Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Fiction

As everyone knows, top ten lists are the only way in which humans in the 21st century absorb information. So for those authors who want to improve their craft, here is the only top ten list you’ll ever need! (Refer to Item #10 to see why.)

Item #10 – Stop listening to others! Nobody knows what’s right for your work except you, and possibly your mother. Other people who read books? What do they know? Other writers, trying to make a living in the same craft? Competition, not advice. Publishers, editors, agents? It’s really best not to try to understand them – everything about them is just so random.

Item #9 – No networking! Conventions are a waste of time and money, and the unfortunate influence of fun, new ideas and broadening activities may pollute your craft. It’s better to lock yourself in a small room or shed, never see another person, and let the tortured art flow from your broken soul.

Item #8 – Adverbs: your best friends! Adverbs, words like really, brightly, suddenly, very or extremely – whenever humanly possible, use them. They clearly strengthen your sentences incredibly well, adding lots of all kinds of emphasis to your splendidly indulgent textual creations.

Item #7 – NEVER use “he said” or “she said”. Take a look at any fiction book you own (it’s okay, you don’t have to read it or anything, just glance) and you’ll see lots of “he said” in the dialogue. Know what that means? That’s right – overused! The same goes for tiny words like a, and, or the, and of course, punctuation.

Item #6 – Description – it’s boring! There’s really no need for description at all. Who wants to know what the setting looks like, or the characters? A good reader should be able to do the work of imagining this stuff for themselves. But if you absolutely HAVE to put in any description, make sure it’s in one giant, unbroken lump at the beginning of the story, to get it out of the way and make sure your readers are up to speed.

Item #5 – There is no such thing as too many words. A lot of words, quite a few words, some words – all that is good, right? Why not more?

Item #4 – Never, ever, revise. After all, YOU wrote the first draft, and if it wasn’t right, you’d never have put those words down in that sequence in the first place. Because you know what you’re doing. You’re a professional.

Item #3 – Don’t submit your work! A true artist never expects money for their work. After all, nobody can appreciate it like you do. If you never send stuff out to be published, no one will ever reject you, and nobody will ever criticize your fiction, and it will remain hermetically perfect from then on. That’s winning, my friend.

Item #2 – Don’t read! Reading other fiction can taint and influence your own. Absorbing and internalizing the way other people put words together can powerfully weaken your individual voice. Next thing you know, your readers don’t have to work hard to understand you – and you have made compromises. That just can’t happen in true art.

Item #1 – Best not to finish! After all, the beginning is the fun part – full of new ideas, potential, and exciting characters doing interesting things. Forcing those characters awkwardly to learn, change, take action and try to resolve conflict is quite artificial. And, of course, if you never finish, it makes all the other items much, much easier to accomplish. That’s why this is the number one tip!

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