While those things are certainly vital to creative performance, it sometimes takes more than a splash of Earl Grey in a Miss Piggy mug to get you through a manuscript.
There’s a lot of talk about “honing your craft” in writing, though opinions differ on what that means. Some authors learn by trial and error. Others take classes or devour books like Stephen King’s ON WRITING or Donald Maass’s WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.
I've always been a “trial and error” girl myself, but recently decided to treat myself to a class. After all, I have a three-book deal now. I should probably learn to write.
I also kinda wanted to be a student again without the threat of after-school detention.
After a bit of research, I settled on Lani Diane Rich's online series of classes called Storywonk. I already knew I loved her romantic comedies (New York Times bestseller and all). I liked the idea of a six-week series that included both live lectures and online discussion forums where students could interact with each other and with the instructor.
|Author Lani Diane Rich|
It did not suck.
The lessons focused heavily on structure. In the first class, a student expressed concern this could dampen her creativity.
Lani suggested thinking about it like this: let's say you're a seamstress and you've sewn a beautiful dress. But if you leave the dress lying in a heap on the floor, no one can appreciate how lovely it is. Put the dress on a form, and voila! The whole thing takes shape.
That's one of the best analogies I've ever heard.
Under Lani's tutelage, we all identified our "seven anchor scenes" and wrote sentences describing each one. Then she critiqued them for every single student – some more than once. The feedback was occasionally harsh, but always honest, and obviously coming from someone who's been around the block once or twice.
Even Pythagoras reaped the benefits. Lani asked us to watch several movies so we could all analyze structure together. Since I rarely watch movies, my dear husband nearly wet himself with delight when I informed him I wanted to watch Happy Gilmore, Die Hard, and Shawn of the Dead in one week.
All in all, I loved my first experience with a novel writing class. If you're looking for a splurge item on your holiday wish list, consider something like this as an investment in your writing career. Oh, and I have it on good authority that there are several spots left for both the Storywonk Revision class (the one I took, which is for writers revising a completed manuscript) and the Storywonk Discovery class (for writers getting ready to start a book). Both sessions start in January. Go here to read more.
Have you ever taken a class to hone your craft as a writer? What are the most valuable lessons you've learned? If you haven't tried a class, what's the reason? And what other methods do you use to improve your skills? Please share.
Oh and for the record, I didn't get sent to the principal's office even once. There was that nasty incident with the paste and the ruler, but that's a topic for another blog post.