Meebo gleeb owt anso gilf?+ Don't you agree?
+I'll explain in a moment.
Question Heard Around the Writing World
Can a book teach you to write?
Well, of course not. For no matter how great the book, the pupil herself may be completely obstinate and impenetrable to the lessons.
What Would A Book About Writing Teach?
"Furthermore," the cynic says. "What would a book about writing teach anyway? Would it teach me to write a John Grisham best-seller?"
Answer: Of course not. Only John Grisham can write a John Grisham novel.
Isn't It All Subjective?
That's the real question that writer's around the world want to know.
Isn't teaching someone to write fiction just a subjective exercise
which cannot be measured?
Answer: No, not everything is subjective, but yes, much is.
If you are writing the fictional equivalent of my first sentence, you are not going to have many readers, because they simply cannot understand you.
I'm An Artist and An Idiot
I may tell you it is art and you may tell me I am an idiot and we both may be correct.
I've created this exaggerated example to show you that there are certain foundational things that can help your fiction writing and help make you a more successful fiction writer. You can learn these measurable things and determine if your writing is actually better (more pleasant, easier to read, conveys your message properly, etc) or not.
You see, there are expectations of readers. Some of these are obvious such as grammar and using a language that is understood by your readers. There are other less obvious things that a book can teach (and hopefully provide examples of) which can make your writing much easier to read because they fit your audience's expectations.
Obviously something makes writing good or bad, because readers know
when writing is good or bad.
I Can Prove This With An Example
"Promises are like babies: easy to make but hard to deliver."
Not so good:
George was nice man.
George looked at his watch and saw it was already 7:45am. Going to
be late for the meeting and Mr. Murphy is going to kill me. He
pushed his front door open and ran out toward his car. As George pulled the
door open on his Jaguar X45 he heard a faint whimpering sound.
He dropped his brief case into the car and walked around to the
passenger side and looked under the car. Nothing there. He looked at
his watch again and felt a pulse of heat travel down his back. He
heard the whimpering sound again and walked around to the back of his
car and looked down at the storm drain. He held his tie back so it
wouldn't get dirty and he looked into the drain and saw two eyes
The small dog he was now looking at let out a louder whine and he knew
he'd have to get it out of the drain. He reached down and was just
able to grab the dog by the scruff of the neck and hoist him out.
He pulled the dog close trying to calm it. "Hey little fella. How'd
you get stuck down there?" He looked at his watch again. Murphy is
going to fire me. He looked back into the puppy's eyes and said,
"Well, I guess you can comfort me on those lonely days when I'm
looking for my next job."
You see? This is the show don't tell principle working itself out before your eyes.
As a writer, which tells the story of George better? Probably the second one. Again, notice that I even mark these as "Not So Good" and "Better", since in reality it is still subjective.
100s of Lessons Which Help You Learn More Quickly
There are 100s of other lessons that you can learn the fast way (by reading a well written teaching book like my all-time favorite Make Your Words Work, by Gary Provost -- amazon link)
Why learn slow when you can learn 100s of shortcuts to Reader Expectations very quickly?
Is This A Guarantee?
Will any of this guarantee that you are a professional and world-class fiction writer? Of course not. If you want a guarantee become a trash collector. You'll always have work in that line of business.
All readers have expectations. Many of those expectations are formed by cultural influences which generate a large group (your reading audience) that expect certain things from your writing. The faster you learn of those expectations, the quicker you can go about setting them up so that your writing WORKS THE BEST IT CAN. Then you can even bend the expectations with complete knowledge and understanding at the right time. Which is probably how you transcend and become an Artist.