the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

Fiction 101: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered—Part 2

A year ago, I never would have dreamed that I would be teaching a class about fiction writing. But here I am. See my earlier post and my first tip that the students are dubious about here: Fiction 101—Part 1.

Here are two more things that I tell my students, and they are not delighted to find out that there aren’t RULES in this pursuit.

2. Read what you write.

I tell my students to read what they intend to write. You need to know the genre intimately to understand how it changes over time. Also, you have to like the genre before you can write in it. If you are writing romance, for example, because you read somewhere that it’s “easy” to break in, please reconsider. Readers will forgive you almost anything but talking down to them.

One of my students admitted that he didn’t read fiction, but he wanted to write it. That’s okay at the start, but you’ve gotta read it. There are so many sub-genres within the genre of mysteries (recipe mysteries, knitting mysteries, famous dead person mysteries, and so on) that I would look like an idiot if I tried to pitch my fat chick mystery as unique.

Fat chick mysteries are pretty much a sub-genre of their own including such writers as Sue Ann Jaffarian, Julie Smith, and others. I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t read in the genre. Case closed.

3. It takes a village.

I also tell my students to get together with other writers from time to time. Creating a writer’s group is a useful tool to help you grow as a writer. In addition, it’s comforting to talk to other people who think the people in their heads are just as real as those they can actually touch. Talking to those of your own kind can keep you from looking silly at the local Starbucks when you laugh uproariously at your own jokes or start reading dialogue to yourself. Trust me–personal experience talking here.

Check in later this week for my last two writing tips for my fiction students.

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