Chapter One – Prewriting
Come up with the seed of an idea. Ponder on it; think about it; dream about it. Get to know your characters and listen to them. They’ll tell you the story. Do some research to learn about the subjects you’ll need to know to build your world. If you need an explanation as to why that’s important, you have no business trying to write fiction. Also, read. A lot.
Build as much of an outline as you need to get started. Do what works for you. If you don’t know yet, do something and see how it goes. If that doesn’t work, scrap it and try something else. Keep all your notes; bookmark internet pages; scribble on napkins; text yourself. Have some kind of plan before you start writing.
Chapter Two – Writing
Find the self-discipline to write every day, at least four or five days a week. Set realistic weekly page goals and meet them. Always remember, if you create one page a day every day five days a week, at the end of the year, you’ll have a complete rough draft. So stop making excuses and go write. Don’t wait for next November. Start today. Try to write at the same time and place if you can. If that doesn’t work for you, write when and where you can.
Don’t worry about mistakes. You’re going to make them. Lots of them. If you worry about mistakes you’ll never finish anything. Just write. Allow yourself to take chances and fail. Write stupid crap; write incoherent nonsense; write long-winded, poetic sentences full of symbolism; write short, declarative sentences; write awful dialogue. Just write and don’t think about it.
Listen to your characters and write what they tell you. Don’t interrupt them; damn sure, don’t contradict them; listen to them. They know the story better than you ever will. Trust them.
Chapter Three – Rewriting
Let someone read your rough draft and rip it to pieces. Some people prefer working one-on-one; others prefer writing groups. Do what works for you. Let them bleed all over it and put your ego in check. Your ego is stupid and selfish and doesn’t care about your story. Look closely at the feedback; ponder it; weigh it. Fix what you agree with. Keep what you don’t believe needs changing as long as it’s not your stupid ego talking.
Find all of that crap and nonsense and terrible dialogue you let yourself write and fix it. Make it sound like you’re telling the story to your best friend. Polish. Polish some more. Put it away for a few weeks and then polish even more. Care about the quality of what you created. Have some pride and passion about your work. Love it like a child.
Chapter Four – Publishing
Good luck. Don’t get discouraged.
Chapter Five – Promoting
Pester the hell out of everyone you know to read your book. Repeat often. Be proud of what you’ve done. Make others want to read it. Or tell them it’s not for them. Sometimes that works, too.
Chapter Six – Repeating
Repeat chapters one through five until your brain deteriorates too much to continue. Then, retire.
This is all you need to know. Don’t waste $70,000 on graduate school. Read some good books instead. Especially nonfiction. Nonfiction will feed your brain better than fiction sometimes. If anyone tries to sell you a creative writing manual, ask them why they have to make a living selling creative writing manuals. If anyone tries to tell you they know the one correct way to write, slap the shit out of them and never listen to anything they say again. That person is either really stupid or a cult leader. Don’t waste time on either. If your ego ever tells you you’ve learned all you need to know about writing, tell it to go to hell. Your ego is stupid.