"No. Because now I know and you know you can."
That is how the review of my latest revision began last week. For those of you who don't know, I have written nonfiction for 35+ years and am now writing my first novel. When I was writing my memoir, I had to learn some fiction craft techniques like descriptions, specific, significant details, crisp dialogue, etc. But it didn't come easily and I wasn't convinced I did it very well.
I'm still not convinced how well I'm doing it, but I'm doing it. What I am coming to understand is that telling a story well has so much that must be considered that to have expected myself to be able to just push this story out, wham, bam, and have it be good was like expecting to pick up a guitar for the first time and expect to play like Eric Clapton.
Here is some of what I am learning, ever so slowly, and through my very gifted editor, who, by the way, has written many books on writing (you can find him here: http://markdavidmuse.blogspot.com):
- Dialogue must be character driven. I can't just have a character say something to impart information to the reader if that particular character wouldn't say that.
- Details must be significant - don't just say it's so and so's favorite soup if there isn't a good reason it is their favorite soup.
- It isn't only necessary to describe exteriors - settings and what people look like. Readers want to know what is going on inside the characters as well.
- My big bugaboo is tenses - when I'm writing I don't pay attention at all, so now I have to go back and fix them all. It's not my strong suit. I may just hire a line editor for this.
- Pay attention to your timeline. It pulls the reader out of the story if something contradicts something you've said earlier.