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:


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