Essential Writing Techniques (Beyond Story Structure)

By Glen C. Strathy

While most of this site is concerned with writing techniques that lurk below the surface of the reader's experience, such as dramatic structure, archetypes, and story theory, it's also important for aspiring authors to master the elements of good writing - the actual words on the page that readers see and the style in which they are written.

Writing Rules

The style and voice an author uses often count for as much or more than the actual story or the underlying structure. Poor writing can turn a reader off very quickly, whereas readers can often overlook a poorly designed plot if the book is written in an intriguing style.  This is most notably true in literary fiction, but really it applies to all genres.

The articles below will introduce you to some of the most common guidelines recommended by writing instructors, and provide tips on various aspects of writing.

As with every principle we present, keep in mind that these techniques should not be regarded as iron-clad rules. There are always times when they can and should be set aside. However, if you practice them, you will likely find they can improve your writing, as they have for countless others. By paying closer attention to words and sentences, you can improve your instinct for language and be able to use it more purposely.

Incidentally, one great way to master style is to read great books (preferably not too old), but read them with the intent on noticing how great writers write. Pay attention to how they convey characters, describe settings or action, and write effective dialogue. This will help you develop a critical eye to your own writing and improve your writing instincts.

Now For the Writing Techniques...

Narrative Mode (1st person, 3rd person, etc.)

Choosing a narrative mode for your story determines the reader's perspective and the relationship between your reader, main character, and narrative voice. Here are the many options available...

The Basics of Writing Dialogue

Tips on how to write effective dialogue, including how to use dialogue tags and action beats.

The Secret to Descriptive Writing: Specificity

One of the most powerful secrets to descriptive writing, and in fact all writing, is to provide specific details rather than vague generalizations.

Showing Not Telling

An important technique to bring your writing to life is to practice "showing not telling." Here's what this technique can do for you and when to use it.

The Passive Voice vs. The Active Voice

Writing in the active voice is usually more effective at engaging the reader. However, sometimes the passive voice can be useful too. Also, discover some other tips for choosing better verbs.

Return to the Home Page for more writing techniques.

New! Comments

What do you think about this page? Leave me a comment in the box below.
search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero