News | 2007 | Keep it to Yourself

Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers by David Madden

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers by David Madden. Madden provides heaps of hints (185 to be exact) on how to improve your fiction through revision. I found what he had to say about the autobiographical fallacy illuminating. Essentially, what Madden argues is that you should rely on your imagination to create stories, not memories of your own past deeds. When you write about yourself, you think you're coming up with all this real, honest, authentically powerful stuff, and any words you use are deeply meaningful. Unfortunately, in most cases, you are the only person that type of writing has any meaning for. Your memories of the event are so real that your words automatically bring the significance of the event back to you, but your readers don't have the same memories and hence, the writing often doesn't resonate for them. What you think is super stuff is often quite sketchy, ill-defined, and devoid of the deeper meaning you're shooting for.

The way to get around this problem? Make your story up. Rely on your imagination. That way, you force yourself to create meaning for your events. For your readers as well as yourself.

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