to my SS3!

      By then I had started getting more and more interested in writing and was experimenting on being descriptive with my storywriting. I decided to go back to books that explored the art of description and when I re-read ‘The beautiful ones’, I found myself enjoying it! I guess that was my eureka moment in writing.

  20. @AfroNuts : I picked up a ton of useful tips and advice from this single piece. In short, practice makes perfect. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. @SharonWrites

      You’re so very welcome Sharon…iron sharpens iron!

  21. Avatar of Kwiksie
    Kwiksie (@): Newbie - 0 pts

    This is very helpful and though i’ve read or been told some of these a couple of times, it never harms to hear (or read) these things over and over again.

    Gracias. :)

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