Learning to write fiction is like learning a difficult technical and physical game. Take golf for instance.
A few decades ago I decided to learn to play golf. It looks easy, right? The game itself is simple (except for all the USGA rules), the equipment obvious — used clubs can be had for a song, and is ubiquitous. Ha! Little did I know. My naivete provided no little amount of amusement to others and frustration to me personally (just like writing).
What I found was that there are dozens and dozens of very specific physical setups and movements that must be followed to even come close to a consistent game. Learning these techniques became the goal. But, with so many intricacies, learning them all at once would be impossible. So, I found, one must learn them one or two at a time, master those, and move on. Just like writing.
Even the game play is similar. You start swift with a resounding smack of action and whirling motion. Crack! There goes the ball off the tee, your driver swinging like the executioner’s blade. And the game is on.
At each hole, you approach, with various clubs over various terrain, to get closer and closer, building the tension and accruing your overall score. Plop. Into the cup, and then the next chapter begins.
Drivers are different from field-woods are different from irons are different from sand and pitching wedges and are all different from putters. Each requires a certain stance, a specific motion and follow-through. Each requires nuances that must be learned, slowly, a lesson at a time.
This learning process, this incremental addition of skills is mandatory; concise, self-contained lessons, drilled into your mind and body:
• Learn to keep your head still, shoulders level — for the entire swing.
• Learn to write in active (not passive) voice, with varying sentence length and cadence.
Master that pair of skills until your body and mind no longer need reminding. Muscle memory, as writer’s mind, is the goal here. Teach your body and mind to perform naturally, without thought. Once you have attained a proficient (enough) level in these selected skills, then you move on to add the next pair of abilities.
You must train your body and mind, rework them in such a way that you natively move and think in a certain way. The way of the golfer. The way of the writer.