Part of the work of a writer revolves around honing the craft continuously. Show me an author who’s stopped learning, knows it all, or is simply so brilliant they have no need for critique and I’ll show you writing which doesn’t grab a reader by the heart, the head and well, yes, the cajones. If I’m going to tell great stories with rich characters and tension filled pages I need to always be upping my game. But how?
Here are some of the ways I hone my craft these days.
If you’re not familiar with AuthorSalon I’d highly recommend taking a look. Founded by Michael Neff, the focus of the online community of writers is to move toward successful commercial fiction. To play here you need to have a desire to get detailed, objective feedback from peers and to be pushed past your comfort level about your writing. I know I’ve had several “come to Jesus” moments with my work, taking feedback which required dropping scenes I loved, shifting point of view and ramping up the tension in my story, among other things. Gut wrenching in the moment, but all in service to the story. This place is hard work, but I’m finding it to be a great place to work with other writers dedicated to putting out our finest.
I took a year long Certification in Popular Fiction at the University of Washington a couple of years ago. The class, taught by PNWA President and author, Pam Binder followed the development of a novel from concept to completion. I found attending a class once a week with twenty other writers to be a great way to make focusing on craft a regular part of my writing life. In addition, I got to know other writers in the area and some of those have become friends and critique partners. Recently UW asked me about my experience in the Certificate Program. Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a community college or university nearby. And if not, look for an online program.
I attend at least one conference a year to network and pick up something about the craft or the business. This year I’m going to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference and I’ll probably get over to the Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle.
As I’ve discussed on this blog in the past, a good critique group is a wonderful thing. Having my work critiqued is always helpful. In the end it doesn’t matter if I think a scene works. What matters is how a scene works for others. So having other writers share their insights and experience of a scene is invaluable. And offering critique to others also helps me keep a critical eye on my own work.
I’m working with my editor on the next Nick Sibelius novel, DIRTY WATER. I find the editing process to always be a great learning process. Writing a novel is, after all, a team event. The give and take of the collaborative process requires me to think through why I’m writing a narrative or a dialogue the way I did and if I can make it better.
What do you do to hone your craft? Anyone have a particular conference, online learning experience, workshop you feel offers an exceptional opportunity for growth as a writer?