This is going to be a simple post. Not because writing fiction well is simple, but because the learning process itself is fairly simple. There are really only a few keys to learning how to write fiction well, which I’ll outline below:
- Write often and consistently. This seems like an obvious point, but the more you write the more learning opportunities you give yourself. Often this learning takes place at a subconscious level, such that you may not even be aware of it happening. When I was first starting out my learning curve was so steep that I would have to go back and rewrite the first several chapters of a manuscript after finishing in order to match the style with the rest of the novel. As with any other task, the best way to improve is to get down and dirty.
- Take breaks from writing every once in a while. I don’t mean easy fifteen minute breaks (although those are good too). I mean the hard breaks, the two-week-long breaks. As I mentioned above, your subconscious is a big factor in improvement, and if you don’t take a break every once in a while you could be missing out on some of the biggest ‘aha moments.’
- Obtain impartial feedback. In some ways, I feel like this list is a recipe for success. One part steady practice, one part knowing when to back away from your writing… and if those are each one part, impartial feedback is the secret ingredient that will take your writing to the next level. Sure, you can have your close relatives read your work. Sure, you can simper and smile when they tell you that it’s good. But at the end of the day, you need someone to tell you in no uncertain terms that your writing sucks and to point out specifically why. They’ll spot flaws your subconscious didn’t notice before, but it certainly will once you receive a strongly worded critique. In fact, I would go so far as to say a writer without impartial feedback is like a canoe adrift in the rapids; you might get where you want to go if you’re extremely lucky, but nine times out of ten you’ll hit a rock and get left split upon the sandy shore.
As promised, a simple post. Well, relatively simple. The process is: write, leave for a while if and when you need to, and get feedback. Then write again, and again until you’ve written so much that your own style flows automatically, as familiar as your mother tongue. This is why one of my biggest pet peeves are authors who complain about not having a unique style. A voice in writing is not received; it is built, phrase by phrase. The same holds true for skills like world-building and plotting.
As always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to ask any questions or add any comments, please feel free to make a comment below!
PS: To the first point, I wanted to add that—while the majority of your work/practice when you’re starting out may be in the form and genre you plan to eventually write in—you should vary things every once in a while. I’m a Young Adult writer, but I’ve penned High Fantasy and Science Fiction manuscripts as well. In fact, novels like that are the best way to learn world-building.