Two and a half years ago, I decided to write a mystery. Since that time, the learning process seems endless. First, I discovered the dreaded back story. My beginning chapters were full of all the information I deemed important about my characters, story, etc. It had to go. I worked through the painful process of cutting away my much loved prose, and substituted words that would hook my reader.
Then, I hit the “Show, Don’t Tell” axiom. In a hurry to finish my masterpiece, I found it more expedient to tell the reader the story. Someone kindly explained to me that the reader wants to be part of the action, not just an onlooker. Showing involves the reader in the character’s thoughts and emotions, lets them feel what’s happening. I hate to say it, but I still have to edit my story with that in mind.
The use of conflict has also caused me a great deal of angst. My feelings about conflict? I don’t like it in my life so why would I want to use it on my poor protagonist? Oh, maybe because it makes the story? Yes, I have a lot to learn. Again, working through this one daily.
So many other lessons I’ve received as I go about the business of writing. How did this wonderful advice come my way? Critique groups, writing conferences, online blogs, how-to books and online workshops. There are wonderful tools available for the writer in any genre.
My journey to authorship began with a few good books (actually, I bought over 20 books before I paid attention to what authors I liked were reading or writing.) Because I couldn’t wait to get my book written and published, I plunged into the world of the internet to finish my instruction. (Right! As if I ever finish.)
My first online course was good, but expensive. I’ve since learned that good, inexpensive, online writing workshops abound. How to find the right one takes time. First, I found a site dedicated to writers of my genre. Then I paid attention to what other writers had to say about various workshops and those who taught them. I also learned quite a bit about good workshops at writing conferences. Ask questions!
Online workshops come in different sizes: one week, two weeks, one month, etc. Most are interactive with the instructor giving important feedback to everyone. If you prefer, you can lurk and profit from the writing advice given to others.
My own experience has been that the more I put into the workshop, the more I get out of it. That doesn’t mean that I’ve always participated. Not even close. However, I have downloaded all the class notes for each workshop. I find that I can always go back to something I need when it comes up in my writing.
One of the websites I find helpful is http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/content.php. Take a look. Something might grab you. Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet in one of the workshops.
Coming attractions: The Power of the Right Critique Group, more workshop sites, and information about the fascinating city of Salem, MA, where Dani’s story takes place. Oh, and maybe some more ghosts.