It sounds obvious, doesn’t it, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who believe the ability to write well translates to the ability to tell a great story. It doesn’t. Technical skills like grammar and punctuation help tremendously, but in the same way the ability to talk doesn’t translate into the ability to give a good speech, the ability to write clearly and concisely doesn’t give you the ability to write a good story. Writing fiction is about story-craft. Learn your craft.
Read a lot
If you’ve never read a book in your chosen genre but think you can write in it anyway, think again. Before you start writing fiction, read books. Lots of books. At least a hundred novels in your genre would be a good start, and just as many outside. Old books. New books. Bestsellers. Books by authors you’ve never heard of. Free books. Recommended books. It’s all part of the learning process. Mostly though, you need to know your genre.
Write several books
Unless you’re a genius or incredibly lucky, you’ll learn most of your trade by writing. So write. Write a lot. Write different stories too, not just sequels. Try different genres and formats: first person, third, omniscient. Play. Experiment. By the time you’ve written your third or fourth book you’ll begin to see just how problematic those early stories were. That doesn’t mean you can’t go back and fix them, but with a little more experience you’ll have a much better shot at it.
While some writers couldn’t consider writing a novel without planning everything first, for just as many it’s the opposite. If this is you, then here’s the secret: plan your story after you write it. Treat your first draft as your outline and break it down once the words are out. Done backwards is still done, and it’ll help you see problems. Planning saves a huge amount of editing time, so plan to edit if you can’t bring yourself to plan the story.
If you don’t love it, nobody else will either. Don’t write for the market or because you think it’s a great idea. Write it because you love it. The fact that you love it will show in the story and give it soul. If you can’t see yourself writing a romance, then don’t. The same applies with fantasy, crime, and any other genre. It’ll only come across as contrived otherwise. If you write the story you love, others will love it too.
You might also like Translating The Story In Your Head.