Hurdles in Writing: Who Can I Trust?
I think this topic is an important series, so I want to add to it, and I had a list of topics, but managed to accidentally delete it while not paying close attention. That habit in itself is a hurdle, but I went looking for writer's tips just to find a new topic for today, and it only took me seconds to find it.
When you have a question or problem with your writing, who do you ask?
This is a tough question. There is so much information out there. Some is good, and some is not. What works for one may not work for someone else. So what can you do? I can't give you a solid answer, but will give you my opinions, and explain what worked for me.
My first hurdle was a scene in my first manuscript. It was a sad break-up between my main character and his girlfriend. It should have been heart-wrenching, but it had the emotion of a rock. It didn't occur to me to turn to the internet, so I kept rewriting.
When I first started writing I took a creative , and screenwriting class at the same time. I'm not a fast writer so it kept me busy. I also signed up for a screenwriting magazine, and Writer's Digest. While I fought with that scene, the screenwriting magazine arrived, advertising a conference in Los Angeles. They had seminars on all kinds of issues. One of them was emotion. I signed up and went to every workshop on emotion they offered.
The end result wasn't great. I ended up re-writing the entire manuscript in a different point of view, and there were changes that had to occur leading up to the fight that broke my characters up.
Why was the conference so special? Because I could see who was teaching before I signed up. I knew the featured speakers were successful in their field. what movies they had sold and worked on, and could see what they specialized in. Some worked for production companies, others had sold and seen their movies produced. Now they worked in a university writer's program, and they all believed in learning craft.
I probably creeped one of the teachers out. I told him my problem, and sat in every seminar he did, because he specialized in emotion. He seemed fine with that, and told me that what I needed to learn was the same for a novel, as it was for a screenplay.
I left that conference with the information I needed. Could I have looked for the answer online? Of course, but I wouldn't trade what I learned from those conferences. We attended every year for the next five summers. It wasn't the conference itself that made the difference, but the quality of the teachers. It just makes sense to learn from people who have been successful.
I eventually took some classes at the UCLA Writer's Extension's online program. I wouldn't trade those classes either, but I know time and money can make such programs impossible. There are free classes online too, but I didn't know that at the time.
My next hurdle was learning how to write a fight scene. I'm a girly girl, and I was spooked. I did a search online at that point. Not knowing the credentials of my teachers, I went from website to website until the logistics began to click. I was able to read some of the credentials, but not all of them.
Since then I've met, and heard of numerous people who had no real qualifications, but were hosting workshops for a good chunk of money. Am I saying they need a degree? No. But they should have some kind of success in their background. At least the respect of the writing community. A friend of mine used to insist Terry Pratchett had never learned craft, but he was a reader, and journalist. Journalist's write.
Don't have the money for classes or conferences? There are so many books that teach writing on the shelves, from ten-dollars and up. Look at the back or the inside flap and see what their credentials are, but remember these are the areas used to sell their book. Have they self-published fifty books? Anyone can do that given enough time. How many books did they sell? I was fortunate to learn from bestselling authors, who taught from a book that cost me ten-dollars. Word of mouth helps too. Just sitting and studying how your favorite author writes can teach you about writing. And let's not forget the free online courses.
I have three self-published novels now. They aren't best sellers, but I'm not done yet, and I believe they have the quality they need to become one. Marketing was a huge hurdle for me, but that's another post, and the blog-prompt for this week so that will most likely be my next article.