How Fiction Works

Writers know that an essential part of honing our craft is reading the works of others. Not simply reading one word and sentence after another through the end, but pausing over passages, re-reading, picking apart, unpacking to understand what makes the work good, great or bad.

Writers know that an essential part of honing our craft is reading the works of others. Not simply reading one word and sentence after another through the end, but pausing over passages, re-reading, picking apart, unpacking to understand what makes the work good, great or bad.  (I don’t do this often enough myself. I’ll use this post as a reminder.)

So consider this as a recommendation, passed from a friend in my writing group to you.

Literary critic James Wood wrote a book called, How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Wood applies his skill at helping his audience understand the fundamentals of great writing by going through concrete examples of literature’s estimable works.

Wood writes in an engaging, almost conversational style. At times I had felt as though I were a guest in his private library. There he plucked books off shelves and tapped his finger at passages that exemplify his points on narration, dialogue, characterization and so on.

The 288 pages are a quick read and worth your time.

RJUG with Jared Richardson

I attended the Richmond Java Users Group (RJUG) held in the Innsbruck area. I occasionally attend these just to see what’s going on. I know Randy, but that’s it. I really have no idea why I attend. I would like to be a Java developer, I suppose.

As usual, there are two concurrent events and both are appealing. Rivaling RJUG is Writers Wednesday downtown. I don’t recall what the specifics of that event were, but I do remember being interested. However, I always choose the writing group over the RJUG sessions, so now it was time for technology to trump literature.

Jared Richardson was the speaker and I anticipated that once I finished my pizza and Coca Cola, I’d shortly leave. The subject was more career oriented than Java coding so that was good. Still how broad would the material be?

I decided to stick through it and I’m glad I did. Mr. Richardson was an engaging speaker and he spoke about getting your name out. This could be done through blogging, speaking, teaching and writing. All good tips, if but common sensical.

My problem is not knowing what to do, but actually doing it. He made the important point of setting concrete goals both long term and short. Short being daily goals, not letting time go to waste. I do that too much.

I would like to teach. I would like to blog. I would like to write. But what insight can I provide? What can I say or write that hasn’t been written over and over already? Perhaps these voices that dash my ideas before I can reach a keyboard or pen need to be duct-taped.

Tonight I am going to write this blog entry. Let’s see how far it goes.