Friday, July 9

Updating your skills

I started writing just a little over a year ago. I was clueless. It didn’t stop me from writing three chapters about three brothers who were shipping magnates (do we even know what the word magnate is?) celebrating their mother’s birthday in France.

Cool, I thought. Three brothers, three books. I’m in the money.

Um…until my sister said, why is the mother having a birthday in France?

D’oh…because their magnates! That’s what magnates do!

Seriously, if she can’t follow the plot, I’m not sending her more of my work.

Well, turns out there was no plot. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

I took my first online class shortly after, on how to write a romance novel by Lori Wilde. I was absolutely shocked. Twelve separate lessons on WRITING?? How hard can it be?

I soon found out. Plot, twists, turns, emotion, characters, goal, conflict, dialogue.

So not only did I have to actually WRITE the darn story, I had to remember ALL of this stuff WHILE writing it. Impossible.

Sure, I made it through the class, I got some pointers, I got a few – hey! That’s really good!

And I gotta tell you, when anyone tells a writer hey! That’s really good! They turn to mush. A secret grin. A nod of acknowledgement. An internal woohoo.

And so we plow on. Writing more, because we want someone to say it again. And again.

Eventually I started to think about plot. And try to come up with enough plot to make an entire story. Heroes can’t just jump on a plane and have a party in France because they WANT to – you have to know WHY they want to, what’s in it for them?

And so began my online class odyssey. And I soaked some parts up like a sponge. Dialogue, point of view, theme. Okay, I still don’t have theme, but I’m trying! Synopsis writing, pitching, how to write YA. I even took two of Margie Lawson’s classes. And you haven’t lived until you’ve taken one of her classes. Take the month off, seriously. It’s hard work.

And you know what? I meet other writers in these classes. Not just nobody’s like me, but in Margie’s class we got to talk to CJ Lyons, Tony Mcgee Causey and Allison Brennan. Why? Because you can always learn more. You can always hone your craft more. You can always be better.
When I was sixteen, I looked back at what a dweeb I was when I was fifteen. Hip huggers, bell bottoms, Bonnie Belle Doctor Pepper lip gloss caked on. Ugh. Thank goodness I grew out of that! When I was seventeen, I looked back at what a dweeb I was when I was sixteen. What was I thinking dating that moron? But I did love those platform shoes….

I look back now, on my first attempt at writing. It was only a year ago, and yet….I cringe. My writing was flat, my characters were having a ball but they had no plot to play in. I look back and I think of how much I’ve learned, how much I’ve grown.

And I know that a year from now, I’ll be writing for a blog and telling everyone how a year ago, I was writing all these books and I was such a dweeb! I can’t believe I put everyone in a hotel in France eating snails, because that’s the only French food I know! And it will go on and on and on like that throughout my entire life. A learning process.

What are you doing to improve your writing? Are you a craft book reader, an online class taker? How are you growing yourself as a writer?

Do tell.




  1. When I first started (seriously) buckling down, I critted for everyone in sight - which helped me hone my craft immeasurably. Judged alot did the same thing - until it burnt me out. You have to take a TON of the bad w/the good when judging. Now I read blogs on craft, go to RWA meetings and the biggest thing...keep reading great books by masters of the genre.

  2. Reading is one of the biggies... I think it was Stephen King who wrote if you're not reading you have nothing to write about (paraphrased, of course!)...and I think that's really true.

    I learn a lot from my CPs, sometimes from what they don't say rather than what they do say.

    And I'm a workshop nut. I don't take a ton of them, I try to be choosey...but I just finished a Shirley Jump workshop that totally changed how I look at conflict.

  3. I've taken my share of workshops and for the most part, I've learned a lot, picked up little nuggets of advice from the instructor and fellow class members. Other class members will raise questions that I wouldn't have thought of on my own and that way we learn stuff outside of the scope of the class which is great. And you're right...I needed a spa week after Margie Lawson's (and Mary Buckham's)workshops.

    I think we should brainstorm on this "magnate a trois" plot you've got. They could be in Fwahnce dining on escargot AND chocolate for maman's birthday while plotting to overthrow the largest escargot producer in Fwahnce, who turns out to be the woman of their dreams, and now all three magnates are in love with her...c'est romantique!
    Btw...I know they're not part of your approved food group but escargot, when properly prepared, are tres magnifique! One of these days....

  4. Great post, Carrie. And you sure don't write like a newbie!

  5. Hi, Carrie.
    I'm not a big fan of classes. And this is why.
    Because they cut into my writing/critting time.
    And because they more often confuse me and set me back than help me. I'm a hands-on learner. I need to do to learn. Lectures leave me flat.
    Probably why I'm unpubbed for so long....

  6. Christi ..I agree..critting other people's work helps too!

    Kristi...So true on the reading reading reading! I seem to learn at least one thing new in each workshop I take...I'd learn more, but my brain is only the size of a teacup. =)

    Jen..the day you get me to eat a snail....we're talking snow forts in hot places

    liz..thank you!! you know how much i enjoy your writing too!

    D'Ann...I love the online classes, and the exercises...if I don't have exercises to complete, if it's just a lecture, then I tend to lose my concentration on it...but some instructors really keep you hopping! One day I got about 13 emails from Lori Wilde on one of her classes...she's hands on!