The preliminary section of a book is often labeled a "foreword." But in a book involving fiction technique, the word ought to be "Forward."

Why?... To emphasize two vital points: All good fiction moves forward; all good fiction writers look ahead.

In more than twenty years of teaching courses in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, I think I've encountered almost every difficulty an aspiring writer might face. (Once, I had a young male student who was both deaf and blind. He required a companion in the classroom to tap her fingers against his hand during my lectures to spell out my words. ) But by far the most common-and crippling-problem for students over the years was the tendency to write static copy that didn't have forward movement. And the second most common problem was the habit of looking backwards -at past mistakes and disappointments, or at worries about the part of the story already written - rather than ahead where all the potential... all the challenge... all the excitement and triumph... have to be.

So, despite the fact that I've chosen to write this book from what seems a negative stance, telling you what you shouldn't do, please don't fall into the trap of thinking negatively, or backwards, about your writing. My hope is that by seeing a common error stated boldly in the section heading, you will look harder at your own copy to see if you might be committing the same mistake. But my message is positive- always. In every section you'll find a common mistake described, but you'll also find how to avoid that error, or build in a strength as a replacement for a previous weakness.

Nothing can erode your powers more than a negative attitude.

Nothing can cripple your fiction more than looking at it backwards, as a static artifact or "done deal" rather than a living, forward-moving, dynamic series of inventions.

So you'll be reading a lot of "don't" statements in the following pages. But that's partly just to get your attention. Remember, behind every negative is a positive.

Just as behind every rejection there's a triumphant sale-if you'll just persevere.

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