“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”

Bruce Lee

I’ve always been a curious person and consider myself a lifelong student of all sorts of subjects: writing, cooking, composing music, computers, history, foreign language, being a father, being a husband, being a friend, and only about a hundred or so other aspects of life that I not only find fascinating, but endlessly so.

And if you want to know the single not-so-mysterious secret to becoming better at any of those things, well, then there’s a really simple answer:

You can never think you know it all.

You could live to be a spry 110 years old and find that, no matter how much you’ve studied, you still have yet to master a subject. It’s like Zeno’s paradox–you constantly move forward only to find yourself always halfway to getting where you think you should be.

The craft of writing fiction is like every other craft. It isn’t static. You never master it. It doesn’t end in a single, perfect form. You only need to compare literature over the centuries (or even decades) to see that the public’s idea of good fiction changes.

And I’m not just talking about mediums, though that’s an important part as we’ve seen in this age of Audible, Instagram, and YouTube. I’m really talking about craft ideas that are millennia old: Character, plot, pacing, and so on.

Easy enough, right? All of that’s covered in thousands of how-to books, and if you’re anything like me, you probably already own dozens and have filled them with highlights and dog-ears. Oh, and not to mention the millions of actual novels, short stories, and poems floating around out there, begging to be underlined and marginalia-ed (yeah, I made that up).

That’s great! All of what you need is available in abundance. But once you have those items, then the questions become: How do you use them? How do you actually take that stuff and squeeze the most value out of them so that you can apply what you’ve learned to your own writing?

That’s where Learning How to Learn Fiction comes in.

Ever since taking the popular MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), Learning How to Learn, taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terry Sejnowski, I’ve become fascinated with the whole idea of metacognition–essentially, the optimal strategies and tactics one can undertake when learning something new.

To me, it’s exciting to know that there’s an efficient way to get better at this fiction game, especially when notions like the 10,000-hour “rule” are floating around out there (established by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson and bastardized by Malcolm Gladwell). That’s almost three-and-a-half years of eight-hour days with no time off.


But, let me warn you up front: If you really want to get better, it’s still going to take time and it’s still going to take work. As I walk you through the different methods of cementing fiction-writing concepts in our brains, you’ll discover that the principles may be simple, but they are not easy.

“No problem,” you say. “I’m curious. I’m ready. Let’s do this.”

Awesome! I’ll be posting in this series on a slightly-regular basis, just depending on my normal life-load, but if you sign up for my mailing list (see Subscribe to Blog via Email on the sidebar) or subscribe to my RSS feed, you can be sure you’ll be notified.

Entries thus far: