Most fiction writers come to the page with a passion for either language or storytelling.
My own strengths lie in the latter. I love mapping plots arcs, developing characters, and crafting fictional worlds. Yet for me, translating those story elements onto the page has always felt like pulling teeth. I simply don’t have a natural knack for prose, which is why I’ve spent the past several years working hard to improve the quality of my writing.
If you’d like to do the same, today’s article is for you. In this mega-guide, I’m sharing each specific element of prose you should consider at every step in the writing process, breaking down the overwhelm of learning to write wonderfully readable prose so you can work to level up your writing skills with confidence. Shall we begin?
How to improve your prose as you draft…
First drafts aren’t meant to read like finished books. Their purpose lies in getting the story in your head down on paper, so you can later revise and refine your story to high shine. To spend too much time tailoring your prose as you draft is usually a waste of effort, as there’s a good chance that same prose will end up on the cutting room floor.
Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put thought into your prose as you draft. Bearing in mind the following five elements will help you craft a more cohesive narrative that will require less overhaul later in your writing process:
ELEMENT #1: VOICE
Most stories are told through the lens of a narrator or point-of-view character. The more that character’s voice colors the narrative on a line-by-line basis, the more engaging a story will be — and the first draft is the perfect place to explore your character’s voice. For more on this topic, don’t miss this read.
ELEMENT #2: POINT-OF-VIEW & TENSE
To avoid an incredibly frustrating edit, the first draft is the place to decide which point-of-view and tense are right for your book. Will you write in first-, second-, or third-person? In past or present tense? Will you switch point-of-view or tense throughout your book? If you’re unsure, give this article a read.
ELEMENT #3: ATMOSPHERE
Atmosphere is the emotional landscape created by external sources in a scene, such as the setting, action, dialogue, or context in which the scene takes place. A reunion scene between characters, for example, may have a joyful atmosphere. Take time to consider the atmosphere in each scene you draft, and you’ll craft prose that paints a fuller picture of the story you long to tell.
ELEMENT #4: MOOD
In any given scene, the mood is the emotional atmosphere readers experience as a result of the point-of-view character’s inner narrative. For example, readers may feel sorrow as the point-of-view character reminisces on the loss of a friend during the reunion scene described above.
With every scene you draft, consider the mood you’d like to set. The more you write with your point-of-view character’s inner world in mind, the more of an emotional connection you’ll create with readers through your prose.
ELEMENT #5: PURPOSE
When seeking to improve your prose as you draft, it’s important to consider purpose. Are you writing lines just because they popped into your head or because you’re striving to hit a certain word count? Or, do they actually play a role in the greater context of your story?
It’s okay to use the first draft to explore your characters, plot, and world. You don’t need to justify every line you write. But if you want to save yourself from endless trimming during revisions, take care to avoid writing as much filler as you can. Be intentional, and you’ll be happier with the prose you write. See More . . .