Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where Am I Really?

Where Am I Really?
Students of the Craft Series
Net's Notations Tuesdays

Hey everyone, Annette here. I sat in on a workshop at a writing conference several years ago and wondered what I was doing there. This writer was speaking way over my head. I needed someone to address writing craft at my level. I wasn’t ready for his topic.

If I took the same workshop today, I’d find more of the material familiar. But at that point, I didn’t have a clear understanding of just where I was in terms of ability. Let me share some advice, in case you can relate. As students of the craft, it’s important to:

1) Assess where we are. Ask: what are my weaknesses? Where could I improve?

2) Seek out what we need. When you’ve discovered your areas of weakness (POV, dialogue, plotting, grammar, etc.), it’s necessary to locate materials on that topic. One great way to learn more is to find a workshop. When you attend writers’ conferences there are lists of workshop options. Choose the ones which will most meet you where you are, or challenge you a bit. Don’t shoot for workshops which will cover material beyond where you are. You’ll spend most of the time trying to figure out what the speaker is talking about in general and never glean what s/he meant as the meat of his/her presentation. How-to books are helpful resources too. Find them free at the library. (Of course you cannot highlight library books, so you may want to allocate some of your writing budget for personal copies.)

3) Study. After conferences, after workshops, it’s important to read through the materials and your notes once you’re back at your writing desk. How does the information hit you now? The best way to know you’re ready to move on from this stage is to try explaining what you’ve learned to someone else. This demonstrates whether you’ve really got it or not. Practice on your critique group. *smile*

4) Apply. Now, find a place in your WIP (work in progress) and apply this new technique. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come together on the first attempt. No one’s watching over your shoulder. Take your time. Refer back to your notes. Get advice.

This process may reveal other weaknesses, but if so, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Name your favorite well-read, multi-published author and I imagine that person would admit to having a weakness or two. The great thing—we don’t have to forever compensate for those areas of struggle. We can learn. We can grow. We can overcome our writing weaknesses if we remain students of the craft.

Write on!

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