The Journal: How to Learn Fiction-Writing Techniques

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: How to Learn Fiction-Writing Techniques
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“[W]hat the character notices and how s/he notices something are reflections of who s/he is.” Michaele Lockhart

Topic: How to Learn Fiction-Writing Techniques

This topic arose from an email I received a few days ago. What appears below is my expanded response.

If you want to learn new fiction-writing techniques and improve your craft,

1. Take in-person or online video or audio courses from knowledgeable sources.

By knowledgeable sources, I mean folks with a proven track record. Writers who have been (and are) writing fiction successfully. Like Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch and me. (grin)

2. Read nonfiction books on writing, but again, only after vetting the author. Lawrence Block springs to mind, as does Stephen King, DWS, Kris Rusch, and me. You can find all of my nonfiction books at StoneThread Publishing.

3. Read widely for pleasure.

Read in your genre, but also read stories that interest you outside your genre. Good storytellers use the same techniques to tell good stories despite the genre.

As you read for pleasure, if a particular section blows you away, mark it with a sticky note or a gum wrapper or a dog-eared page or something. Then, after you’ve finished reading the book for pleasure, go back to the places you marked and study them (even type them in if you want, to absorb the rhythm and flow of the passage) to learn what that writer did that blew you away and how s/he did it.

And just a thought — if you’re considering learning from a particular writer — if you’re considering taking an in-person or online course or reading a nonfiction book on writing or even asking a writer to mentor you — as a final way of vetting that writer, read some of his or her fiction.

Nothing speaks to knowledge of the storytelling game like being absorbed in a book you don’t want to put down.

There are precious few professional writers out there who teach writing, and even fewer who are willing to mentor other writers directly. In that second case, I can think of only two: DWS and me*.

*There are a few “famous writers” who teach writing, but not really. They put their name on a courses (for a cut of the proceeds), but the courses are actually taught by other people.

I can’t speak for DWS, but I offer free copies of my fiction short stories and novels (of the mentoring student’s choice) to those whom I mentor. Because I WANT them to see my storytelling ability for themselves. Something to think about.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I have a mentoring spot open. I and my students go month by month. So the students have skin involved, there’s a montly fee, but they can learn as much or as little as they like and stop at any time.

I offer mentoring on everything from clearing out the myths, to setting and attaining goals, to specific writing techniques, and much more. Whatever the particular student needs to become a successful professional fiction writer. (If you’re a regular patron, I’ll discount your monthly fee up to $20 per month.)

If you’re interested at all in becoming a mentoring student, email me at

This morning, I misread my bedside clock. I thought it read 1:25 but found out right after I started the coffee maker it was actually only 11:25 p.m. So when the coffee was made, I poured it into two Thermos bottles, then went back to bed.

So I rolled out at 2:25, a much more reasonable hour (given that I went to bed at 7 last night), grabbed my Thermos bottles and my mug, and padded out to the Hovel. (grin)

Started writing at 6, but too many distractions. Chief among those are email, notifications for which pop up in the bottom right corner of my screen. Usually I can ignore all but the more important ones, but not today for some reason. So I’m turning off notifications. (Just want you to know it happens to me too.) In my first session, I wrote a total of 200 words.

I decided to leave the novel for the day to write this week’s short story, which is due by midnight tonight.

And actually, I thought about adjusting my goals again, but this time in a major way. I was going to drop the weekly goal of a short story.

Why? Because I enjoy writing novels more, plus novels sell better, and novels in series sell better than that.

I’ve already written almost 200 short stories, so it isn’t like I have to prove to myself I can do it. And I’ve already written a short story every week for 70 consecutive weeks a few years ago, so reaching for a streak has no particular value for me either.

The main reason I set the weekly short story goal in the first place was to provide me with more novel ideas (my short stories often want to be novels), but I’m not having any problem coming up with ideas for novels so no worries there.

Either way, I would continue to write short stories through the year as they occur to me, either as part of a longer work or separately. It will be interesting to me to see how many short stories I’ve written when the year is gone.

So for now, I was thinking, I want to keep my primary focus on writing novels.

Only when I told my wife I was dropping my weekly goal, she said nothing, but smiled at me. And to me, her smile said, “Well, of course you are.” That probably isn’t what she meant, but it’s what I heard in my mind.

Hey, you take encouragement of any kind where you find it. (grin) And as you all know, I love having my feet held to the fire.

So I went back to the Hovel and wrote “Cowboy Country,” which could as easily have been titled “Let’s Play Cowboys and Mafia.” (grin) So for now, the weekly goal lives.

Tomorrow, I’ll get back to my novel.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “How Much is Enough?” at

See “The Terrible Truth About Adolf Hitler’s Remains” at

See “The Story of a Weird World I Was Warned Never to Tell” at Story ideas abound.

See “Forget ‘Earth-Like’—We’ll First Find Aliens on Eyeball Planets” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 3699
Nonfiction words today…………… 1090 (Journal)

Writing of “Cowboy Country” (short story)

Day 1…… 3121 words. Total words to date…… 3121 (done)

Writing of Algae Prime (SF novel?)

Day 1…… 2421 words. Total words to date…… 2421
Day 2…… 3312 words. Total words to date…… 5733
Day 3…… 2205 words. Total words to date…… 7938
Day 4…… 0578 words. Total words to date…… 8508

Total fiction words for the month……… 60029
Total fiction words for the year………… 60029
Total nonfiction words for the month… 24730
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 24730
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 84759

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 46
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 199
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

1 thought on “The Journal: How to Learn Fiction-Writing Techniques”

  1. Loved the of interest today! It really is hard to make up something that hasn’t/couldn’t happen. But it’s fun to try. And ideas? By the bazillions… 😁

Comments are closed.