Archive | October 2009

Take Aways

Just finished up online workshop — new one, and that’s always interesting. Take-aways from this workshop, which had a focus on storytelling….

Folks don’t seem to know how to do writing exercises–or does no one teach that not all writing is meant for the final product? 

We had some issues of grasping what is an “exercise”–as in, you do need to practice your craft.  That means technical practices, the same way someone does scales before you play music.

This seems basic to me.  But, then, I’ve just hit a place in the new book where I need to write some “off camera” scenes.  I need them since I need the blocking and info hard in my head (not floaty and fuzzy).  Folks this class didn’t seem to understand that sometimes you write to STRETCH — as in push a particular technique, then let it relax to normal.  I’ve often doen work just to try out a new technique.

This is something I learned from dance, and riding–you’d often have to exaggerate a technique to get it to stick in your muscles.  Once you overdid, then you could relax back and have it work to fix a technical problem you were having before.

Very common mistake for writers in their first couple of years of writing–most of ‘em bite off more than they have skills to execute.

This makes me wonder if more folks need to go back to school and take some creative writing classes just so they can figure out where they are with their skills.

IMPORTANT: Just because you can put a sentence (or a paragraph together) does not mean that you know boo about telling a story.

VERY IMPORTANT:  There may not be much of a short story market around, but start off with short stories if you’re just learning to write.  Write them as fan fiction, or just because, or publish them yourself on your blog with a Creative Commons license.  Writing short will teach you craft, help you avoid getting bogged down in complexities you may not be ready to handle, and keeps the basics manageable while you’re still getting them down.

Of course, I may be prejudiced about this since I learned so damn much from writing short before I tackled the long stuff. And the long stuff still daunted me and tangled me up for way too long.

(And then there’s always the other extreme of not going far enough with anything–playing it safe and doing too much of the ‘me too’ book.)

There’s never such a thing as too much of the basics.

Just when I think that I’m repeating myself (way too much) I find out that, oh, whole bunch of newbies here.  And they need to hear this.  This is why I think writing books are as much a perennial as cook books–basics never go out of style, and we all need to get back to them every now and then.

The words matter.

How you put words on a page matters–that’s your style, your voice, and what someone’s going to buy (or not buy).  Never think you can get away with being a little sloppy about the words because ‘it’s a great idea’.  I do see folks get carried away sometimes with their style, or a style, and forget to think about things like, “does this work, is the emotion and scene clear, am I tripping up the reader here with fancy footwork that’s much too much?”

And the one thing I still wonder about–can you teach someone to have a self-editor?  Is that just a matter of some folks can learn to have an objective eye to their work and can see ways to make it better, and some can’t?  It’s sort of like if you have someone who is tone-deaf–that person’s never going to make for a great musician, but you could give them some level of technical proficiency.

So can you have someone who is word-deaf?  Or is that edit-blind?

New Online Workshop

Monday the “Storytelling Techniques” for writers online workshop starts for NEORWA — that’s North East Ohio Romance Writers of America for the acryonym challenged (and boy is that a mouthfull).

New workshops are always interesting–there’s always a moment of ‘what the hell was I thinking.’ Coupled with the certainty that I will not have enough material to fill a day, let alone several (that never happens, but it always seems all too possible). Add in a dash of wondering why I though I had something to say, and it’s the usual insecurities showing up. I’m convinced these are not just writer neuroses, but writers just happen to write about them (being writers and all). And its just that edge of fear–of performance–that makes it interesting.

I also happen to like teaching. But online classes are odd.

Face-to-face instruction leans heavily on an exchange of the excitment of ideas–on contact. Online that doesn’t exist–and wry humor can bite you on the ass in text form. But the storytelling technique has me excited–it’s something that I’m not sure all that many folks really think about, or study, or take apart. And it’s vital to a good story. Which leads me to my favorite part of workshops–I know I’m going to learn things.

It’s going to be a challenge to figure out what I think–and do. Plus I get the good excuse to look at some other storytellers to pull apart their stuff to see if I can find the ticking heart. Comes of too much of my youth doing jigsaw puzzles, I suspect, which is a useless but soothing hobby. I would have been happy in this life digging up shards of things and fitting them together–puzzles are great training for that. But its not bad to pull apart craft and fit it back together again. It keeps me interested.