Episode Title: But I’ve never even taken a writing class!
The sheer fact that you have joined me for Blog #3 suggests that you have decided to write that short story or novel that has been simmering within your mind for a very long time. With your decision to proceed, two very practical realizations—like great serpents rising from the depths—are beginning to emerge. One of these is the simple realization that it is one thing to have a story idea and quite another thing to take that idea and turn it into a coherent work, something that is a challenge for even those well-schooled in the art of writing. The second of the serpents, perhaps more basic yet—if you didn’t have time to write your short story or novel before, what makes it possible to write it now? I will discuss the elusive matter of “time” in my next blog, but my answer to both of these quandaries is that you are now approaching these challenges with a new point of reference, a newfound freedom.
That newfound freedom referred to above comes from remembering that, above all else, you are, firstly, writing for yourself—you’ve had something to say for a long time, and you are poised over your writing pad or computer keyboard, ready to say it. This means it is you and not some invisible yet demanding publisher who will decide at what level of skill you may choose to write. If you are satisfied to share your story with only those you know, your family and friends, you will have succeeded in finally telling your story, albeit to this smaller audience. In this circumstance, whether or not yours is a technically superior writing is far less important than your accomplishment to have fulfilled your longtime desire to write. On the other hand, if you wish to expose your story to a broader audience, say through the publishing of an ebook, a higher level of skill is likely desirable.
Along the continuum of lower to higher writing skill, where might a higher level of skill come from at this late date? Life is already full and finding time to make a serious time commitment to go back to school for this purpose is likely out of the question. However, apart from such a full time commitment, there are many easily engaged sources available to the prospective writer. Before I discuss some of these, I’d first like you to think about another thing that supports your desire to write. For you to wish to write, even as an avocation, you most likely are one who enjoys reading. You didn’t think of it this way, but you have been schooling yourself to write by way of your reading through all of these years. Many times, you have been witness to outstanding plot and character development, to the clever interworkings of plot and subplots, and to a wide variety of writing styles. You tell a friend, “You’ve just got to read this…” and then you go on to describe all of the things that make a story a worthy read. And if you are a particularly avid reader, you may very well be a member of a reading club. Through that wonderful association, you also hear the analysis of your other members as to what each thinks of the novel at hand. At the bare essence, then, let’s face it, you know a good short story or novel when you see one. Now, as one source of your writing skill, you must lean on the experience that you have as a reader and let it play its role in informing you, the writer.
In my past business life, I wrote many detailed proposals and considered myself a competent writer. Why then did I, a supposedly capable writer, do five or more (I lost count) complete rewrites of my first novel, the 676-page Serpent at the Well? Answer: It was the knowledge that I was gaining along the way from a combination of the writing itself and the instructive reading aboutwriting that I was concurrently doing. You see, outside of any classroom regimen, there are many fine books on the subject of writing, some of which I found influenced how I thought about writing, focused me, and helped to evolve my skill as a writer (write me and I’ll share the titles of those that I like best). There are fine organizations dedicated to helping the independent writer, such as The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) that I belong to, and many other helpful online resources, such as Writing World.com., Grammarly.com, Reedsy.com, and Daily Writing Tips, much of which is free. For those finding their bearings as a writer, there are myriad articles, evening and weekend classes, writing communities and forums, complete classes, and blogs for every aspect of writing—they are all just a click away. And, of course, this is to say noting of the local library, many of which have writing groups and invite educators in on the subject of writing. When you are in the midst of writing your story, these educational sources are fully applicable. The real point is, however, that whatever combination of books and online resources you may choose as aids to your writing, they represent an excellent source of help for the goal you have now set for yourself—the goal to finally put your words, your plot and your characters, your personal writing style, to a story that is yours and only yours—a story that only you can tell. But keep this in mind: Just as you will decide who, if any, will read your finished story, it is you who will decide how much, if any, you will engage these available sources. It’s lovely isn’t it; no one other than you is expecting anything!
Special note: Since I’m writing much of this blog episode to you as a reader, I would like to take this opportunity to ask a favor. With the advent of the ebook, it allows authors to provide deep discounts to encourage the reading public to read their novels. These offers, of course, are given in the hope that you will be impressed by their work, that you will include them in your list of favorite authors, and, especially, that you will provide a book review that will be informative to other potential readers. My request of you is to always reward the giving author with that book review. Good or bad, up or down, please write the review. How else will we all know when a truly spectacular novel, perhaps hidden within the millions of other offerings, is there for our reading enjoyment. Thank you for making this a common practice. Please retweet this blog! Thanks.