No, I’m not giving it. Just sharing it from a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy. Crawford Kilian has been writing books and articles for over 40 years. I came across a checklist for fiction writers of his that I had saved from an online writing seminar I attended back in 1996. The advice still holds. This link has the entire article with information on genre, plotting, style and scene construction all the way through to query letters, publishers and contracts. Lots of good stuff in there. Be sure to check it out.
The one part I want to mention here is the style checklist for fiction writers. This also applies to nonfiction writers. Much of this is stuff we talk about doing and/or checking for when we edit, during the second or consecutive drafts. However, I think it’s important to address some of these points while you’re writing your first draft. If you keep them in mind when you start to write, it will make your editing process easier because you’re already addressing what could become major issues in your writing if not fixed. Here’s the list:
As you begin to develop your outline, and then the actual text of your novel, you can save time and energy by making sure that your writing style requires virtually no copy editing. In the narrative:
- Do any sentences begin with the words “There” or “It”? They can almost certainly benefit from revision. (Compare: There were three gunmen who had sworn to kill him. It was hard to believe. or: Three gunmen had sworn to kill him. He couldn’t believe it.)
- Are you using passive voice instead of active voice? (Compare: Is passive voice being used?) Put it in active voice!
- Are you repeating what you’ve already told your readers? Are you telegraphing your punches?
- Are you using trite phrases, cliches, or deliberately unusual words? You’d better have a very good reason for doing so.
- Are you terse? Or, alternatively, are you on the other hand expressing and communicating your thoughts and ideas with a perhaps excessive and abundant plethora of gratuitous and surplus verbiage, whose predictably foreseeable end results, needless to say, include as a component part a somewhat repetitious redundancy?
- Are you grammatically correct? Are spelling and punctuation correct? (This is not mere detail work, but basic craft. Learn standard English or forget about writing novels.)
- Is the prose fluent, varied in rhythm, and suitable in tone to the type of story you’re telling?
- Are you as narrator intruding on the story through witticisms, editorializing, or self-consciously, inappropriately “fine” writing?
In the dialogue:
- Are you punctuating dialogue correctly, so that you neither confuse nor distract your readers?
- Are your characters speaking naturally, as they would in reality, but more coherently?
- Does every speech advance the story, revealing something new about the plot or the characters? If not, what is its justification?
- Are your characters so distinct in their speech–in diction, rhythm, and mannerism–that you rarely need to add “he said” or “she said”?
As I said, keep these things in mind as you start to write. You may be surprised at how it changes the way you write your first draft. You can find more about Crawford Kilian here and on his Goodreads page.
Good luck and happy writing!