Markus Heitz

Writing Tips

Questions about writing?

I've been asked several times in the past for tips on HOW to approach a novel or the like.

I can't give a blanket answer, but I'll describe how I do it.

Also, you can find good advice or inspiration on the internet about how to find your own writing path.

And that's what it's all about: finding your own writing path.

There are supposed to be colleagues who just write away and let themselves be surprised by what emerges.

I find that a bit too daring, but please... If you like it, do it that way.

The Idea

She can ambush you anywhere. It is the most important thing, the basis for a story.

Write it down, on whatever, but what matters is THAT you write it down. A small notebook, a piece of paper, a cell phone, a coaster, the back of a bill, just make sure you have it.

If you have more than one idea for or about a story, all the better!

Write down everything you can think of, write it down, write it down, write it down, and even completely unorganized.

The Order

After you have the ideas, look at everything, arrange them according to your priority; think about how they might fit in their order and organize them.

Connect points that belong together but are in different places with fine lines.

With this you already have a rough framework.

The Background

Now it's time for the finishing touches.

The order in which you proceed is up to you.

It is necessary to define the characters you have created, with all their peculiarities. This includes everything from their appearance to their preferences, their fears, etc. Make all the characters in your story living beings with a past.

You should also write this down, index cards are quite good for this.

Some people think of the country first, then the characters, others prefer the reverse.

Now it's the turn of the environment, whereby those who want to write novels in the present world have an advantage. :o)

In general: What does it look like? And how does it smell? What do you hear?

If the story goes more into fantasy, you can think about it even more: What expressions do the people who live there use for what?

Start with a small focus, for instance the town/village/settlement where it all begins, and keep pulling the lens in. Create the surroundings, the country, the neighboring countries, the continent, the neighboring continents. Consider the forms of domination.

What gods are there? How did they come into being? What is their relationship to each other and how do the believers relate to each other? How do the countries relate to each other? If there are rivalries, where do they come from?

Draw maps of the "world" to help you keep track. If you have created the world BEFORE writing the novel, you will not have to think about what it looks like while writing. But that doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't improvise while writing.

The Plot

You have the ideas, you have the characters, you have the land.

Now it's a matter of creating a plot, a storyline, a timetable. So you know where which person is hanging out, what they're doing, what's coming next.

The plot is your friend. It helps you keep track of what's going on and not lose sight of anything.

My plots are usually 4-7 A4 pages long, in keyword form.


Writing is a creative process. You will notice things while writing, new ideas will come to you, you will change the storyline.

That's good!

Improvisation is part of the process, but don't lose sight of the goal. Unless you have a new goal. Then don't forget to change your characters' routes accordingly.

The Writing

I've opted for simple, clear language, even in fantasy.

I find shorter sentences better. Don't create sentence monsters over ten lines, where you end up wondering what happened, where the main sentence went again, and how many subordinate clauses there were!

Most people want to relax while reading, and this is only possible after a hard day at school, at the office, at university, or anywhere else, if the author doesn't make the reader's brain spin again and confuse it with nested sentences. Information does not have to be packed into a single sentence. Honest.

You have the characters as living beings in your mind, show that in the book by having them do more than talk and see: They touch, they smell, they taste, they feel things, and that needs to be transported to the reader. The five human senses should also be used in the book.

I do not want to conceal the fact that, especially in the fantasy sector, it is sometimes expected that a work has to sound pompous, worn, ancient. These readers, for example, do not get along with Ulldart and the dwarf novels.

Which proves once again: it's a matter of taste. Ultimately, you decide how you want it to sound.

And don't try to "write like X or Y", it doesn't work anyway and besides, the style already exists.

Models are nice, but don't make yourself a copy. Even a successful copy is a copy. Nothing more.

Try it out, fiddle around and find your own style.

Oh yes: Writing is also a good piece of discipline.

You can set yourself a daily workload. For me, it's at least five A4 pages a day, sometimes more, sometimes it doesn't work at all. It usually balances out.

It's also good for a novel/story if the author stays focused on the task at hand; it's easier to remember the connections.


Not by a long shot.

When you think you're done, leave it for a week, do something else, and don't bother with it.

THEN go back to it and you'll see that you'll notice "bumps" that you didn't see before.

The time of revision starts all over again.... I call it filing and planing.

I often write down a scene and go through it again, rearrange sentences, improve them so they sound nicer, dialogues are polished, actions are described differently.

You are allowed to read aloud if you think that the scene is not perfect. You can hear it better that way. But make sure that the windows are closed. It can lead to confusion with the neighbors.

When you have finally finished the story, you need test readers in the form of well-read and honest (!) friends who read the work critically, annotate it or give feedback in some other form about what they noticed and what they didn't like.

They see more than you do.

As an author, you very quickly become text-blind or simply know too much about the world you've created. So you assume things in the plot of the novel that the reader doesn't have.

Listen to the voices. :o)

Where to put the manuscript?

Yes, I know. The best thing is to go to a publisher.

How do you find a suitable publisher?

Fortunately, there's the Frankfurt Book Fair, which has a great website. On it, you can list publishers by genre, and then you have an enormous selection of candidates, complete with addresses.

Practical, isn't it? Just have a browse.

If necessary, the nice bookseller around the corner can help you out with a directory. You can also take this opportunity to make an appointment for a reading ;o)


To promote a manuscript, you need a portion of courage, self-confidence and:

  • a synopsis of the novel, which you create by formulating your keyword outline and creating an overall impression. Add a short description of the main characters.
  • a reading sample. It is the bait. Take a passage that you and your readers liked very much and that is about 5 A4 pages long, if the publisher does not write anything about it. Otherwise, be sure to follow their guidelines on the website!
  • The format: 30 lines per page, 60 characters (including spaces) per line.
    The sample must be numbered consecutively. It is even better to write your name and contact address on each page, in case the sample should be separated from the cover letter.
  • A cover letter in which you briefly introduce yourself, explain the scope and nature of the novel (genre), and your target audience.

As I said, be sure to follow the guidelines on the publisher's website.

And then?

Wait. :o)

Don't be discouraged by rejections.

There is a colleague whose work was rejected 40 times (!) by publishers. Today, ten years later, it has sold 600,000 copies... And even Miss Rowling is said not to have found a publisher right away.

Persevere, is the watchword.

Never surrender!