After some time, I’ve finally finished the first draft of what I’m intending to submit to the Writers of the Future 2015 second-quarter. The deadline for that is the end of March, and I’m well ahead of it, though much editing lies before me–and it’s the longest serious short story I’ve written to date. But more important than that, I’m finding the writing of it to be an experience. I’m learning a lot as I go, and along the way, I’ve been reading advice from other, established writers about what they think goes into the crafting of good fiction.
And while there’s invariably a lot of common ground, two writers can still differ immensely on a given subject. An example of this is imagery and language — one writer I like praises the use of metaphor and inventive language, while another thinks symbolism should be used sparingly, and language kept clean and simple. You see that in modern writers, but you also see similar comments from writers who were producing their work a century ago — the same ideas, and the same differences of opinion. And all the writers are tremendously effective, producing evocative, stirring work.
There will always be a lot of ways to write a story, and I think the only thing you can really ever do is find your own way, and then polish it, hone it, improve upon it, until it is doing what you want, delivering what you want to say in the way you want to say it, and giving the reader the experience that you want them to have. And a lot of which tools are right, which methods will work best, or which things you should or shouldn’t use, depends on what that experience is. What works for one form of fiction and one kind of story may not work well for another.
So, just like learning to use simile and metaphor in school, it’s good to learn how to use all of these methods. But in the end, after learning them, you have to decide which ones you want to use, and which ones to set aside, in order to achieve the effect you’re aiming for.