Learning how to write fiction is different from learning how to write academically such as essays, research papers, or book reports. Fiction requires superb storytelling skills. There are three main ways to learn the craft of writing fiction: studying the craft from experts, getting your work critiqued, and attending writing conferences and retreats.
What is the Writing Craft?
Just what does it mean to study the craft of writing anyway? There are many ways you could answer this question. One dictionary definition goes like this:
Writing Craft - n. “the artistic skill or technique with which an author puts together narrative and other elements in order to convey meaning.”
Let’s get more specific. The writing craft consists of basic elements to help make your story readable and have meaning. It consists of such strategies as characterization, conflict, plot, dialogue, tension, backstory, theme, pacing, tone, voice, setting, point of view, and more. These are the narrative storytelling elements that make your writing flow and make sense to a reader.
One way to learn the writing craft is to jump in and figure it out. Just write. Keep practicing. You’ll get there eventually. But there are better ways.
Study the Craft of Writing From ExpertsExperts in the literary industry include published authors, editors, and book coaches. They can teach us a lot about how to write fiction. All we have to do is consume their information, usually in the form of books, workshops, or courses. So when you have an opportunity to buy a book you think will help you, or attend a workshop or take a course from a writer you admire, do it!
Other tips to become a better fiction writer and practice the craft include the following:
If you’re reading, writing, and studying about writing, you will continue to get better. And when it comes to your writing craft, that’s always the goal.
Get Your Work Critiqued
One of the best ways to grow as a writer is to get your work critiqued by someone who understands the writing craft and also knows how to give a good critique, which doesn’t necessarily mean all good feedback. Getting feedback from family or friends who aren’t writers may give you a glowing report on your writing, but you’re not going to learn how to become a better fiction writer that way.
A critique group is a small group of writers (typically 4-8 people) who exchange manuscripts or chapters with each other to give each other feedback on a monthly basis. A beta reader is anyone who is willing to read your completed manuscript and provide feedback. Beta readers don’t always exchange with each other or at least not necessarily at the same time.
When you’re looking for someone to critique your work, ask if they’ve ever been a part of a critique group. Ask what their experience level is. They don’t have to be a published author to give good feedback, but they do need to understand the writing craft.
If you’re looking for a critique group, or even just a beta reader, there are many places to find people who can help you.
Writing retreats are similar to writing conferences, but retreats are usually smaller and more intimate, have fewer workshops, fewer editors and agents present, and more writing time. Attending a writing retreat that offers both workshops and critiques is a win-win opportunity. They also provide motivation and momentum, and you’ll meet new people who can potentially become long-term critique partners.
The Writers Who Run Retreat includes eight different workshops that focus on the craft of writing, such as character, conflict, plot, and setting. Sometimes we even include sessions on publishing or marketing.
We also offer small group critiques as well as a professional one-on-one critique. But if you don’t have anything you want critiqued at the moment, you can still join us and learn all that we have to offer to help strengthen your narrative storytelling skills, whether that be for fiction, memoir, or creative nonfiction.
Remember, no matter what stage of writing you’re at, it’s important to continually hone your skills. Learning the writing craft is essential to your success. Now go write!
Keep writing, keep running.
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Christie Wright Wild
Founder, Writers Who Run
Creator, Plot Like a Novelist
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