Writing Technique Is Vital To Good Writing

by Cheryl Rainfield, the award-winning author of STAINED, SCARS, and HUNTED, 2003

My feeling about technique in art is that it has the same value as technique in lovemaking. That is to say, heartfelt ineptitude has its charm and so has heartless skill, but what you really want is passionate virtuosity.
    –John Barth

Learning how fiction works—learning writing technique—is, in my opinion, vital to writing really great fiction. Writers, just like any other artist (such as musicians or painters), need tools they can wield to hone their creations, to make them the best they can be, a piece of writing that a reader won’t put down. It’s what you do with that technique, how you use those building blocks to create your own piece and to bring out your voice, that makes one book stand out from the others. Technique helps you to make your own writing more effective and powerful.

I didn’t used to think I needed writing technique—partly because of all the praise I received from teachers over the years, and partly because of my sensitivity to criticism, sensitivity that resulted from severe emotional abuse. But then I read an article online that changed how I looked at things. I realized that there was so much more I could learn about writing to hone my skill, and to make stronger, better stories that grabbed people. I realized that writers, just like other artists, need to learn more than the elementary skills to be really good at what they do. We wouldn’t expect a pianist to play Bach perfectly or to create their own polished pieces without lessons and practise. We shouldn’t expect writers to do that, either.

As soon as I fully embraced this idea, and dived into learning about the technique of fiction writing, my stories rapidly grew better than they’d ever been…and looking back, I’m embarrassed about the writing I used to think was good. Now I find learning about writing technique exciting and stimulating. I always have something more to learn, something more to build onto, or to see in a different way. Learning writing technique has vastly improved my writing, and made it something I am proud of.

But writing technique is just technique. They’re great tools that no writer should be without—but it’s what you do with those tools, how you twist or break them to fit your own style and voice, or how much of your heart you share, that makes great writing. Writing technique, all by itself, won’t make you a great writer. But neither will just talent, or just opening up your heart. In my opinion, you need a mesh of all three things—and to read voraciously, read as many books as you can in the genre you write in.

By learning some of the techniques for writing fiction, you can avoid major (and minor) potholes in your stories, learn some shortcuts to writing better, and dramatically improve your writing. Technique, when used with your own voice, will help you craft fiction that will capture readers’ attention until the very last word, and remain with them even after they’ve finished reading.

The value of any work of art owes much to the character and personality of the artist who created it. You need to learn the rules of writing fiction, not so that you can use them as formulae or crutches to produce safe, workmanlike stories, but so that mastering the craft of storytelling will liberate you from those rules.
    –Peter Rubie, The Elements of Storytelling


There are some great articles on the net devoted to writing technique, and there are some wonderful books on the subject.

Online Articles on writing technique (free to read):

Books on Writing Technique:

Here are a few of the books on writing technique that are, in my opinion, the best out there:

    • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
      Engaging and easy to read, incredibly good advice on how to polish your writing and make it the best it can be from two editors who know their stuff. This book teaches you techniques that are important in staying out of the rejection pile and getting published—and how to fix things that need fixing in your writing. Concrete, immediately useful, incredibly helpful advice and technique. Essential!


    • Stein on Writing by Sol Stein.
      Incredibly helpful, solid advice and technique on writing from a master editor. Includes examples from Sol Stein’s behind-the-scenes work with bestselling novelists.


    • Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words – Strategies, ideas, and tips to fuel you for a lifetime of writing by Ralph Fletcher.
      Incredibly easy to read, lots of very helpful writing advice in a succinct, compact manner. Also see A Writer’s Notebook.


    • Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress.
      Nancy Kress has been a column writer for Writer’s Digest for years.


©Cheryl Rainfield, 2003

Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED

If you like this article, you may post it on your website or use it in your print publication, as long as you provide a link back to my site (http://www.CherylRainfield.com), and credit me. I’d also really like to know where you put my article, but you don’t have to let me know in order to use it.