A common phrase I have heard my writing mentors say is, “Learn the craft.” Often times when people give advice, they forget to tell you how it is done. My writing mentor, Carol Baldwin has poured time and energy into my writing life. She has sent ideas, websites, and encouraging words. She has suggested reading novels in my genre to understand how writers construct their manuscripts. Because of Carol’s advice, I am taking master classes through Kid Lit Creators Super Stack. The videos, pdfs, and activities are helping me learn the craft.
My husband is a big football fan. It is not unusual for him to say, “Did you know?” or “Watch this play.” I like it when he tells me the stories behind the game. I have learned a great deal just by being near the television. The funny thing is, it surprises me when he says something like, “The roofline on that home is like the Old Stone House.” This turns my head. Then I realize that he learns history from hanging out with me the way I learn football from him.
The same thing is happening with writing. The more time I spend immersed in the world of writers, the better I catch on to phrases and techniques. The motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar once said, “If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
When I traveled with my high school students to Italy, they couldn’t wait to take photos of themselves pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I tried it, unsuccessfully. I learned later, that the secret was forced perspective. Instead of making it all about me, it required teamwork with the photographer. It is the same with writing. It is not just about me. Being part of the writing community is key!
For example, members of our local Word Weavers International host monthly meetings. They allowed me to sit in on a critique. This gave me an idea of how the process worked. When it was my turn to be critiqued, I better understood how to improve my writing. My task was to listen and take notes. Later, as I compiled the notes from different people, I could more clearly see where to put my time and attention for continued improvement.
An encouraging word came to me from following a Facebook thread where I admitted my lack of confidence. A fellow writer pointed out, “Moses said something about not being able to speak and God said, Moses, who made man’s tongue?”
The more I read middle-grade books, the more my vision for my work in progress evolves. I am learning there is more I need to know about the plot, voice, and pacing. Like football, exposure is contagious. I am adjusting myself as a writer, much like repositioning the camera for an improved photo-op with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
In the movie, You’ve Got Mail, Birdie Conrad (played by Jean Stapleton) said, “You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Oh, I know it doesn’t feel like it. You feel like a big fat failure. But, you’re not.” This made me laugh out loud. I want to meet writers, attend conferences, and help others the way they have helped me. Teaching school was my life for many years. Now, I recognize I am a student in the world of writing.
Are you a beginning writer? Check out these helpful resources.