Writing Fiction: A Quick Beginners’ Tip

Is there a trick to switching from nonfiction to writing fiction? The nonfiction author who asked this question in our online writer’s group was trying to write fiction during the lockdown.

She found it tough.

“There’s no flow to my fiction,” she told us. “It’s hard. I can get into a groove when I write nonfiction. But my fiction is stilted. My discomfort with it is coming through in my words.”

“You’re trying to hard,” a veteran author responded. “You can’t think your way into a story… You need to dream your way into it.”

When writing fiction, write in a trance

I found a quote from Timothy Ferriss’s book, Tools of Titans (page 575) which describes the mind state for successfully writing fiction:

Because I’m an actor, as well, I always say, ‘Write in a trance and act in a trance.’ You don’t want to think consciously about what you’re putting on the page.

Thinking too much about what you’re writing while you’re writing it ends in disaster. You can think later, when you’re engaged in word-work: that is, when you’re editing, rather than writing.

Access the creativity of your unconscious mind just after you wake up

The best advice I’ve ever heard on how to get comfortable writing fiction comes from Dorothea Brande, whose book Becoming A Writer, was first published in 1934.

Especially this:

… if you are to have the full benefit of the richness of the unconscious you must learn to write easily and smoothly when the unconscious is in the ascendant… rise half an hour, or a full earlier than you customarily rise… (and) begin to write.

She goes on to say: “what you are actually doing is training yourself, in the twilight zone between sleep and the full waking state, simply to write.”

I’ve found this to be so, and so have the most productive writers in our group. Try writing fiction first thing in the morning, in that somnolent, trance-like, nonthinking state.

You’ll soon access that dreamy state automatically

These days, I don’t write fiction first thing in the morning. Once you’ve trained yourself to access the “now I’m writing fiction” dreamy mind state, you can get into it anywhere, at any time.

Try it.


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