TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS


I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in the last few weeks. I’ve taken two on-line classes on dialogue and creating scenes and sequels; I’ve read three novels in my genre, studying the dialogue, narrative, exposition and description, as well as searching out the plot points of The Hero’s Journey; I’ve read three books on writing, and am working on a fourth; and I’m line editing my manuscript.

For the most part, the classes and books are saying the same things I heard or read ten years ago, when I started this process.

Have you ever started a new job where the first thing required was to sit down and read a whole book on policies, rules, and requirements? Until you’ve actually worked in the position, learned how things are done, who does what, etc., all that reading means nothing. It might as well be in some unknown language.

When I first started writing, I absorbed books on writing, and advice from pros, like a sponge. I understood the words. And I thought I understood the meaning. Now I know better. Now I know that I had to write a million words before it all clicked. Now as I read about deep third person POV, Scene and Sequel, dialogue that moves the story forward, and sprinkling in description, I understand. Now those words are sort of engraved on my brain.

I understand so much more now than I did ten years ago. And the funny thing is, ten years ago my brain was relatively sharp. I could memorize things, comprehend meanings, etc. Now my poor brain is fried. But thanks to all those manuscripts I wrote and stashed in the closet, I understand so much more about how to write. Now when I read a book on writing, I get it.

Getting it doesn’t necessarily mean that I can use it any easier. It’s still hard to write well. It’s really hard. I would venture a guess that it’s hard for James Patterson, and Thomas Harris and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I think if it was easy to write well, everyone would be doing it. I used to think that those authors who had fifty books under their belts could just churn them out without really working at it. Now I don’t think so. I think sweating bullets is required for every good book that’s written.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re an unpublished writer, you’re going to have to work your tail off to write a good book. You’ll have to agonize over every word, buy and read a dozen good books on writing, read hundreds of books in the genre you want to write in, and revise as many times as it takes to make it a really good book.  And then you’ll have to fight for your position, sending out queries, attending conferences, networking, and putting your face out there, just to get heard.

Writing is not a job for sissies. You have to have a thick skin to get through a hundred crits and fifty rejections.  You have to be willing to go back to the drawing board a dozen times, and wear out a couple of keyboards. You have to sit in the chair even if it hurts, miss dinners you were invited to, look at the screen until your eyes are crossed, and then do it all over again. And even after all that, there’s no guarantee that you will be what is called a successful author.

I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of information and revelation in the past few weeks. Yet I feel like the scales have fallen from my eyes and I’m now able to reach that place I’ve been working so long to get to. I’ve finally learned what a good book is and how to write it. I’ve finally received all the pieces to the puzzle and I can see the edge pieces forming the outside border. I can see the colors blending into something I can recognize. I can see the form of it. And even with all the pieces, it’s still damned hard to write a good book.

The key is to never give up.

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WRITING AND CLASSES AND LIFE…OH MY!


I’ve been chasing my tail since the 12th of this month and really feel like I’m neglecting the blog.

The Holy Days have taken a good part of my time. And I’m now registered in three classes–fortunately they are all yahoo group classes so I’m not required to do anything if I don’t want to. I’ve found that this is the best–maybe the only–way for me to take a class, since I don’t have to travel, or be anywhere at a certain time. And I’m not required to participate, though I try to, for my own benefit. I save all the emails from students and teacher alike, so I can review.

I have also neglected my REVISION for at least a week and feel a need to get back to it. And now I have even more revising to do because the two new classes are teaching more about what makes for good writing.

There is a lesson in this for all of us. I may have been able to keep up with the blog and the revision had a planned a little better.  Creating time to write, and improve your writing, and still have a life is vital to our well being. There are times when we just have to do deal with what is in front of us, and then return to the plan, but I would rather have looked ahead, and planned ahead, so I didn’t have to feel guilty for doing the right thing.

So I’m going to grab a calendar and make sure everything is on the schedule. Then I can add in writing time around those high priority life events.  Because no matter how important writing is, it can’t take priority over our beliefs, our lives and our health. What good is finishing the book if you’ve wrecked your health, alienated family and friends and neglected your G-d?

So I’ll be back shortly with updates on my REVISION and on Researching The Writing Styles of Published Authors.

ON LINE WRITING CLASS AVAILABLE


After taking a class from Christine Fairchild, I can highly recommend other classes she teaches. The following class starts soon. I’ll be there and hope many of you will be too.

Sensational Scenes
Learn how to edit your scenes for tighter language, engaging action, compelling dialogue, and character development your readers will love. You’ll get an editor’s perspective on issues of language, structure, and content.
On-line class via Yahoo! groups Sept 22-28 $30.00
For Questions, email ChristineFairchild@yahoo.com

REVISION OF A WIP: Step One (cont’d)


I’m learning more about my WIP than I ever thought I could through this process. Hi-liting the dialogue, narrative, exposition and description has shown me where the work is lacking, and where I’ve gone overboard.

The hard part has been not stopping to fix things as I see them. I must get through the whole manuscript before trying to fix things, or else there’s a good chance that when I do get to the end, I will have made changes that just have to be changed again. I need to know every change that needs to take place before I start making any changes.

This process is teaching me to look at the whole work, not just pieces of it. It’s been difficult to keep my eye on the ball. I want to rush through it and see change happening, but I know it would be a waste of time. So, each day brings me closer to the end of the manuscript, and to the time when I can begin to balance out the entire work and make it the best it can be.

I received a wonderful bit of advice from Christine Fairchild when I took an Editing Dialogue class from her. I told her it was hard for me to give up the words I had worked so hard to put on the page, and she said, “Here’s my secret: Don’t fall in love with the words. Fall in love with the story. Be true to the story.”  Wow. That really helped me realize that falling in love with the words is a bit conceited. Falling in love with the story means I’ll do whatever I have to, to make it a great story–to make it live up to its potential.

So, I will continue this process of hi-liting and marking the script, finding issues I’ve never noticed, and gathering information. This is no time to be impatient. This is too important to rush through. Even though it feels like I’m killing time until I can begin the revision, I’ve realized that this is a vital part of the revision. I can’t fix what I can’t find. I can’t revise what I don’t know needs revision.

I know this is a short article. I just wanted to check in and let you know I’m still working on the same process. My computer was down for eight days and I felt so lost. But I had my script printed out, so I was able to continue working. I’ll be done soon. And then I’ll come back and let you know what I learned, and how it went, and what I’ll be doing next.