Fictional life, according to Jack Bickham, is better than real life. You don't get struck by lightning. You are not subject to random acts of cruelty. Events proceed logically. On the other hand, Bickham says, "In fiction, the best times for the writer--and reader--are when the story's main character is in the worst trouble." Not good if you're a fictional character. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes is as engaging as Bickham wants your fiction to be. It is sharp, focused, funny, and pointed. And it is demanding. Bickham, who has written over 65 novels and several fiction-writing guides, has little patience for wannabes. "Writers write," Bickham says. "Everyone else makes excuses." Bickham's pronouncements are decidedly negative: "Don't Describe Sunsets," advises one chapter; "Don't Write About Wimps"; "Don't Let [Your Characters] Be Windbags"; and "Don't Worry What Your Mother Will Think." But his lessons are positive. Behind each dictum is a terse, entertaining, and utterly well-reasoned examination of why the problem is a problem, and what you can do to expunge it from your prose. --Jane Steinberg
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