The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

Raven Riley
Raven Riley
a year ago

If you’re a writer—whether you’re a writer of books, short stories, poetry, screenplays, or stage plays—you’ve likely gotten in your head a time or two about your writing.

I can’t tell you how many times a story sat in my head for days, weeks, months—or even years sometimes—simply because I couldn’t get it to come out on the page as genius as it was in my head.

There’s this ridiculous idea we have as writers that our genius is supposed to naturally share itself on the page as if it were liquid gold pouring directly from our creativity. While that would be awesome—that’s not how it works.

Writing is a process of iteration and collaboration. When you try to cut either of those things out of the process, you end up with a half-done, half-hearted version of what your story could have been. So how on earth could your first draft ever hold a candle to your final draft?

This is a craft, which means it takes time, effort, and work. It’s not going to come out perfectly on the first go. But knowing that alone doesn’t take away the anxiety. However—I have a trick that does take away the anxiety for me, and I’m going to share it with you.

After writing for over 11 years professionally, and much more non-professionally before that, here’s my process for writing incredible fiction, regardless of the medium…

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

Treat Your Writing Like An Experiment

In science, we conduct experiments with different variables. We make a hypothesis and then test to see if we’re correct. Often, we make adjustments in those variables until we uncover the truth that we’re looking for. This is exactly how I approach writing.

For example, if you’re trying to decide between writing in first or third-person omnipresent, then you have two different variables for your experiment at play. Here’s what you do:

  • Write the first 5-10 pages in the format you’re MOST called to. Don’t worry about editing it. You’re just getting words on paper to get the feel of the flow.
  • Let it sit for at least 24 hours.
  • Write the first 5-10 pages in the other format you’re considering. Same thing, don’t worry about editing—just let it flow.
  • Let that sit for 24 hours.
  • Now that you’ve given both options a little breathing room, read both versions with fresh eyes.
  • Which one do you resonate with more? Which one feels better? Which one allows you to express your story authentically?
  • That’s the one you choose.

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

I just had this happen to me when I was taking my pilot and writing the novel version. I thought I was going to be all in on first-person, but I was struggling to find my opening line.

So I wrote the first 10 pages. When I read the first-person option back to myself—I hated it. Instead of calling myself a terrible writer, I said, “Maybe third-person will be better.”

Lo and behold, not only was it better, but I also found my opening line.

The key here was not making the writing mean anything about me as a writer. We all have off days, tough moments, and challenging characters or plots to work through. Instead, I looked at the variables of why first-person might not work:

  • Variable one: it’s a new adult novel/pilot that opens with a flashback scene, putting the protagonist at 10 years old. I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me, first-person from a 10-year-old’s perspective doesn’t really belong in a new adult novel.
  • Variable two: the opening scenes are intense for all of the characters. It’s a pivotal moment for most of the characters in the book/show. Not getting to observe some of their reactions, thoughts, and experiences was a disservice to the story—and when it’s a disservice to the story, it’s a disservice to the audience.
  • Variable three: first person was too limiting for the scope of the project. Should I have realized that before I wrote it? Possibly. Was it clear within the first three pages? Absolutely!

By treating my writing like an experiment, I was able to shift gears and keep on moving.

Had I spent time questioning which perspective to choose, I would have spent more time mulling it over than digging into the work and figuring out which choice to make from the writing itself.

This works for any writing choice you’re facing. If you have five different ideas, now you have five different sets of variables to test and you can get to writing. This is game-changing for writers who spin their wheels when making creative choices.

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

Why It Works

This approach to writing works for three main reasons:

  1. You spend more time writing and less time thinking about writing…
  2. It gets you out of imposter syndrome and into action…
  3. And it gets you into the editing phase faster—which is actually how you become a better writer.

When you have a story inside you for too long, it becomes painful. The characters push to the edges of your skin, threatening to burst through if you don’t share the story you’ve been entrusted with. It’s not a good feeling, and it only perpetuates the idea that you’re not good enough to write this story.

If you see stories in your mind and you think in story, you can learn the craft of writing the story. Your taste will always outpace your talent in the beginning. That’s normal—but the only way to get better is to write through it.

By taking the steps to write and actually getting different drafts down, you’re teaching your brain that you’re a writer. It’s pretty difficult to have imposter syndrome when you have multiple pieces of evidence that you’re a writer.

Treating your writing like an experiment allows you to stop worrying (temporarily) about the quality of your writing and just let the writing flow through you. This way, you can get to the editing phase—which is where your greatness is honed.

A lot of writers think it’s the writing that builds their skills, but that’s not actually true.

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

Writing Builds Your Practice. Editing Builds Your Skills.

Building a habit of writing is powerful. It helps you create your writing practice and process. These are invaluable tools as a writer because these are your keys to consistency. The more consistent you are, the higher quality work you produce.

A writing practice helps train your body to tap into inspiration instead of waiting to feel inspired. If you wait for inspiration, your writing will be inconsistent and fickle. However, if you train your body to step into inspiration, your muse remains at your fingertips.

While your practice and your process are an absolute must in your writer toolbox, they pale in comparison to editing.

Editing is where your writing skills are forged.

As you write, your brain is working on pre-existing neural pathways (for the most part). It’s basically an autopilot, flow state activity. But when you edit, you’re activating the communication pattern neural pathways in your brain and breaking down the ones that don’t work in your writing and building new ones that do.

This is why you’ll remember something you got wrong and corrected more than something you got right the first time. On the path to becoming the best writer you can be, you must make mistakes. You must edit and rewrite to build the neural pathways that support your story genius.

You’re creating multiverses with the stroke of your keyboard. Basic communication patterns simply won’t do.

The Secret To Writing Incredible Fiction

If you want the secret to writing incredible fiction—treat your writing like an experiment. Don’t waste time spinning your wheels, wondering which creative choices to make.

Set a hypothesis and get to working on the first set of variables. See how you feel about the results, and if you want to test another set of variables, do it. The more you get into the habit of getting the words out of your head and onto paper or a document, the easier and faster it will be to write—which gets you to the editing phase much quicker.

From here, you hone your writing skills and bring your craft to the level of your taste. This is how great writers are made.

If you have any questions about this process, feel free to put them below, and I will answer them.

Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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About the Author

Raven Riley

Raven Riley

Author, Screenwriter, Editor

Raven is the Stage 32 Moderator for the Authoring & Playwriting Lounge. Raven Riley is an editor and screenwriter specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and comedy with an avid love for television. With over 11 years of experience as a journalist, writer, and publicity specialist after being i...

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