3 Ways to Make Your Fiction Writing Better — Right Now

You’re already a storyteller. Mechanics matter, too, though.

Shaunta Grimes
5 min readMay 24, 2018

Dear Shaunta,

What are some ways I can make my fiction writing more professional?

a writer

Hey, Writer!

Quick story. A few years ago I needed to take a math class for the first time in decades. I went and took the placement test and . . . whew boy. It said I needed THREE remedial courses before the one I’d get credit for.

So, I went home. I opened my daughter’s algebra book and I studied math functions for fractions. How to divide, multiply, add, and subtract fractions. And I took the test again. This time, I tested into the class just below the one I’d get credit for.

One simple step, all about mechanics, saved me two entire math classes.

I’m telling you that because there are some mechanical things about writing that can instantly raise the professionalism of your fiction, too. Just some technical skills that, if you know them and use them, will put you ahead of the game.

Here are my top three things that, if you fix them in your writing now, will instantly bring it up to the next level.


Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags are the little bit that goes after a line of dialogue that literally says who is speaking. It looks like this:

“What a lovely day,” he said.

Sometimes, you need them. The goal is to make sure the reader knows who is speaking. You never need them after every single line of dialogue. Having too many dialogue tags is not good.

A good rule of thumb is that, if you are going to use a tag, make it ‘said’ or ‘asked.’ Those two words disappear. They don’t catch the reader up. Do not have your character whisper, scream, hiss, or chortle. Just, said or asked.

You can also use beats. Beats are small bits of action that are attached to the line of dialogue. They not only indicate who is speaking, but also move the story forward in some way.

Shaunta Grimes

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)