Deliberate Practice for Fiction Writers: Definition and 7 Techniques by Dave Chesson
Let’s welcome back Dave Chesson as he shares with us “Deliberate Practice for Fiction Writers: Definition and 7 Techniques.” Enjoy!
Deliberate practice is one of the most underappreciated ways to excel in whatever business you are in.
It is a form of practice highly familiar to athletes or musicians, but less used by writers.
There’s a common misconception that simply writing more books will give you more practice, and that you will improve your craft the most simply by writing more. You will certainly improve your skill by writing more books, but there is a more efficient way to do it, and that is deliberate practice.
In this article, I will cover what deliberate practice is, and some different things you should consider practicing, outside of your regular writing time.
First Off, What is Deliberate Practice?
As stated above, deliberate practice is not simply writing more. Instead, deliberate practice is the act of selecting a specific area of improvement, then repetitively performing the tasks designed to improve on that thing, before seeking feedback, and reiterating.
Essentially, deliberate feedback has five steps:
- Step 1: Choose an area of improvement.
- Step 2: Educate yourself about your chosen area, either through a mentor or through study.
- Step 3: Practice that specific thing over and over until you feel you have mastered it.
- Step 4: Seek feedback about the work you have done.
- Step 5: Rinse and repeat.
This is why simply writing another book will not necessarily count as deliberate practice.
For example, let’s say you wanted to write more humorous dialogue.
If this is the case, sure, it would help to write a book with humorous dialogue in it, but you will gain the skill a lot faster by writing scene after scene after scene of just humorous dialogue.
And obviously, you can’t have an entire book that is nothing but humorous dialogue.
Therefore, deliberate practice can actually increase your skills faster, even if it doesn’t involve writing a book.
So with that in mind, let’s discuss a few areas of deliberate practice that will greatly enhance your book writing and marketing.
Writing a good hook is one of the most important skills you will develop as an author, not just for the book, but also for the marketing.
If someone opened your book, and they are not hooked by your opening line, chances are low that they will continue to read your book.
The same is true for your marketing. If you don’t have good headlines, people will not click on your ads or buy your books in the first place.
So take a moment to write multiple hooks over and over again.
You could even test this by running advertisements where the only thing you change about each ad is your headline. The ad that gets the most clicks is a good indicator of which headline resonated the best.
This acts as your feedback, which you can then incorporate back into your deliberate practice.
Along with hooks, copywriting is one of the most important writing skills you can possibly learn as an author. It is especially important when writing your book description.
I would recommend deliberate practice by copying out other famous book descriptions by hand, breaking them down into their component parts, and then writing your own book description multiple times until you get something that truly shines.
You can try this not only with your current book, but also on future book ideas as well.
If you can nail down your copywriting before you even start writing the book, you will have an advantage.
Practice on Writing Prompts
If you are uncertain about how to practice, there are thousands of writing prompts out there to get you started.
These writing prompts are often designed to specifically teach you a skill in writing.
This is also a great way to get some material to write about, that is it your book or short story. (Although you may find yourself creating a short story out of your prompts.)
Practice Idea Generation
A lot of writers struggle to come up with good ideas, but ideas are also a skill.
You might want to do your deliberate practice around coming up with ideas.
Learn what other people have said about idea generation, then set aside time specifically for creating ideas.
Dialogue is one of those areas that many authors struggle with. It can be hard to make dialogue that sounds natural and engaging.
That’s why I highly suggest practicing your dialogue.
This can be done by learning specific dialogue techniques, then applying them in various conversations.
In fact, I would recommend writing scenes that are only dialogue, with no other dialogue formatting or anything else, unless that is what you are trying to practice.
Another way to do this would be to watch movies that are famous for their dialogue, then write out the dialogue by hand to really learn it.
Many authors struggle with vocabulary. This is another thing that is perfect for deliberate practice.
You could use flashcards, or other methods commonly used to increase your vocabulary, then practice writing those words in a sentence over and over again until you really understand the word.
Copywork is one of my favorite ways to practice. It is the act of writing out someone else’s work by hand.
This isn’t illegal, as you are only doing it for your own learning purposes, but by copying out somebody else’s words by hand, you learn a lot about how the words are structured.
I would pick an author that inspires you and your style, preferably someone in your genre, then spend a few minutes every day copying out their words by hand.
It is an easy, but effective, way to improve your writing.
I hope this is giving you an idea of how to use deliberate practice in your writing.
Ultimately, there are many more ways to deliberately practice, from writing engaging characters, to crafting a balanced scene, to creating a fully fleshed out outline.
You could even use deliberate practice to improve your software skills, like working with author-centric platforms such as ProWritingAid, Publisher Rocket (wink wink), or Scrivener.
When you deliberately practice, you can dramatically increase your speed of improvement. What matters is that you are intentional about what you are working on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Chesson is the creator of Kindlepreneur.com, a website devoted to teaching advanced book marketing. Having worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and more, his tactics help both fiction and nonfiction authors of all levels get their books discovered by the right readers.