Writing Stick-to-it-ive-ness! (Guest post by Valerie Comer)
Have you ever wanted something so much that you spent a decade learning how to do it with no guarantee you’d ever be successful. . . whatever that means?
Janet’s theme on this site is “tenacity.” It’s vital in so many areas of life. Sometimes we call it stubbornness, but tenacity and diligence sound so much more positive. Either way, it’s the ability to set a goal and dig your heels in until you’ve achieved it.
In 2002 I decided to learn to write fiction. Hours every day had suddenly opened up with nothing to fill them. I’d always toyed with the idea of writing a novel “someday,” and knew this was a God-given opportunity to take the next step. Actually the first step.
Only, I had no idea what that step was. How-to-write books from the library were of little help, but the relatively new Internet pointed to some sites where I could learn. And learn I did. I averaged one novel a year for nine years before I finally sold a novella (ironically unwritten at time of sale), and I’ve written two more since. Over half of these are unsalvageable drafts with huge problems.
The biggest hurdles for me were two-fold.
1. I had no concept of the over-all process. I couldn’t see the steps. You know the cliché “can’t see the forest for the trees?” Well, I couldn’t even see the trees for the twigs. I got bogged down in the minutiae of writing and struggled to find the horizon.
2. I thought writers were either seat-of-the-pants writers (pantsers) or plotters. It took me a long time to “get” that there was a large middle ground in which most writers live. Thus it took me about ten too many novels to find the best practices for me. Now I know better than to tell anyone “this is the way it must be done.”
This spring it seemed the time had come to pay forward and help other, newer writers develop their craft, so I opened a website, To Write a Story, dedicated to teaching fiction from beginning to end. It seems to me that there are six stages in writing: planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. My goal is to provide an overview of each stage so that writers can keep the forest in mind while they’re focused on those twigs.
I’ve chosen a two-prong approach:
1. It’s a blog. I post a helpful article every Thursday on one of the six stages. Most of them are written by me, but I accept a small number of guest posts, too.
2. It’s a course. Writers can sign up in the sidebar for my FREE writing course via email. You’ll get a new lesson every week for the better part of a year, walking you through the process from beginning to end.
If you’ve ever wondered just what all is involved in writing fiction, I invite you to subscribe to the course (and/or the blog) and join the 70+ people (about one a day since I opened the course) who are already enrolled. We’re having a lot of fun and I think you will, too!
Want to learn To Write a Story? Then join in!
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, releases August 1, 2013, from Choose NOW Publishing.
Thanks for having me, Janet!
Thanks for guest posting, Valerie. And I love that expression about not even being able to see the trees for the twigs. That’s how I feel sometimes too.
You’re so right about the importance of learning the basics if we want our stories to be publishable. I’ve been learning from your blog posts, and I’ll ask the question here in case other readers have the same one: is your weekly course solely for beginners, or can we intermediates join in too?
Great question, Janet! It’s aimed at beginners, but that doesn’t mean others can’t learn.
Every writer has strengths and weaknesses and have taken our own path to our current skill level. So, while, you (the general, hypothetical you as well as the specific you) may have a solid understanding of writing, it’s always fun to see other people’s process and pick up a tidbit here and there. Each weekly lesson is relatively short (under 1000 words).
I can almost guarantee I’ll give you some new ways to look at some aspects of the process. I can’t guarantee these ways will resonate, of course! However, it’s not only free to subscribe, but quick and easy to UNsubscribe if you don’t feel it’s worth your time to read.
Thank you so much for sharing Valerie with everyone! I often look at the novel I’ve written and wonder if I should ignore it and move on or keep trying to “fix” it and get it published. It was comforting to read how many Valerie wrote but considers them lessons. I think I need to embrace that thought process and keep moving forward instead of staying mired down. I have signed up for Valerie’s course and am looking forward to diving in. Blessings to both of you!
I’ve just signed up too, Linden, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been finding the weekly blog posts helpful.
I call my first novel manuscript my “learner” one, because instead of letting it go like a wise writer, I kept re-working it to apply what I learned. This would have been a lot faster with short stories, and more productive with new novel ideas, but it wouldn’t let me go so I stuck with it a long time before moving on to the sequel. And still I keep going back to it.
Aw, thanks, Linden! I have theories about what sorts of writers do better repeatedly revising old projects and those who are better off starting something new—not forever, of course! But sometimes there comes a point where you’ve gleaned everything you can from a project.
I never understood how a writer could work on their first story for years and then sell it. I said I didn’t have the attention span for that. I’ve changed my mind, though. It’s a different reason.
I believe that those writers are primarily storytellers. Whether they plot or pants, they create a complete, logical, interesting story from the first draft. What they need help with is the actual wording: honing description, dialogue, action, etc. Scenes may need to be added or deleted or moved around for better tension. These things can be learned and applied to an existing story that is otherwise sound.
I’m not, first and foremost, a storyteller. I’m a good writer. What I have trouble with is cause and effect. Logic, if you will. This means that the writing is pretty good but the story may not hold together. Some of my early stories did not hold together in any way. No amount of rewriting was going to fix the messes I’d made! I’d learned what I could and it was time to apply it to something fresh.
I don’t have the luxury of starting over any more with several novels contracted with deadlines. But I’m also (finally) learning what constitutes “best practices” for me in plotting so I don’t create the same level of mess. Usually!