85

Structure your answer properly This is something that is relevant across all sites. You should be used to markdown and know at least the basics: Using headings Paragraphs and soft linebreaks lists numbered and unnumbered Put your most relevant points in the start and make them bold so that people will know at a first glance whether they share your ...


69

Start with a word ending in 'ing'. e.g. Opening the door, he stepped into the dark. Chasing a ball he thought he'd lost, the dog ran through the rain-swept streets. Start with a preposition (so a prepositional phrase). e.g. At the time of the incident she was in London. Through the rain the ball was difficult to see. Start with an adverb. e.g. Yesterday, the ...


51

Explain what needs to be explained as it becomes relevant rather than trying to present all the information in one go. This has certain advantages: it avoids dumping all the information on the audience in one indigestible lump. it actually makes the world feel bigger. Info-dumps tend to bore readers to tears so avoid them: instead tell your readers the ...


45

In addition to Mark's excellent advice, I would suggest: 1) Start slowly. In Game of Thrones, we start with just the Starks, and Martin adds on characters a few at a time and lets us live with them for a chapter before bouncing back to someone we already know. Granted that by book 4 you may need to refer back to the index, but that's over thousands of pages....


43

I like Secespitus' answer, and I also like Sphennings' point about actually answering the question. But I didn't see an answer which combined those two things, and addressed everything I've found important. So I'll write that answer. Answer the Question Not to steal any thunder from sphennings, but I believe this is probably the most important criteria ...


39

A work of fiction that exists only to promote a particular point of view is not actually fiction, but rather a polemic. Some of these have been successful and influential, from Plato to Rand, but they tend to have a different audience than fiction, and are read primarily for their ideas rather than their artistic value. Your best bet, in this case, may be ...


39

You want to spend as little time as possible on "setup". Even one page of nothing but setup is too much. The reason for that is that the reader is not yet invested in your story. You'd be forcing a reader to read something akin to a fantasy-encyclopedia about something he has no reason to care for. That's boring, readers aren't going to do that. Instead, ...


37

I try to always answer in 3 paragraphs whenever possible. Less is often too little for a substantive answer, and more becomes less and less likely for people to read. The first paragraph should always be the most direct answer to the main question in the original post, as asked, with a minimum of editorializing. It should generally cite a reputable source,...


35

There's a rule... I can't recall the name, but it's a fairly common rule. Essentially, the more accidental your reveal is, the more build-up you need not to make it a cheap deus ex machina. To give an example, Tom Clancy's "Sum of all fears". A nuclear submarine crashes into a huge tree trunk in the middle of the ocean, suffering major damage right when a ...


33

It is neither necessary nor desirable to fit everything you've generated for a story into the story In my reading I have encountered, broadly speaking, two different kinds of stories. There are tightly-plotted stories which attempt to resolve and give closure to every thread the author introduces. (The Westing Game comes to mind.) This is great. On the ...


33

A message and a theme are not the same thing A story need not have a coherent message to be successful. Look at Disney's take on The Little Mermaid - what was the message? If you sign away your soul to chase after a cute guy, you might get to keep your soul AND reconcile the stormy relationship you've got with your father? When striking deals with dark, ...


31

Is written garbage better than leaving the page blank? Infinitely! Does every page you write need to be part of your novel? No! If you are seeing weaknesses in the structure of your story, and you know what you need to create to strengthen it, then that is what you should write. If you see the weakness but don't know how to fix it, writing is still ...


31

@Amadeus describes an "act of patience" as "not doing". I would argue that an "act of patience" can also be about keeping on doing, day after day, something that is very hard to do - it is about perseverance. As an example, take The Wild Swans, or any work derived from that fairy tale. The main character must knit shirts of stinging nettle for her bewitched ...


25

Rule 0: Answer the question If you're not answering the question then you're wasting your own time and others. Everything you do in an answer should be in support of this goal. Most answers tend to fall into three categories Yes, because..., No, because..., and Let me explain this concept to you... Start with a short answer to the summarized version of the ...


24

Even though you notice the problem in the first words (in the subjects of the sentences), I think the problem is elsewhere: Each of the first five sentences has a verb that reminds that we're in Adele's head. But we already know we're in Adele's head, so these reminders are unnecessary, and they weaken the sentences. Consider this edit, which removes all ...


24

Are you familiar with G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire? It used to have some characters whose moral compass was strict and noble. They had a tendency to die, and leave a huge mess around them - mess that cost more lives. On the other hand, more Machiavellian figures created order - killing a few now, so a lot more would get to live later. The whole ...


20

My question is, for the sake of satisfying reader interest, would it be worthwhile writing an appendix summarising certain inessential worldbuilding entities that's entirely optional for a reader to peruse? It can be worthwhile. Some readers are "hungry" after a story ends, and will devour any appendix you provide. It can be argued that since you have that ...


19

Using lots of very short chapters creates an impression in the reader of very rapid pace and lots of action. For some genres (such as Patterson's thrillers), this accelerated pace is exactly the effect that you want. Having long chapters creates the opposite effect: it slows the pace down and gives the author time to expand more fully a given section or ...


19

The main problem with trying to estimate something like this is that, even if two writers used the same very detailed plot summary to write a novel, they might produce works that aren't close to being the same length, because of the way they write. Some authors are much more "concise" than others; for example, Voltaire's Candide has been described as a 1,...


19

There may be action, but perhaps what you are missing is conflict. (Conflict is the MC personally having to make choices and solve problems, not just reacting to or living through "action".) Your character might be unlikable to other characters, but for me it would be impossible to get people interested in an MC that they don't like at all. You only need ...


18

As you may know, Thomas, there was a question quite similar to yours put by KeithS a little while ago: Avoiding the "as you know" trope in exposition. There were several answers including mine which boiled down to the desperate need to introduce more drama into the explanation or we're all gonna die! The drama could be in the form of character conflict ("...


18

I think you're mixing up two things here: Story structure and plot. "Acts" don't describe what happens in your story - they describe what purpose these parts of your story serve. "Plot" would be what happens in your story. Plot vs. Story Structure Traditionally, a story consists of a protagonist who wants something, then encounters a conflict (something's ...


18

Arena driven story: A man crashes his airplane in the desert, breaking his leg. His radio doesn't work. If he stays there he will die. He splints his leg, takes all the water he can carry, and tries to walk out. Or make it a man and woman, in the arctic. Make it Tom Hanks in Castaway; he is stranded alone on an island and wants to return to civilization. Or ...


18

The answer is quite subjective because the "em dashes" sometimes work really well in a sentence while sometimes they are just disruptive to the flow of the thing you attempt to say. The key part is trying not to overuse the effects you try to create. A reader will quickly be bored by the predictability of such effect. I have been accused — shock, ...


18

I suggest you continue to write however the words come out. Because the last thing you want to do is feel like you can't write unless it's perfect (or better). Every day, go through a paragraph or two of your work and use S. Mitchell's excellent suggestions to revise it. As time goes on, your revisions will be quicker because—in addition to being better ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible