It’s confession time. Once, I was a language arts teacher who knew very little about writing fiction. One year when my students wrote short stories, I actually taught them to avoid using said as a dialogue attribution.
Go ahead, writers. Gnash your teeth. I thought the dialogue in their stories would improve if they replaced said with words such as quipped, questioned, bubbled, exclaimed, or preached.
My humble apologies to my former students.
After I studied the craft of writing by reading books and taking courses, I recognized my mistakes and fixed them. I’m still learning because my writing is far from perfect. So, if you are an aspiring fiction writer looking to improve, here are four books that I’ve found helpful.
- Thomas B. Sawyer’s Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer – Because Sawyer has worked as a television screenwriter, he takes the lessons he learned and applies them to all types of fiction. There are helpful tips on keeping your audience’s attention and on how to write dialogue.
- James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Your Manuscript- Bell has a good sense of humor that is evident in this book. He mixes solid advice with fun examples.
- Steven James’s Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules– I’m currently reading this book, and for the first time I’m receiving guidance that matches the way I write. James teaches how to write organically (without an outline) instead of fretting about jamming a story into a specific structure.
- James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers, and Everyone in Between – I’m a pantser (a label for someone who discovers the story as she writes by the seat of her pants), and this book contains instructions that help a writer add resonance to a story.
Obviously, there are many more books about writing. If you want to be a writer, I encourage you to read them, learn the rules, and figure out which methods work for you.
In other words, do as I just said.
Not as I once pontificated.