We all know that it’s impossible to totally master the craft of fiction and reach a level where no more improvement can occur.
That’s kind of the beauty of it. There’s always a new skill to improve upon or refine.
But while it may be impossible to master fiction, it’s definitely possible to stagnate or even regress.
Without intentional, careful practice, you run the very real risk of letting your fiction fruits whither and die on the vine.
Don’t let that happen!
Instead, it’s time to make sure you are continually improving. Even if you feel you’re moving forward slowly, just keep swimming!
So how can you finesse your fiction skills?
Brush up on the fundamentals of fiction
How long has it been since you took the time to look at the basic elements of what makes good fiction?
New fiction writers and veterans alike can benefit from taking the time to revisit the fundamentals and give them some attention.
These fundamentals can involve the core building blocks of the craft itself, such as the elements that make up an enticing story or how to write dialogue in a way that rings true and pleases the reader.
But being a competent fiction writer requires more than just an understanding of craft. You also need to know the practical and logistical stages of a fiction writing project.
Brush up on how long it takes to write a book and any other project planning elements you feel need some work.
No matter how much experience you have, it never hurts to start by revisiting the essentials.
Delve deep into advanced literary skills
So you’ve covered the basics. How can you go deeper and advance your knowledge?
Here are a few ideas:
- Take a small online course teaching an advanced writing skill that is so far outside your comfort zone it intimidates you to think about.
- Check out a list of literary techniques. Which interest you the most? Which have you never heard of before? Choose a few and block out some time to learn more about them and experiment with them in your own writing.
- Challenge other writers. There are probably other authors who are looking to advance their literary skills, just like you are. Why not buddy up with someone? Pick a partner and commit to helping each other grow as authors. Hold each other accountable.
Getting outside of your comfort zone and trying something more difficult than you’re accustomed to is one of the best ways to make quick progress. It never hurts to be able to sprinkle a little advanced literary spice into your next novel!
Work on the skills tangential to fiction
Even if you see yourself as an author, and only an author, it makes sense to brush up on the skills surrounding fiction.
It not only helps you be a better and more complete writer but also gives you additional skillsets should you ever want income streams outside of fiction.
So what are some of the tangential skills you could practice?
- Proofreading. Being able to proofread your own work initially is valuable, and it’s also a great skill to be able to contribute to other authors.
- Editing. You should never fully self-edit your work, but knowing about the various types of editing and the role they play is a good use of your time and will enable you to work with another editor more effectively.
- Publishing. These days, having a good understanding of the fundamentals of self-publishing is more important than ever before. Learn about how to title books, the basics of marketing, and the idea of building a long-term platform as an independent author.
Carry out purposeful practice
Outside of the times where you’re working on a clearly defined project, like a story or a novel, how do you practice writing fiction?
It’s worth taking the time to come up with a clear schedule and commit to practicing your craft in an intentional way.
Take a look at how you currently spend your time. Could you free up an uninterrupted period each week to focus on craft practice?
After you’ve blocked out the time to hone your fiction craft, here are some of the most useful ways to fill that time.
- Formal writing exercises. Writing exercises that test and challenge you are the best way to break free of your comfort zone. Choose a mixture of exercise you find enjoyable and tough to get the best outcome from the process.
- Writing prompt generators. If you’re the type of writer who finds prompts useful, why not check out a writing prompt generator? You don’t have to seek out the best writing prompts yourself if you have a tool to do the legwork for you.
- Craft your characters. Memorable characters are one of the best elements of fiction. They live on in the mind of the reader long after the story ends. Why not take the time to revisit the process of outlining characters?
Feel free to mix up and adapt your practice routine over time. It should strengthen you, not straightjacket you. Keep it fun and fresh so you’re always making progress.
Write stories from a new point of view
When was the last time you switched up the perspective you write from?
If you’re like a lot of writers, you probably have settled into the habit of writing in either the third or first person and haven’t deviated from that in some time.
Why not mix things up?
One of the most challenging perspectives to write from is the second person. Give it a go and see if you are able to adapt to this style of writing.
Aside from the formal POVs, you can write from a different perspective in another way entirely.
Here are some ways to do that:
- If you normally write characters of a certain gender, try writing from another perspective.
- Switch up the age of the characters you write about. If you normally talk about the struggles of being a millennial, try and step into the shoes of an 80 year old retiree.
- Dp you have a default emotional tone for your protagonists? For example, if they are usually sarcastic and snarky, could you try writing someone who is positive and upbeat?
One of the most beautiful things about the craft of fiction is its ability to let us understand new perspectives. Don’t limit yourself to writing about only a certain few.