As far back as grade school, I loved to write. I tried poems, short stories, and eventually, technical writing. I always yearned to write a novel but knew I wasn’t good enough. I’d started a few and the stories simply petered out. What to do?
Through a lot of trial and error, I found that one of my best resources was other writers. I can hear you all now, “Duh!” Of course other writers are the resource. But how do you access and utilize their knowledge?
I tried books on writing, but books couldn’t answer my questions. I continued my quest on the internet which led me to interesting and informative blogs. Many of my concerns were answered there, although many new questions popped up. I love that most bloggers use links to send me to other posts on the subject. Yes, online blogs are great. I bookmark those that give me the most help. Here’s one I love. http://ramonadef.wordpress.com/for-writers/how-to-collection/
With my new-found knowledge, I began to write in earnest. That’s when I realized how much more I had to learn. A partial manuscript under my arm and a writerly attitude accompanied me to a weekend writer’s workshop. I was ready to show my work to other writers and hear their critiques. Oh my! My ego was all but crushed. That workshop four years ago taught me about two writing flaws that follow me today. Words that make me want to cringe. Words I still hear in my writing groups. “Show, don’t tell.” “Build up the dramatic action.”
And that brings me to my favorite resource. Writing groups! I belong to two, one online and one in person. Being part of a writer’s group with authors who care enough to give that painful critique is vitally important. I can read all the books and take all the classes I want, but if no one sees my writing, how can I learn? I’ve heard my two bugbear critiques enough that I now triple-check my work before placing it in front of my groups. Unfortunately, they sometimes sneak through. But, I’m getting much better at spotting them. I can even spot them in books I’m reading.
Another advantage of a writing group is learning how to critique others. In a critique, it’s important to point out all the great pieces of writing before talking about those that didn’t quite make it. As I lovingly point out something I see in someone’s story that could be better, I realize that my own mistakes are not so bad. The more I listen to what group members are writing and hear how others critique them, the more I learn about the art of writing. Pretty words and phrases don’t always make for interesting writing. Conflict and emotion are what keep the story alive. My critique partners are quick to point out areas where I can add both. I can’t believe how much better my work is after I listen to their comments.
Oh, I suppose I should tell you one more of those little problems I sometimes find in my writing. Head hopping, switching my POV (point of view) in the middle of a scene. It’s become a bit of a joke in my group. I’m thankful I can laugh about it now. I wasn’t
laughing the day an agent pointed it out to me. When I finally accepted that I might have made a mistake (I’m so stubborn), I used another resource, the internet to look up POV. Posts abound on the subject. As a matter of fact, you can find many writing classes on the subject. I’ve availed myself of a few. Now, I always check my scenes to see whose head I’m in. A good blog on the subject: http://www.writers-village.org/writing-award-blog/bring-your-story-alive-with-deep-point-of-view.
As writers today, we’re lucky to have so many wonderful resources: books, Internet, blogs, classes, writing conferences, writing groups, and other writers. Of course, one easy-to-find resource that’s been around forever is reading. Look at the books you love and pay attention to how those writers accomplish their gift, then copy that art.
The most important thing, however, is to keep writing. You know it soothes your soul.