A few years ago I read an interview with Jeffrey Archer in which he revealed he wrote 17 drafts of his novels. I remember thinking at the time that the first draft must have been clinically dead. However, If I've learned anything in the years since, it's the same thing we've all learned - three of the most important techniques in the crafting of fiction are rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting.
In between those manic - or laid-back (whatever works for you) rewriting sessions, learning the craft is also about reading and studying techniques by those who have been successful, and who are skilled at writing about it.
I don't need to mention Strunk and White's 'The Elements Of Style,' just about everyone else has and there's no argument here. It should be compulsory reading in all schools as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps what I can stress to newbies is that this one needs to be re-read at least once or twice a year because it pays to keep it constantly fresh in your mind.
Two other, very different books that work for me are - firstly, Stephen King's 'On Writing.' Always entertaining and witty about the 'biz, King's pearls of wisdom on the craft of fiction, the writing life, the publishing industry, his own experiences and his no-holds-barred opinions, make learning fun.
Also, for me, 'Self Editing For Fiction Writers:Second Edition:How To Edit Yourself Into Print,' by Renni Browne and Dave King. It's clear and concise and has practical exercises that will get your motor running. Like the other two books mentioned, it won't teach you how to create stories, but it will guide you on how to write better, how to get increased value with each new draft, how to don an editor's hat and self-edit your work.
If there was a reality TV series for novelists then the judges might very well say, 'Write to win."
Writing to win means mastering your rewrites. That means getting into the rhythm of the seemingly endless drafts. Once that kicks in, all of a sudden awkward words and phrases that should never have been there stick out like a dog's ears. All of a sudden, stilted dialogue cries out to you for a makeover. You'll slash and burn. Hopefully you'll become ruthless and mean but maintain just the right level of balance. You'll create new scenes that fit the mood and pace much better than the ones they're replacing.
Okay, it's not always that much fun but there will be good days.
Another good thing about these books is that they'll give you a thirst to seek out others, so if there's texts of this type that benefited you in your writing, let us know about them.
If there's one other truth we've all discovered it's that this process never ends...
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