How do I write great fiction? At some point, every published author has endeavored to answer this question. The first thing anyone should understand about writing great fiction is, like anything else, it takes time and dedication to master. When people ask me how to improve as a writer, my answer is usually some version of three simple words. "Keep a diary!" Yes, there are many mechanical aspects of writing that must be developed over time. However, writing, above all else, is an art.
During an online writing class, a fellow student expressed her feelings of frustration, having become overwhelmed with the deluge of technical information that was flooding in. I read her question several times debating over whether I should respond. "It really isn't my place," I reasoned. After all, I was only a student, like her, learning to become a master storyteller.
Finally, I shook away my reluctance and began typing. I explained that we had all signed up for the class with the same goal in mind. Each of us hoped to, at some point, become published authors. That fact, if nothing else, rendered us equals. The tools we were learning were meant to be implemented and refined through practice. I told her she would never grow as a writer if she was not striving to develop her craft every single day.
And there it is, in a nutshell. Practice makes perfect. The literary world is over saturated with resources designed to transform novice writers into paid authors, but they won't get you far without a little hard work on your part.
Let's say you've been writing since you were crawling around in diapers. You've bypassed everything I've said, so far, hoping there is something in this blog that will benefit you. You ask, "what now?" I get it, mostly because I've been there. It's the reason I attended workshops, joined writing groups, and signed up for classes. Since the answer to that question and fill an entire encyclopedia series, let's narrow it down a bit.
People say you should never compare your work to other writers. To that, I say "it depends on who you ask." If you ask Steven King, who failed at his first publishing attempt, he may offer a dissimilar perspective. It's like learning any other skill. Imitate others until you are experienced enough to develop your own style. If you read enough books will start to notice certain trends. Many authors advise against writing to rigid plot structures, and I agree that you should try to be flexible. Still, using a formula gives the story a path or even a fraction of predictability.
Keep in mind, if the story is too predictable, readers may become bored with your story. Obviously, that is always an undesirable outcome. Readers do, however, have certain expectations. For example: If the story feels too action-packed and you haven't taken the time to establish an emotional connection to your characters, readers may feel it lacks depth. Understanding the difference between plot and story and how they weave together to bring your book to life is an important step toward learning to write great fiction.