Sunday, April 15, 2012

How To Write Fiction

This image originally appeared in my Don't Over Think It post.
If you don't know what you're doing then everything seems impossible.

Take the Rubik's Cube.  When you open the package, an "instructional booklet" will fall out.  It may as well be a booklet on Quantum Theory printed in Aramaic.  Really, it's supposed to be a booklet of hints to make solving the Rubik's Cube achievable.  Fun even.

It won't take long to realize that booklet is useless.  If you persist and don't smash the cube into a million tiny pieces, then you will eventually discover a "Beginner's Method" to solving the Rubik's Cube.  These are all over the Internet.  These methods actually used to appear in book (you know, those paper thingies).

It may seem awkward at first, but the instructions provide a series of tried and true steps and before you know it, Viola!  You have a solved cube.  But there are many different ways to skin a cat.

I have studied many different methods over the past few years.  This gives me a lot of flexibility to adapt different tricks and techniques for each situation.  I achieve the same end state, a solved cube, but I'm not forced to do it the same way every time.

The same is true for writing.

If you don't know what you're doing, getting published may seem impossible.

When you first become serious about being a "published" author, it's natural to start with the tried and true.  What did Stephen King and Nora Roberts do to get published?  The real question to look at is what did they do to create fascinating stories for their readers?

But don't get too confident too soon.  Learning about character development is one thing, but don't expect to be able to put 20-30 three-dimensional characters into your story right away.  You'll need to focus on the craft at first.

What works for King or Roberts, might not work for you.  And that is just fine.  Don't just try to emulate their processes either.  There's a lot of talk in the writer community about outlining or not outlining.  Writing every day or only on the weekends.  Editing as you go or not looking back until you have a completed draft.

The truth is.  It really doesn't matter how you get there.  You need to allow yourself to understand what works for you.  For any given situation.  You may be experienced writing romance but trying to sell thrillers.  You need flexibility.

So, whether you use a "Beginner's Method" straight out of a writing craft book, or an "Advanced Method" gleaned from the likes of King or Roberts, you will find some basic and universal truths.  These truths are what makes writing worth reading.  That's why Nora Roberts has published more books than I have probably read in my lifetime.

What is the best writing lesson you have learned?

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