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6 06, 2016

Recharging the Writer’s Brain Well

By |2016-06-04T12:22:52-05:00June 6th, 2016|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

learningIt’s been said, “When you stop learning, you stop growing.”

Or, as Albert Einstein put it “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Many professions recognize and require ongoing learning.

As a teacher, I needed 40 hours of professional growth per year.

As an antique dealer, I constantly read price guides, watched Antiques Roadshow, and friended Kovel’s on Facebook to keep up-to-date on antiques and pricing.

As a writer, I attend a writing conferences or workshop every year. Some are on-line or podcasts; others in person.

Those in person conferences are the ones I enjoy the most because I’m not only learning I’m meeting my people. We writers are a breed unto ourselves and networking with those who understand is a treat.

Over the winter, health issues made writing difficult. I sorta lost my momentum. My zeal to write. (In case you’ve wondered, that’s why you’ve been missing new blog posts here.)

I truly needed interaction with my kind and some brain filling.

In May I attended a mini-con presented by the RWA chapter, Colorado Romance Writers. This well-organized conference delivered. And, delivered superbly.

The fellow writers were warm, friendly, and oh so understanding. We spoke the same language.

The daylong lecture from Donald Maass, President of Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, challenged and charged my muse, as I had expected.

I’ve been attending Maass workshops since 2006. After decades in the publishing business,The Donald truly knows his stuff. His well-used books on craft line my bookcase line my bookcase —Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009) , The Breakout Novelist (2011) and Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012).

If you’re a writer looking to push your craft to the next level, you should check out opportunities at Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services  and/or subscribe to the Writer Unboxed blog, where Mr. Maass is a monthly contributor.

That weekend conference  refilled my brain well and supercharged my muse. I’m back on course and busy pushing to have the final book in the Vietnam War Era trilogy released this year.

How do you refill your own brain well?

If you’re a writer, I highly recommend attending an in person writer’s conference or workshop.

10 09, 2012

3 Necessities to be a successful writer

By |2012-09-10T09:37:46-05:00September 10th, 2012|writer, writing|2 Comments

What does it take to be a writer?

Is all you need to be a writer pen and paper or a typewriter or an iPad or laptop/computer with a word processor? Maybe all it takes is the latest writing tool like this:

Or is there more involved besides having the proper writing tool?

Simple answer, YES.

A writer’s journey is a solo trip. A lonely trip and no two writers achieve success in the same way.

I think, to be successful, an aspiring writer must possess, at a minimum, these things:

  1. A PASSION
  2. A WILLINGNESS TO PRACTICE
  3. A DESIRE TO LEARN

On PASSION…

The most important trait a writer needs is the deep desire to write and a steadfast commitment to his passion.

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” Hebbel quotes

Writers must write because, if we don’t, we are miserable. The desire flows with our blood.

On PRACTICE…

If you watched the Summer Olympics last month, you saw performances by athletes who had practiced and trained YEARS for the opportunity to compete in their chosen event.

A certain number of hours practice is frequently necessary to be considered proficient at so many things.

Think about airline pilots who must have a specific number of flying hours before they are qualified to solo. Teenage drivers get learner permits and must practice before taking a test to prove their proficiency and earn a driver’s license.

Writing is no different. Writing requires practice.

The exact amount of practice depends on your natural talent, how quick you learn the techniques of your craft and how much passion you have for what you’re doing.

Which brings up another question, how often should you write?

My simple answer: EVERY DAY.

But how much should you write? Does it matter?

According to James Thayer’s Author Magazine article “How Many Words a Day?” Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day.

Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day.

Ray Bradbury, who authored over five hundred science fiction novels and short stories which someone calculated to be three and a half million words worth of stories, advises writers to “Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”

To succeed as writers, we must practice by writing something, anything every day.

On LEARNING  or STUDYING writing craft

Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to build an automobile without learning about auto mechanics. Unfortunately, too many people try to become writers without learning about the craft of writing.

An idea for a story strikes, and they start writing. They never consider story structure, POV, or any of the other skills embedded in every novel we read.

This, imo, is why so many aspiring writers fail so often.

Without learning basic skills, you won’t go far as an auto mechanic, no matter how many hours you put into practicing. Think about artists. They learn to mix paint, how to prepare a canvas and color theory at an art school. Aspiring auto mechanics go to technical schools.

Learning about basic craft skills requires time and study. To me, it’s the most important aspect of being a writer.

Sure, some writers succeed without study. With study, I believe success comes faster.

Even those born with great talent rarely go anywhere without equal measures of passion and practice. Mozart was a virtuoso of musical technique and artistry, but even he needed to learn his craft. He was full of passion for music, he practiced all the time, and he studied.

There are hundreds of great books on writing. I’m sure you have your favorites. On my website you’ll find a complete list of writer resources and some inspiring quotes. Below is a short list I recommend for every writer’s craft resource shelf:

  1.  Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell
  2. Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
  3. Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love 
  4.  Story, by Robert McKee 
  5.  Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham
  6. Getting Into Character, by Brandilyn Collins
  7. Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
  8. The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Writing classes – on-line and at colleges and universities – also offer wonderful ways to develop writing skills. Too many classes, in fact, to list them in this post. I’ll do another blog with my recommendations soon.

Writing conferences offer yet another means to study writing craft with the added benefit of networking with like-minded people.

If you happen to live in or near Houston, Texas, there’s going to be a great writer’s conference next month—Northwest Houston RWA’s Lone Star Writer’s Conference featuring James Scott Bell.Yep—same one whose book is #1 on my recommended list.

The conference also offers a tremendous line-up of editors and agents. All for only $130.00. Check it out here.

Now you know what 3 things I believe are necessary to be a success writer so get out your iTyperwriter and GO, GO, GO.

YOUR TURN: What do you think it takes to be a successful writer?