Does writing a novel or other book come naturally for some people, or do most good writers have a college education and hence have learned how to write well?

Writers come from all kinds of backgrounds and many different levels of education. Those things aren’t what make a writer good or bad.

The ability to clearly communicate a thought or idea and to take the reader from the real world into the world of the writer’s imagination is what makes a good writer.

I know one writer whose English wasn’t the best. Her publisher suggested she NOT try to polish her skills because her own way of speaking, broken English, faults, and all, was part of what made her writing so memorable.

Okay, that’s the exception, not the rule. But you get my point. Communication skills are more important than English proficiency.

Is it OK to switch POV in a story?

Sure it’s okay to switch POV in a story.

There are all kinds of rules telling writers how to do it. ‘Keep the same POV for an entire chapter.’ ‘Keep the same POV for an entire scene.’ And so on. Lots of rules and they all try to keep the reader from being confused as to whose POV the story is in at the moment.

Maybe a better rule would be to make sure the reader knows whose POV is being used and just go with that, however the writer chooses to do it.

Just make sure that its clear to the reader!

Are there any tips on writing a very large cast of characters, all with unique and rounded personalities?

Few writers are good enough and few readers perceptive enough to keep track of more than three characters at a time. So if you have more than that — especially if you have a large cast of characters — group them into no more than three groups. That way you and your readers can keep track of them.

Three. Just three. No more than three individuals or three groups of individuals per scene.

Of course, in those scenes with three or fewer characters, you can forget the grouping and concentrate on the individuals. And that’s when you can round them out with unique personalities.

What is the most important element when writing a story? Are the characters more important than anything else? What do you look for in a good book?

The most important element in a story depends on what story you are writing. More to the point, what genre you are writing in.

Detective stories require wonderful plots, as do action-adventure and spy stories. Romance requires wonderful characters. Sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal require wonderful and unique worlds that are different from ours.

So first you think about the genre you will write in. Then you know what’s most important and that’s a good starting point for a great story.

How do you write fiction with memorable dialogue?

You cross out, delete, or otherwise remove anything that’s extraneous.

When you finish, you go back over the dialogue and mentally check that it truly does say what you want your character to say and not one single word more.

In other words, your characters speak up and then shut up.

How do you develop the ability to ‘show not tell’ as a writer?

 

Think about it. If you stopped your action for a flashback to ‘show’ why the protagonist is doing what they are doing every single time the action changed, your story would never go anywhere.

That said, though, you should ‘show’ whenever possible, and you do so by simply going through your manuscript during that all-important second draft and zeroing in on all places where you, as the writer, simply told the readers what they needed to know.

Could that information be shown without breaking the pace of the story?

If so, then change the ‘telling’ to a flashback or a conversation between the protagonist and whomever else is nearby as a way of inserting a mini-story into the larger story you are telling. The mini-story tells the ‘why’ of what’s going on in the larger one.

And that’s how you ‘show’ instead of ‘telling.’

How do you deal with writer’s block? I have too many ideas and they are all trying to get out at the same time, which makes my stories a huge mess.

First you get your ideas down on paper on in a computer to wherever you jot things down that you don’t want to forget. That way, you can stop worrying that you’ll forget them because they are written down. Somewhere.

Second you organize those ideas using whatever system you prefer. Most important to least. Chronological. Most favorite to least favorite. Whatever works for you.

Third you put them aside and, now that they are in a place where they won’t be forgotten but can’t bother you any longer and keep you from thinking of your current work, you figure out what you DO want to do. What you DO want to write.

Fourth you outline that wonderful, creative work so you’ll have some idea of how you want to put it down on paper because, if your mind is the kind of mind that gets lost in a blizzard of ideas, then you’ll need to organize physically, on paper, in order to not have those new ideas start haunting you just like the old ones did and preventing you from writing.

Fifth you write.

What concepts are taught at fiction writing workshops?

  1. Dialogue
  2. Creating memorable characters
  3. How to create heroes, heroines and villains that interact properly in your story
  4. Character arcs
  5. Flow
  6. Story-boarding (This isn’t taught in all, maybe not even in most, but if you’re looking for a class, find one that teaches story-boarding. You won’t regret it.)
  7. How to create tension
  8. Plotting
  9. Outlining
  10. Creating a synopsis
  11. Story arc
  12. Description
  13. Cliff-hangers
  14. Point of view
  15. How to include necessary information without boring your reader
  16. The hero’s journey
  17. Many specialize in a particular genre, such a romance, mystery, science fiction, adventure, and so on.

When Nothing Goes Right

You plotted correctly and it the story is wonderful. You drew from deep within and created the perfect characters to carry your story to conclusion. You kicked everyone out of the house or went to your special hiding place to write. And you put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and get started.

And nothing comes out as it should. What’s worse, you can’t figure out why not so you don’t know how to do things differently in order to get it right. What to do?

Don’t sweat it. Write a few words or sentences to remind yourself later where you are in the story and what’s happening and then go on to the next part. Or to the end. Or to whatever scene in the story you can wrap your mind around at the moment. And write.

Don’t worry about the part you couldn’t do. Come back to it later when you’re in a better mood. It’ll most likely go right then because you’ll have filled in what happened before and after that particular scene.

Hint:  when this happens to me, I highlight the scene that didn’t work so I can find it easily later. For some reason I can’t figure out, just passing over those highlighted words when I’m on my way to the scene I’m working on at the moment does something. It gets the creative part of my subconscious mind working so when I do return, I find that I know exactly what to do.

Style

Funny, irreverent, somber, scary, sassy, reverent, childlike. I could do on forever with adjectives describing different writing styles. Style is wonderful. It gives stories something extra and distinguishes them from the works of other writers

That is, it’s wonderful as long as the author remembers the huge ‘don’t  that goes with using styl and that is… don’t overdo it because nothing pulls a reader out of a story faster than an identifiable, individual, absolutely wonderful style that’s taken to the max and then beyond.

Think of music, especially hip-hop with it’s driving rhythm and stylized use of language. The words and rhythm that are inherent to the  hip-hop style draw listeners in and focus attention on the story.  But if you had to listen to that rhythm and those words for hour after hour without letup, would you still like it as much? Would you even remember the message in the song? Most people wouldn’t.

So when you find your style… and every writer has one… use it to identify your work but remember that a light touch is enough.