Where can I find fiction writing tips?

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Answered by: Ryan, An Expert in the Fiction Writing - General Category
Where can you find good fiction writing tips? The library, or your local bookstore. Except you've already devoured all the bloodless how-to books. There's the Internet, but you've surfed all the blogs and aren't any closer to your goal.

Take it from me, the best place to swipe the best fiction writing tips is from the masters themselves.

The books you keep by your bedside, the dog-eared ones you want buried with you--take another stroll through them. Don't gobble them up like last time. Pick a scene you adore, one that made your soul ache, or the one where you burned with outrage, or the sequence where you lost track of the pages and simply read breathlessly, desperate for the climax. This time as you read, don't let the author play you. Look for the strings, the mechanics. Ignore the giant green head. Peek at the little man behind the curtain.

A lot of writing is buildup, context, nuance. But delivery is always vital. If you can nail delivery, the rest will come. Study your favorite writer's delivery techniques. Check out dialogue tags. Observe word choice. Where does the writer slip in a snippet of internal monologue, and when does he/she let the dialogue stand alone? Does the scenery play a part in the action? Can you point to where you actually begin to care, or where the tension starts to strangle you? Adjectives and adverbs should be rare. Where does your master-writer slip them in to spice the language? How do they alter the scene? Do they soften it to a romantic interlude, or hone it to a lethal confrontation?

Then, once you've identified these techniques, steal them! Don't plagiarize, of course. Use similar language and style. Take them for a test drive and see what works for you. Writing should be experimentation, trial and error. Many writers adhere to the adage that your first million words are crap. Your first MILLION words.

So get them out of you. Slit your writer's wrists and gush them onto the page.

Yes, it's the only way.

Writing is craft. Writing is about knowing who you are and what you want to say. Writing is also, according to Barthelme, about not-knowing. There are rules to writing--punctuation, grammar, yes--but the only hard rule of writing is that there ARE NO RULES. Bestselling authors get away with bucking the trends because they are intimately aware of said trends.

Pablo Picasso: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

What did Picasso know? He knew enough to steal from a master like Raphael, and then to discover his own way. It's the same with writers. C. S. Lewis stole from fairy tales. Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) stole from Greek mythology. There is no sin in this. Learn at the masters' feet, and then fleece them for all their worth.

The only hitch: you've got to give it your own twist, or you'll be branded worse than a thief. Stereotypical. Fan fiction. Copycat. Lame.

Don't be lame. Be a good thief. Steal and twist, and repeat.

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