Friday, June 22, 2018

Who Teaches the Teachers

Happy First Full Day of Summer, northern hemisphere folks. Welcome to winter, southern hemisphere folks.

If anyone wonders whether it is possible to consume too much watermelon whilst celebrating the arrival of summer, the answer is an unreserved yes. Blarg. But hey. One of the perks of Florida. Real watermelon - I mean the huge monsters the size of a toddler. As heavy. And with seeds. The local Mennonite communities farm them and sell them in produce stands all up and down the Tamiami Trail. The melons are sweet and juicy and messy.

And when you have just a little too much, they're a massive stomach ache. But hey! Lycopene. That's my story. I'm sticking to it and I'll likely repeat it tomorrow cause one massive melon between two people means lots of watermelon in the fridge.

When I asked this week's question - How do you level up your writing skills - I may have phrased it badly. It was supposed to garner a resource list of who we all go to in order to learn our craft. I mean, we're all of us here at different stages in our careers. And I like to ask people a few rungs ahead of me on the trail who they learn from. Because if I start studying those people NOW, I'll be challenging my craft and skills all the sooner.  And it really was a CRAFT question, not a marketing question. The internet if rife with people wanting your cash so they can teach you how to sell millions of books, but hurry, this offer ends soon!

Here's my list:
RWA chapter meetings and workshops - these were I learned the basics and it's an amazing place to start.
Critique groups - a healthy crit group brings everyone in it up because you learn from one another's mistakes. I adore the two I have.
Beta readers - beta readers are worth their weight in gold because these are the people who will call you out when you cheat the story or the characters or the reader with lazy writing.
Craft books - doesn't matter which ones. Just start. I try to work through three a year. Doesn't matter who wrote 'em. Doesn't matter if I think I'll hate the book(s). Someone else's take on how a story goes together forces me to stay conscious about what I do. Some days, I think this may not be a good thing. Analysis paralysis is a thing that exists and it's vital to strike a balance between learning new stuff and making yourself nuts. Author know thyself.
Fiction books - readreadreadread. Read for enjoyment. For the sheer pleasure of it. Because as you do, you're learning. I love finding a book that sucks me through beginning to end and then I sit there, frowning, going 'Wait. What the hell just happened there? How'd the author DO that??' I may read the book again to see if I can pick up pointers. Or I may simply move on, secure in the knowledge that no matter what, I learned more about story and character by reading the book.
Paid Classes - this is very much a buyer beware thing. First. You have to have the cash. But suppose you do. All I can suggest is that you follow your interests. What sounds intriguing to you from a writing class standpoint? I will admit to having had mixed results here. Some classes didn't sound interesting and then blew me away with all I don't know. BUT. Whenever you take a class, you learn something - even if what you learn is that what you just paid for isn't for you. It's knowledge. And no one can take that from you. That said, I do NOT think you have to go to paid classes to learn to write. Or even to skill up your writing.

The single best means of skilling up writing is by writing - especially if you take on writing you don't think you're good enough to attempt yet. Keeping one toe over the 'this is comfy' line is a sure way to stretch and grow as a writer.

Which leads me to the greatest teacher of all: Failure. If you can stand one last gaming reference, this is from World of Warcraft when I had a guild leader say: If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough.

So come on into the trenches with me. I'm plowing headlong into failing as hard and as spectacularly as possible.