Want to improve your fiction writing? The Internet is your oyster!

The Internet is your oyster for learning how to write fiction

Yes, I know. It’s a scallop, not an oyster. You get the idea!

So many people leap into fiction writing just because they have what they think is a plot in their heads. The fact is, you need only have a glimmer of a plot in mind if you want to write fiction. The only question you should have in your mind at this stage is, “What tools do I need in order to write good fiction?” And I don’t mean fancy computer technology. Writing is a craft, and just like any other craft, the right skills and tools are needed to produce an exceptional product.

It may be that you’ve already written your story, and you’re coming at this a little backwards. But it’s not too late. Revisions are a necessary part of the editorial process, and you can apply your new knowledge during your revisions. Still, before you open up a fresh Word document and commit any more words to the screen, do your writing a favour and try to learn a little about the craft of fiction. What tools do you need? Marvelously, every single answer to this multi-answer question can be found on the Internet—in spades.

Before you write anything further, Google and learn as much as you can about:

  • narrative
  • exposition
  • plot development
  • plot arc
  • characterization
  • character development and arc
  • character motivation
  • how to write effective dialogue
  • dialogue tags (attributions)
  • how to build a proper scene
  • adding tension and conflict
  • pacing
  • point of view (POV)
  • how to avoid clichés
  • foreshadowing
  • back story (part of exposition)
  • suspension of disbelief
  • flabby prose vs. vigorous prose

Drop these words or phrases into any search engine, preceded by the word “fiction,” and you will be rewarded with more information than you could read in an entire semester of Creative Writing 101. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, more good websites where you can learn the subtleties and nuances of fiction writing. Here are three I like:

www.fictionfactor.com
http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/
www.claredunkle.com/Design/writebasics.htm

Read and then practice these basic techniques of good fiction writing, and then practice a whole lot more. Only when you think you have a handle on each of them, then begin the actual writing of your story by composing a strong outline for each chapter.

Then, and only then, will you be ready to write a real masterpiece of fiction. Bonus: you’ll save heaps of money on editing, which will go much faster if your editor sees that you have employed the basic elements of good fiction writing.

Again, to those who have put the cart before the horse and have written their fiction work already, without learning these basics: it’s not too late. Wonder why your book isn’t selling? The reason is very likely that you haven’t learned these basics. Go back and revise, revise, revise. You know, it’s an old joke among writers that “I don’t write books, I write revisions.”

Then find an editor (of course!) and republish. Don’t be surprised if you see your sales improve—as long as you embrace your marketing with the same passion you put into your writing.

♠ ♠ ♠

book and manuscript editing

Arlene Prunkl is a
and the owner of PenUltimate Editorial Services
You can find her on , , , and Facebook
August 7, 2009

 

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  • Gabriela

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I’ve recently started to consider writing creatively. To get at least an idea of what it means, I went to a short course for beginners. The course was nice and fluffy and had a lot of people who had already written stuff and wanted a bit more guidance. I was a complete novice and I kept waiting for someone to just finish the warm and cuddly intro and start telling me about basic writing – stuff like what is a character, what is a narrative, etc. No such luck. Instead we were all encouraged to just sit down and write and not think of publishing, not think of markets and just write from the heart. I’m sure that at some point in the future I will be able to do so but at this point in time – I CAN’T! I feel extremely ill prepared. Don’t get me wrong, I have since bought several books on writing and the elements of a story, etc. I’ve just started to discover online resources (I’ve just stumbled across your blog for which I’m thankful) and I feel I should at least spend some time getting to grips with the basics before I ‘just write’. So thank you very much for the list of things to research and for your suggestions as to where to look for them. Much appreciated!

    • Arlene Prunkl

      Thank you for your comment, Gabriela. This is one of my older posts, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a comment here! I’m so glad you found the post useful. I must say, I think you’re doing the right thing in your approach, wanting to the learn the basics first. I encourage all authors to take your approach, but unfortunately by the time I see their writing, it’s often too late — for that piece of writing, anyway. But it’s never too late to start learning the basics. It gives you so much more confidence going forward, and you’re not stabbing in the dark nearly as much with the basic elements of fiction.

      My mantra for so much of the writing advice out there is “you need to learn the rules before you can break them.” (That advice goes for editing, too.) Even so, that doesn’t mean you need to learn everything before you start writing. When a creative urge hits, just get it down. But keep learning the the basics, so you build an underlying foundation for all your future writing. I hope you read some of my other posts on fiction writing, and that you continue to enjoy my blog and comment from time to time.