Quite a basic one this, but whether you’re of the “let the magic happen” brigade or, like me, prefer to plan it all out before you start writing, then one thing you need to get good at is plotting.
There are loads of rules, written and unwritten, that you need to acquaint yourself with – Chekov’s Rifle is probably the best (no, not that Chekov, the Russian playwright) that I can think of.  Follow that and you’ll avoid the hell of Deus Ex Machina endings.  I like to have my plots guessable but that doesn’t mean you actually can – there should be sufficient conflict and confusion to muddy the waters but there should also be a clear path through the story.
The main reason why you want to get good at plotting is that it is a bloody nightmare moving around 90,000 words of a novel, slicing and dicing and relinking everything (even though tools like Scrivener make it easier, they could never make it easy…).  You either need to plot it out and shift a few hundred words around, or get so good at it that your instinct gives you a framework that has a good plot.  I have had to edit long novels a few times now and I’ve made so many mistakes that I can mostly stop them from happening now (not to say that I won’t…)
In all seriousness, wikipedia has a lot of really good articles on writing and structure – follow the Chekov’s rifle link above and learn…
— Ed
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4 Responses

    1. The only advice for that is just make it as difficult as possible – red herrings, misinformation, coincidences (only to make things worse), etc.
      It would be easier without a middle…!

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