Monday, July 26, 2010

In Which We Learn About Writing

There's been some chatter around the blogosphere recently regarding honing one's craft and what specifically that takes.

I've mentioned before that I have a BA in fiction writing. But in all seriousness, I learned more about writing, the business and the nuts and bolts of everything from blogs (and some excellent writing books) than I did in my BA.

Let me 'splain. No, is too much. Let me sum up (NEVER GETS OLD).

I had a lot of fun earning my BA. The best thing about all my advanced fiction classes (and the few post grad classes I was approved to take) was the workshopping. Sure, we had to read some essays and articles on how to write, but almost all of my classes involved writing junk in class, then sharing and getting feedback or crits. I learned A LOT about how to crit and workshop in college (especially in that grad class, which was AWESOME). But I can honestly say, no teacher ever said "Show don't tell" or "don't use adjectives or adverbs" or any of the other important rules (though I did have one teacher who let us help her choose the cover for her most recent book and that was super fun)

Those rules came to me in books on writing.

When I started blog surfing over a year ago, that's when I really started to understand aspects of craft that I had only flirted with before.

I remember Simon had a post and examples on the "Show don't tell" rule that was just genius. It was the first time anyone had ever shown how to follow that rule (a bit ironic, yes? That we're always told and never shown how to Show, Don't tell)(it turns out I was doing it right all along. But it was good to know)

Before Query Shark I had no real clue what a query was. Yes I would have researched it if the time came, but knowing about how to craft a successful query helps me in my writing to narrow down the conflict of the novel ahead of time.

I certainly think you can benefit quite a bit from taking classes. Not to mention the people you can meet.

But if money's an issue for you (and it typically is for me) or if you're super introverted, you can improve your craft by using the lovely interwebs and books all by yourself.

Does that make sense? Yes? Good.

The key is to make the attempt to improve. If you're serious about improving, you'll find a way to do it, no matter your means.

How have you improved your craft?


Cruella Collett said...

I think it also has to do with where in the process you are. You can hear the same writerly advice a million times, but it isn't until that moment you are ready to learn it that it sinks in. At least that is what I keep telling myself (and I keep hoping I will get there soon!)

Great post :)

Janel said...

You have no idea how happy this post has made me! I have an Associate's Degree in Desktop Publishing, nowhere close to creative writing or English. So, I've been voraciously reading books and blogs on writing. It's nice to hear, from someone with a degree in writing, that I'm on the right track. :)

Matthew Rush said...

For me the biggest things have been blogging (and reading blogs) and my critique group. Also, I love that you quoted Inigo Montoya!

Palindrome said...

I read stuff and write stuff. Oh! And there are these two freaks who read my work on a regular basis who help quite a bit.

haha! I'm back with my ridiculous comments!! MUHAHAHAHAHA!

Jaydee Morgan said...

You're right. There is some very good advice to be found in the blogosphere.

A big part of learning for me comes from writing - and reading. The more I do both, the more I learn. Also, you can learn so much from critiquing other's work. What you don't initially see in your own, you pinpoint in others, thus making it easier to avoid the same problems in your own down the road.

Falen (Sarah) said...

Cruella - this is straight up true. I believe this 100%. There have been plenty of rules i followed, but until i reached a level where i understood them fully, i didn't improve

Janel - Yay! i mean, i love my degree and i had a lot of fun, but most my growing has happened in the last year or so

Matthew - he should be quoted on a daily basis. DAILY!

Palindrome - Hah! Yay i'm glad you're back

Jaydee - i completely agree. For me, writing and critiquing other's work is what really helps me solidify my skills.

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

Blogging has been a big one for me. I've learned so much from my fellow bloggers. I'm so glad they've share with me.

And posting, because it forces me to write better right away which trickles over to my larger pieces.

Joan Crawford said...

Yay, The Princess Bride. "I do not think it means what you think it means" The Cliffs of Insanity!

KarenG said...

I think blogging, altho it's a much different kind of writing, helps us refine our voices. Plus it's motivating, seeing what everyone's doing!

Teebore said...

Haha! I am back as well! Let the interwebs tremble!!

I totes know what you mean. I minored in writing and had a writing class every semester of college, but I never learned much more than broad strokes about fiction writing (and the whole work shopping process and whatnot). I mean, I had some GREAT classes (and some not so great) but a lot of the nuts and bolts stuff, especially about querying and finding an agent and stuff, came from blogs 'n' junk more recently.

Hell, I'm still wrapping my head around this buried dialogue business cuz I just learned about it like two months ago...

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I'm so jealous! I would have loved to do that. I only had the option of an English major, so I have a BA in various forms of writing, from fiction to non-fiction, to publishing and editing, to screen-writing, to poetry. It was too mismatched/scattered/broard and I wanted to focus on one thing! I didn't know which at that point in my life, though, so it was probably for the best in the end.

I didn't get into the university that offered the writing course I wanted, unfortunately. I missed out by TWO points!!! Ugh. You lucky thing.

Piedmont Writer said...

I did the whole college writing thing too and although I learned a lot, a LOT, it's not the same as what I've found here on the web and blogs. Although I do have to say this blogging thing is a lot like college. (I went to a hippie college in Vermont --yeah man.)

Someone asked the other day if writing classes were worth it. I said no, you can learn anything they can teach in college right here. She signed up for the classes anyway. Oh well.

DL Hammons said...

So true! The material is out there to be had (blogs, books, classes, etc.) if you have the desire to improve. And unlike a college education, a degree doesn't signify the process is at an end.

Anne said...

damnit- my post didn't save

@Teebore- i would like to hear more about this buried dialogue of which you speak

@Palindrome- oh god, you're back. it was so peaceful while you were away ;-)

KodasTotems said...

I've been away for so long- I've MISSED your wit and insight here. And you've changed your look, too! Anyhoo. Glad to be back and comforted by your wackyness (did I spell that correctly?). And- I hope Yvie's tum-tum is all better by now. :)

(Oh- and this is me, Kristy- Stark Raving Zen- in case you have no idea...)

Talli Roland said...

I hear you - I think blogs are invaluable! I've learned *so* much through them, and by interacting with writers.

And also be just doing it. Sitting down and writing.

Palindrome said...

@Anne- Ha! I'm here just to bother you!! :P

Lola Sharp said...

I LOVE that you used that picture and quote! he he! Love that movie.

Improving craft is a lifelong journey.

Happy Monday!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Apart froma few creative writing courses (and a lifelong habit of storytelling)I've learnt via books and the internet. Blogging has been invaluable. I've learnt so much. But the best way I've worked on my craft is practice. The more you write, the more you understand. Fab CP help too. :)

Alexandra Crocodile said...

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You murdered my father. Prepare to die. Classic!

Falen (Sarah) said...

Holly - posting forces me to be more accountable, which is something i need.

Joan - such a great movie. And book

KarenG - i find the motivation very helpful as well. It's probably the bit of me that's competetive

Teebore - hell, the buried dialogue thing shocked me too, which is why i shared it because where the hell did that come from?!

Allomorph - two points? that sucks. And the workshopping was awesome, i'm not going to lie. But sometimes i was reminded that it all cost a lot of money...

Piedmont - i think they're worth if you like a classroom setting and want to meet people. But to each their own

DL - that's so true. You definitely need to have the desire to improve, otherwise all the info just flows through you

Anne - Ha! and i'll explain buried dialogue this evening. It will require me to gesture with my hands

Kodas - nah, i knew who you were right away! Yeah i needed to freshen this place up. I've got to remember to move your new blog into my google reader so i don't miss out. And yes, her tummy is back to its normal sassy self

Lola - every time i see that picture i LOL because i LOVE IT SO MUCH!!

Lindsay - yes, the writing is certainly a must. and the revising

Alexandra - LOVE HIM!!

Vatche said...

I try to improve my writing as much as I can, whenever I can. I read those books about writing every once in a while, I go to writer's workshops, talk to other writers, and try my best to make my stories gripping and entertaining.

The best way to improve, I believe, is just to simply write, write, and write some more.

So, write on!

Falen (Sarah) said...

Vatche - so true. Also i believe one of the best ways to improve is to recognize that you want to improve

Shelley Sly said...

I started college as an English major, and I've noticed some people get more out of formal education than others. Personally, my English classes in college were BS (and I don't mean Bachelor of Science.) I didn't learn a single thing that carried over to my writing life now.

It wasn't until I changed majors and studied Psychology that I decided to pursue writing more seriously, and I learned the most crucial information from 1) the internet and 2) reading both fiction and nonfiction.

WritingNut said...

I hear you! I've learned so much more from blogs and books than I ever did in class! In fact, throughout school, teachers used to ENCOURage the use of adverbs and dialog tags - it's a whole different ball game out here ;)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

So, so true, Sarah! I am a teacher of writing, but blogging has taught ME about writing - more than I ever dreamed it could. Ain't it grand? :-)

Falen (Sarah) said...

Shelley - that is very true that some people get more out of formal classes than others

Writing - "hah! I remember reading an article about all the different dialogue tags we could use to zazz things up," Sarah exclaimed

Shannon - blogs are awesome

SonshineMusic i.e. Rebecca T. said...

Even though I am in a writing dry spell, I know I'm learning so much every day I hang around out here in the interwebs. It's amazing the conversation that occurs! I loves it!

And that cat at the end, it was kind of creepy.

Falen (Sarah) said...

Sonshine - clearly he's a basement cat. he should be creepy

Anonymous said...

I've learned so much about writing from blog hopping and tweeting. It's time well spent.

Falen (Sarah) said...

Medeia - that's what i try and tell myself too

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