Good fiction writing isn’t a formula, but it does have structure. It also has conventions, and ignoring them is one way to guarantee that a publisher isn’t going to be interested.
Yes, there are always exceptions. Well-known writers can get away with almost anything. Some established authors ignore the conventions out of laziness, knowing that their fans will read whatever they write, even if it is garbage. Others make a conscious choice to violate a particular convention because they are going for a certain effect. This is a good reason and can improve a story. Still, if a beginning writer is trying to attract a publisher, it is safer to stick with the conventions.
But maybe you don’t know what the conventions are. Examples include point of view, showing versus telling, and the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven story, and they are too complex to explain in this blog post. So how can a beginning fiction writer learn them? College classes and writing conferences are always good choices. Or maybe you would rather start by reading a few good books.
Last week’s post recommended several books dealing with writing in general. If you are looking for books on fiction techniques, one place to start is the Write Great Fiction series from Writers Digest Books. This series includes:
· Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell;
· Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton;
· Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, by Nancy Kress;
· Description & Setting, by Ron Rozelle; and
· Revision & Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell.
Of course, there are many other good books that cover the same topics, and we would love to hear your suggestions.
Every writer is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But the writer who understands the elements of fiction will craft a better novel.