Sunday, March 17, 2019

Stories are Instinctive - Writing Well is Learned

As a lifelong reader, you recognize good fiction. Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Jeffrey Eugenides, both of whom write what is termed literary fiction. I’ve learned so much about developing characters from reading their books.

I read lots of cozy mysteries (my genre), especially M.C. Beaton, Parnell Hall, Meg Muldoon, and Carolyn Haines. You may want to write in a genre you’re very familiar with, or you may have an idea for something completely different. 

A story can come instinctively. Writing to satisfy readers can take study and practice.
Learning to Write Fiction
A verbal storyteller engages with an audience through gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Your book can only compel via words on paper or on an ereader. That's harder. 

Fiction ideas often creep up on you. To bring them to fruition you need to develop a setting and cast of characters—to say nothing of a plot. 

Unless you are an exceptional writer, you need to learn a lot before publishing something good enough to earn respect -- and income. Yes, read good books by successful writers. Also read about structure, character development, setting, dialogue, and related topics. Readers deserve your best.

While you can learn a lot from books, it helps to talk about writing with others and perhaps learn in a classroom or similar environment. 

There are writing classes at community colleges, workshops offered by regional arts organizations, and writing conferences. Most years, writers' magazines such as The Writer or Poets and Writers provide lists of conferences. Check your library. 

There are many online classes now. They can be expensive, though not all are. I always prefer in-person learning, but your location or schedule may not permit that. 

Some of what you will learn in any method is basic-–in a mystery, the villain cannot be someone introduced in the last scene, nor can the reader know a character’s thoughts but not be informed of everything that character knows.  John Gilstrap (author of the Jonathan Grave books) put this aptly in a daylong course I took–-these are cheats. 

In romance, if the only thing keeping a couple apart is miscommunication, a reader will want to bop them on their heads and tell them to pick up the phone. A children’s book has to use appropriate vocabulary for the age group. 

You can probably think of important points in other genres. Personally, when I read science fiction, I want a description of the aliens. I don’t need many details on the humans. 

Resources (taken from Writing When Time is Scarce
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Rene Brown and Dave King

On Writing Well, William Zinsser

Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories That Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats, Jane Cleland. Especially good for mysteries.

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