You’ll find a million exercises and articles online that sell you a formula on how to construct fiction. I’m going to tell you this right now, there is no right way to construct fiction. Yes, there is a right way for each individual person or type of people, maybe—the unique way that works for specifically him/her—but there is no one generally perfect approach to forming fiction.
Note: this is not a discrediting of any single approach to the writing process. At some point, you are definitely going to do bits and pieces out of various successful writing processes; some will even be game changers for you. I assure you, however, that the process that works best for you and you alone will be unique to you. It will be the one that you put together after considering your lifestyle and the way you work, and one that comfortably fits writing into your way of life. Lastly and most importantly, it will be a unique process that makes you a successful writer!
But that’s not the point. The point is to remind you that there’s a really easy way that you can better articulate yourself like a professional, established author, naturally, by using the way your brain works to condition your mind to think in terms of fiction.
This article is to (re-)introduce you to the two basic activities you need to do in order to get into the groove of writing well.
1. Read more in the genre(s) you (want to) write in.
There’s a lot to be learned about literally everything by reading good writers, or simply good writing. You’ll learn that after you actually do it.
Let me help you understand the logic behind the activity, though, and I’ll lead by example here. I was a skilled essayist in high school and college. Perfect scores were the norm in anything English composition class-related. I knew how to argue quite well. When it came to writing fiction, however, I just couldn’t do it. I had all these ideas and concepts running wild in my head, but no understanding of how to compose them into anything that resembled well-articulated, dramatic written text. I very clearly remember that time; it was when I hated reading and only did it when I had to, for class, and it was hardly ever the genre I wanted to write in.
Things changed at some point, though. I found a genre that was highly appealing to me, in film no less, and I began my journey as an avid reader by reading the books that inspired those cool movies. After I realized what I liked, I chased it – for personal pleasure. I read a heck of a lot, thereafter, trying to absorb all the satisfying stories and their crazy twists and turns. It gave me joy to experience the unlikely adventures of fiction.
When I put the pen to the paper after reading some books, I actually knew had the skill of formulating my creative thoughts in a way that was appropriate for fiction-writing. It made no sense how I suddenly became so articulate after dealing with frustrating amounts of restraint on the page. When I went back to reading a book after completing some writing, I realized that the way I was expressing myself in writing had been influenced and molded, in a way, by the language I had been reading in books. Somehow, I had actually absorbed the material, and my thoughts had adapted to the technique, style, and general dramatic manipulation of language that is commonly used in fiction, just by being over-exposed to it.
You know what they say, you are what you eat the company you keep. I’d made books my company for a while, and boy, did it pay off. I adore my own style of writing, now. I’ve grown a lot since the early days, and I actually have a way of formulating fiction that’s all my own; it’s satisfying to write, because I can finally express myself, and therefore it is exciting to read as well.
I’m not bragging, trust me. I’m informing you that this satisfaction can be yours if you become proactive in your pursuit to bettering your writing.
If you’re a non-fiction, self-help writer, read a lot of self-help articles and books in your free time. If you have an interest in short-form fiction, read flash fiction and short stories on the internet or buy some anthologies of them to read. You want to write movies, there are plenty of award-winning (and not-so-award-winning) screenplays available for free download online!
Read, read, read! It doesn’t have to be boring if you find whatever it is that you like!
And then write.
2. Experience a book before studying/analyzing it.
In school/college, there’s a crap ton of analysis done, and you usually end up doing it during the readings rather than after them like you’re supposed to. It’s work, and we just want to get it over with, I get it.
In reality, though, the best way to analyze is after the reading.
The analysis comes to you more naturally as you reflect and question the depth, the implications, of what you read. After-thoughts can be powerful. Don’t rush the process of processing, revel in it. It’s a learning process on its own.
Go ahead and do these two things for a week or a month, then start or continue the process of writing whatever you’ve been needing to finish. Reflect on whether or not you are thereafter able to better translate your ideas into writing and formulate text that works as fiction.