IMHO, there are two things you have to do as a writer.
1. Read "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers"
2. Take it with a grain of salt.
Browne and King keenly narrow down many of the mistakes most writers make in writing fiction--er, no wait, let's try again. Browne and King discern the major transgressions made by fiction writers.
This is just a tiny example of how this book can help transform your writing into a powerful expression of word-smithing. From tried and true rules such as Show Don't Tell and Resist the Urge to Explain to the more elusive ideas of sophistication and voice, Browne and King cover it all. They use concrete examples to illustrate their points, even going as far as to re-write the classics. (Not that re-writing "The Great Gatsby" is all that challenging).
Each chapter covers one major blunder and how to avoid it. In addition, the chapters build upon one another and cover increasingly more difficult concepts. I found the chapter on proportion to be the most helpful. As a writer of epic fantasy, I am always tempted to go off into the wilds of narrative summary for page upon page, without any consideration for my poor reader who just wants the small victory of finishing a chapter. I came away from this chapter realizing that, even though I love epic fantasy, the hundreds of pages of "and then the elves blah blah blah" is always the stuff I skip.
I remember skimming the LOTR trilogy, scanning over the history to get to "the good stuff"--battles with elves and men and giant spiders, huge eagles, dark nasty baddies, riddles and consequences, conflicts in the dark. I probably read only about 100 pages of the entire epic. My bad.
I also found the tips on engaging the reader through direct action, and investing them early-on in your charas through emotion and connection to be invaluable. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who hasn't read it.
And, now a warning: shortly after reading this book, I began to panic. Not only was I making a lot of these mistakes, it seemed that my style and voice were intrinsically linked with these hack errors. OMG! Panic at the disco, right? So, I started re-working EVERYTHING--to the point where my voice got smothered by mechanic technicalities.
And then, my girlfriend (who is just finishing an MFA in 3D art), told me something that was just as invaluable as the book: "Learn the theory, but don't let it turn you into a machine." In other words, when you break the rules, do it deliberately for effect, not because you're a hack writer. Make a conscious decision to stray from the theory because it suits your purpose, and most importantly, be prepared to take the consequences...and the praise.
That is all.
Comments are welcome.