Fiction Craftsmanship (2)

So how do you learn craftsmanship? By reading, reading, and more reading. That means studying the way a fine fiction writer puts together her sentences and paragraphs and chapters; examining why sometimes a paragraph consisting of a single word can be a miracle; understanding the flow, word choices, sentence length that work. Then taking that learning and putting it into practice. That means writing, writing, and more writing.

It also means revising. I spend something like 10 percent of my writing time in drafting new text and 90 percent of it in revising. It means reading aloud what you’ve written and listening for the way the words, sentences, and paragraphs come together.

I know perhaps a hundred writers, most of them successful to one degree or another. Of those, perhaps three have what I call “the gift.” By that I mean the inborn genius for knowing how to put words together to create beauty. Two of those three are as yet unpublished. It’s because they haven’t mastered the craft. They haven’t inculcated in themselves the mechanics of fiction writing.

Until they do, their work won’t see the light of day in print.

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