So You Want to Be A Fiction Writer? 3 Practices You Need by Beth Barany
If you want to be any kind of writer, read.
Anything and everything.
Yes, signs. Yes, cereal boxes. Yes, the newspaper or online version of that. Yes, magazines. Yes, novels, short stories, nonfiction. Ever-y-thing.
Words are our food as writers. You need to become familiar with all the various and sundry uses of the building blocks of our communication tool.
Drink in words; swim in them; listen deeply; speak them. Smell books and paper and all things that receive the written word. Watch those who speak words. Read with your whole self.
If you want to write a particular kind of fiction, or nonfiction, read that. Immerse your whole self in that.
How much? A lot.
I had read been reading fantasy for 28 years on my own before I attempted my first fantasy novel. And that doesn’t count the 7+ years before that my parents read it to me.
At the start of my novel writing journey, I read The Maltese Falcon by Sam Spade. I thought it was brilliant and was fired up to write mysteries. I tried my hand at one; I got as far as the opening scene in a bar. (Always bars with me…) And stalled out.
I realized that I had not read any mysteries since I was a kid and sped through The Three Detectives (right title?) and some of Nancy Drew (she seemed too old fashioned for me) and had all the Sherlock Holmes tales read to me.
I needed to read mysteries if I wanted to write them. So I did: My husband thriller writer Ezra Barany read aloud to us Michael Connelly and Lee Child, and some Dan Brown. I watched a ton of TV mysteries, binge watching Murder She Wrote; Midsomer Murders; Leverage; and enjoying for years the NCIS shows. (Yes, listening and watching stories counts.)
Fast forward 18 years later, I sat down to plan and then write my 4-book science fiction mysteries series I’m now editing. (Due out Fall 2019) I got this. I understand the mystery story form and have enough writing experience under my belt to handle all the other aspects of telling a story. (These 4 books will bring up to 16 the number of books I’ve written in the last 20 years.)
Yes, I also have been steeping myself and in science and science fiction for a long time. (Fun Fact: I read the entire Dune series while studying for finals my sophomore year at UC Berkeley. I felt like I got a political science education! And OMNI Magazine was one of favorites as high school kid. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke favorites authors then.)
If you want to be a fiction writer, then write. Anything and everything. Get your hand moving across the page. Or keyboard.
This stage is physical and emotional. For you must trust that there is something to say even if it’s nonsense.
Trust your urge to write. What to say and how to say it comes with the doing it, for most of us.
Nothing replaces learning to write like actually writing. There is no way around this fact.
To get started, free write for 20 minutes about anything and everything.
Do this every day for a month, 3 months, a year, you’ll have done a few things:
1. Listened to yourself.
2. Written and trained he hand-brain connection.
3. Found some story ideas.
Not every successful fiction writer studies story structure, writing process, plot, character, and other aspects of storytelling. You certainly don’t need to. But if you’re confused by any of these elements, then yes, like many artists, you need to study your craft.
There are so many resources out there to help you study your craft. How wonderful!
Here are a few places to get you started:
- Your local library
- Your writer friends’ recommendations
- Your local bookstore
- The online booksellers
What topics are you curious about? Start there.
If you need help finding resources, post your question in the comments below and we’ll help you out.
YOUR NEXT STEP
From the 3 steps above, what would you like to focus on next?
Comment below and let us know so we can cheer you on.
OUR “LEARN HOW TO WRITE FICTION “RESOURCES
ABOUT BETH BARANY
Through my courses, programs, workshops and consultations, I specialize in helping writers experience clarity, so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers.
All my courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. I run an online school for fiction writers here and a 12-month group coaching program to help novelists get published here. I also offer consultations for writers here.