I’m preparing my presentation with slides that I like the least called “Forgotten Discipline: Fiction Craftsmanship.” Unlike my other presentations drawn from my battlefield experiences and my escape under fire when Saigon fell, fiction craftsmanship is a crashing bore. But it addresses practices which fiction writers must master if their work is to be accepted for publication.

I speak from experience. I have six books and 17 short stories in print, all published by reputable companies and periodicals. I worked hard to absorb fiction craftsmanship and make it automatic and unconscious. I tell my audience that’s what they must do if they want to write publishable fiction.

The irony is that proper fiction craftsmanship has no effect on the quality of the writing. Good editing technique merely assures that one’s work won’t be rejected out of hand. And the editing and formatting rules for literary fiction are only subtly different from those for nonfiction journalistic writing.

The guidelines for journalism are covered in The Associated Press Stylebook, some 460 pages of clear instructions on acceptable editing for newspaper and magazine writing. But the rules for fiction writers are contained in The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (University of Chicago Press). It spends over 950 pages on the subject.

More next time.

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