I learned something this weekend:
I have a lot to learn.
About writing novels. About writing short stories. About selling novels and publishing novels. About developing characters and story worlds and plot lines. About publishing flash fiction. About blogging and platform developing and reaching out to reader’s hearts and souls. About treating my writing as a profession. About treating it as a ministry.
I learned a lot this weekend.
I attended a writer’s conference this weekend.
The one-day Wordsowers conference which I participated in last Saturday blessed me in so many ways. I learned, I laughed, I alliterated. (Okay, so it start with an “a” but it has two “l”s after that, so give me a break.) I walked away feeling encouraged, empowered, and exhausted. (It’s like going on midnight for the nth time in a row for me… so the alliteration may just have to be a thing.)
I had a lot of things that I wanted to learn from my time at the conference. Some of them I did learn. But none of them resonated with me as much as the lesson I didn’t expect. The lesson I already knew.
I don’t know everything
I never thought that I did. (Except maybe when I was sixteen. Ancient history people, move on.) What did I think? I thought I could learn everything just by writing more. Practice makes perfect, right?
No, not really. Practice makes more-practiced. (Which can be a good thing.) There really is no perfect. Not that I can achieve.
I can achieve “better.”
How? I’ve got to learn. And to learn, I’ve got to study. If you want to get better, you’d better study with me. Here’s the curriculum:
Points to you. You’re already doing this. Me…? In theory. But I should be doing it more. There are so many other great authors who share their knowledge and insights on the web for free. Blog posts don’t take but a moment to read (unless they go on and on like this one.) They are condensed, organized, boomkmarkable resources just waiting for writers to grab and read. Easy read, easy learning.
Sounds like a deal to me.
If you’re not sure what blogs (other than this one) you should check into, here are some of my favorites. I’ll be checking in on them more often. Maybe we’ll bump into each other.
Craft books are books about writing. They have a lot of the same benefits of blogs less one: they cost. To offset their price tag however, they offer a lot that no blog post could ever bring to the table. They’re more in depth. They have margins which are great for notes or post-its. They’re better organized. They can be read on the beach. They don’t get drown in your other emails and forgotten. They sit on your nightstand, watching you sleep. Calling you. Beckoning to be read.
If you’re like me, you look at the craft books shelf and think, “Actually, they look pretty boring.” Which maybe they do. Don’t be deceived. Any good craft book will get the wheels greased inside your imagination machine and soon you’ll be flying through pages while more mind churns over a half-dozen different plot bunnies and twists for your current novel, and other stories. If the book you’re reading doesn’t create an Imagination Station level experience for you, then get a different one.
To help you avoid some of the hit and miss throes of craft book buying, here are my highly recommended favorites:
Go Teen Writers, Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill (Read this first. Even if you’re not a teen. Then read it again. Then move down the list.)
The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, Jeff Gerke
Self-editing for Fiction Writers, Renni King
Talk to people
Yes, the scary ones. And not just the writers. Talk to your readers. Talk to your pastors or parents or friends or co-shoppers at the grocery store. Talk stories with anyone who will talk stories with you. Talk about their favorite stories, and your favorite stories. Ask them about their favorite (or one of) character and what made them special. Ask them about writing themes and wholesome fiction. Ask them about the how much violence is too much violence debate. You may not agree, that’s fine. If you come with the intent to learn, then the discussion will be beneficial anyway. Having a good conversation with others about story is uplifting and thought provoking. You may learn something along the way, or you may just get a great story idea. Who knows, but what’s the harm in trying?
Go to writer’s conferences
Okay, so maybe this isn’t something you can do right now, but it is something you should look at. Writer’s conferences are a wealth of information about every writing- and publishing-related topic under the sun. Plus, even cooler, they’re full of other writers. Real writers you can meet and talk to and learn from and swap critiques with. They’re full of published authors willing to answer your questions and unpublished authors excitedly pursuing that first book contract (just like you and me.)
AND EVEN IF YOU DON’T TALK TO ANYBODY, writer’s conferences are still worth all the hassle of… whatever little hassle is involved. Writers are always asking what is the cure for writer’s block. There is no easy answer. (I’ve listed a lot, and more than a lot) but none of them compare to a day of creative engagement like you can find at a writer’s conference. There is no “cure all” solution for writer’s block, but attending a writer’s conference is VERY NEARLY CLOSE. As close as you’ll get.
Take my word for it. Or take anyone else’s who has attended one. Writing conferences are the bomb.
If you’re not sure where to start, or you don’t want to have to buy plane tickets out to California to attend one, hit up google. I had no idea that there was one held annually in my home town until I heard about it on the radio. Should have googled it three years ago. Do yourself a favor and go look. (Once you sign up for one, let me know. I’d love to share what little I know about preparing for one.)
The most important thing
Alright, there you have it. That’s what you (and I) should be doing to learn more about the craft. There’s probably more that I’m missing (you learn something every day) but that’s more than a worthwhile list to get you started.
Speaking of getting started, that’s what we should do. All of us. Right now. Go google “Writer’s workshop (your city)” or hit up Amazon for a craft book. At the very least go find a blog you like (in addition to mine) and give it a read. Like what you find? Subscribe. That way your email can make you keep you learning-writing resolution.
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure how to fit all of this into your busy schedule, then don’t. Fit some of it. A little piece of it. Maybe one book, or one blog. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Fit what you can into your schedule and move on.
Now, for the most important thing…
Don’t stop writing. I said at the beginning of the post that you can’t reach perfection just by practicing. But all the learning in the world won’t help you if you don’t write. The best way to get better at writing is still writing. That won’t ever change. Seeking to learn through some of these other channels is important, but continuing to write is critical. Do that, and you can’t be doing I wrong.
What are your favorite blogs? (Other than mine 😉 ) What craft books have you read? Some of the ones I mentioned? What were you thoughts? Did you read others? Would you recommend them? Have you attended any writer’s conferences? What were your thoughts? (Lots of question, but here’s one more: What’s your favorite story, and why?)