How To Make Your Fiction More Interesting

It was 1 p.m. in the afternoon and I was watching the cursor on my word doc. blink, blink, blink.

I’d spent the last three hours writing … actually, that’s being a bit generous …

In truth, I probably wrote for 1.5 hours. The rest of the time was made up with quickly checking/replying to emails, hanging out laundry, patting the dog, making lunch, refilling my water bottle, and staring out the window. 

Yup, you guessed it. I am working on a first draft.

It’s been three weeks since Every Time He Dies was officially released and as you well know it took me seven years to write that novel. 

The last few years of working on Every Time He Dies was so joyful because I was confident with the story and the characters.

Here’s the thing, because that project started so long ago, I’d totally forgotten what it’s like to begin a new project!

The new novel (which I started in January this year) is about three female protagonists who have animal companions. The book has elements of sci-fi, cli-fi, horror, magical realism and literary fiction.

When compared to ETHD, It could not be more different … at least in premise.

Don’t worry, it’s still written by me so it reeks of mysticism, time manipulation, and otherworldliness.

But … can I just say how weird it is to be working on a project I am so unfamiliar with?

Right now, I am ten months into the drafting process and I’m still drifting. 

I wrote a 60,000 word draft at the start of this year, but it’s really just a brain dump of ideas. Now I am HEAVILY revising that document to the point where it feels like a totally new story. In fact, to say that I am revising my brain dump draft feels a bit disingenuous considering how much I am changing the story. 

I hope you’re getting a sense here of how messy writing is because it is messy. 

At the start of this project, I produced an outline, completed profiles of all my characters and typed one that initial brain dump version of the story. All of this succeeded in getting the ball rolling, but these processes only lead me so far.

Writing is a physical act. You can’t always think your way through it. Sometimes, you don’t know if something is going to work until you sit down to write it. 

As a result, there comes a point where you have to put one foot in front of another (or one letter after another) and that is how you make your way through the dark. Slowly. Very slowly.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably thinking, “Don’t you write 2000 words a day?”

Yeah, for the most part, I do. 

Q: How the heck do you do that?

A: I follow Natalie Goldberg’s rules for writing and rule number one is: keep your hand moving. 

A: Okay … but what does that actually mean?

Q: Basically, during the drafting phase, I try not to think too much about what I am writing, instead, I let the story lead the way. 

And yet, there is some cognitive action going on behind the scenes.

Lately, my writing mantra has been make it weirder. 

It’s amazing how effective those three words have been.

I can be working on a scene and thinking, “God, this is boring! I’m just moving the characters around! I’m just describing their day!” 

Then I pause and think, “Okay. So this scene stinks. Big deal! What can we do to fix this? How can I make it more interesting? How can I make it weirder?

I then skip ahead to the next page and let loose. 

This approach has resulted in some damn fine writing, and you know … some pretty weird stuff too.

If you’re currently in the throes of writing a first draft, or if you are revising a manuscript and thinking things such as, “this is boring”, I invite you to try my mantra or to come up with your own. 

You may be surprised by just how effective this simply mind game can be. 


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