Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sage advice from a former teacher

Last week, at the Red Lake Falls Library, I had the privilege of meeting a former professor of mine from Bemidji State University, one who taught me a lot about writing: award-winning Minnesota author Will Weaver.

Throughout my entire academic career, I can name two teachers who have had an impact on my writing. One is my 6th grade college-prep English teacher Mrs. Anne Olson. (I hope I spelled her name right). Never before in high school was I ever asked to write a creative piece. What? I thought at the time. You mean, make something up? I had always dreamed of being a writer and was always working on something, but this was the very first time I was able to do it for a class. She taught many of the mechanics of creative writing, from character sketches and such, and her advice was always positive.

Will Weaver, on the other hand, took my writing to a whole new level. I took two classes from him: Introduction to Fiction Writing and Intermediate Fiction Writing. (Yes, my Criminal Justice advisor didn't think too highly of my taking such classes when I was getting a degree in Criminal Justice, but oh well - I'll have the last laugh when I'm sitting on top of the bestseller's list). Will Weaver's advice, albeit simple and straightforward, was right on the money. And, last week, proved it once again.

Will Weaver first talked about the art of the short story and how beginning writers can use that format to learn about the craft. He taught about keeping your focus on a small, defined period of time and even a limited number of characters. He even said that a narrow subject matter would also help make one's short story better.

He read several pieces from his books, many of them young adult, and also talked about "writing more about less." This means to write about the finer details of one's story (just the right amount of details, but not too much that would overload one's senses and also not too little where the writers is screaming for more).  There was much more advise he shared (and this blog simply cannot name them all) but one that really stuck with me was the following: write well enough so that you don't give the reader a reason to stop. The same is also true with an editor, because if you can keep an editor's attention, you have the makings of a good story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writing as a business

Greetings fellow writers, and have a Happy New Year!

For one to become a serious writer (when I mean serious, I mean to say that writing is how you want to make a living - as Zig Ziggler would say, "turning your vocation into a vacation" - something you absolutely love doing) you have to treat it as a business.

What! A business! That makes it sound so . . . corporate.

Not really, but if you really want to become a published writer, you do have to be serious about all aspects of writing. In other words, treating writing as of it's a business.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, we'll explore the various aspects of "writing as a business" one piece at a time. The information presented is largely from research that I've done over the years, and I will give credit where credit is due.

The first thing we need to do is decide, once and for all, what it is you want to do. Sure, we all want to make millions (or billions) of dollars (okay, not every one wants this, which I find incredibly odd, but that's okay . . . we can still be friends). Ask yourself once question: if you were offered, let's say, $100,000 a year (or $500K or even a million dollars) doing something--anything--what would you like to do?

Previously, I talked about Zig's saying of turning your vocation into a vacation. In other words, you need to love doing what you're doing - to the point where "work" isn't really the dreaded W-word. Maybe you love restoring old cars. You may even love building bird houses.  Or you love cooking, have a passion for music or writing.  Find out what that is. Imagine making money (the kind I noted above) doing exactly that. Could you?  Believe in yourself that you can.

But does everything have to revolve around money, you may ask? Of course not. That's not the point, which is getting into the mindset of loving to do something, having the passion to do something every single day. This may come as a shock, but I love writing. I've spent many late nights and early mornings writing or editing stories. I've spent many hours in the car, either going to or from work or even on my commutes home when I was going to college at Bemidji State University many moons ago, thinking about writing or going over whatever story I happened to be working on. That's my passion. That's the reason I plow ahead each day, edging ever-closer to the day I can write full-time and support my family the way they should be.

What is your passion? What is the one thing that you would love to do if you were paid good money to do it?

Let that sink in for a bit . . . you may not get it at first, what you really want to do, but write them down as soon as you think of it. Before too long, you'll discover your meaning . . . your purpose . . .