Speaking of study...last year, as part of my New Year's Resolution, I decided that I would buckle down and do whatever it takes to learn the aspects of fiction writing that I felt I didn't have a very good grasp on, such as theme, high concept, story structure, and plot. As of December, I've finished more than 12 workshops, I've take a full 1 inch binder full of notes - yes, literally full of notes - and I can't tell you how much I've learned. It never ceases to amaze me how some people truly think all a writer does is sit in a chair, bang out a box full of words, then send it off to be published. If only it were that simple!
As a side note to this grand adventure, over the last week, I've received several emails asking me how to become "an author". I don't usually get fan mail, or bundles of emails about my work, so this was surprising to see so many questions of a similar nature come in at the same time. I answered these questions the best I can over on Facebook in my notes section. The response is called How To Become "An Author".
I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but nothing is going to make you an author but a lot of hard work. I do truly mean a LOT of hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears - buckets of them. Particularly if you have a thin skin.
The only way to become an author - unless you plan to publish your own book, hire a ghost writer, or you are some celebrity who can bat your sexy eyelashes at someone and have them write a book for you - is to be a writer first.
Well, that's obvious. Yeah, I know that, but... Those are common responses I get when I say that. But, why must I say it? Because it's what no one wants to hear. Because no one ever asks me about the necessary first half of the publishing equation: how do I become a writer?
Fact: writers write. Writers who sell and become published are authors. I'm not being snarky about this. It's not my goal to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm also definitely not asking anyone to agree or disagree with me, even if someone feels so inclined. (They often do.) It simply is what it is.
People who ask how do I become "an author" are looking at the end result, the prize you get when you cross the finish line. And yes, I do mean you get to call yourself an author as a prize. In fact, it is the prize - aside from having your story published, of course. Why? Because being published doesn't guarantee you fame or riches. Because sometimes after all that hard work - after all those months of doubt, stress, rewriting, rejections, and hard work - being able to call yourself "an author" is the only prize you get. And let me tell you another little secret. Sometimes even after you get published, even when your tax man says you are published, other authors may not see you as published. It often depends on what side of the publishing fence you sit on - digital, or print. It hurts. It sucks. But once again, it is what it is.
But I digress... So, end of side note. Back to all the workshop and such. I have read literally dozens of articles on writing. I have a new stack of writing books I didn't intend to buy. After all, I thought I had all the writing books I needed! Apparently not.
I got through half those workshops last year, and was told one of my submissions lacked sustainable conflict. Hm... I had to ask myself, what is sustainable conflict? Honestly, I didn't know. I understood the idea of what it must be, but how to make my own? No clue. So, I set out on a quests to discover this sustainable conflict stuff and learn to build it for myself.
I am just now coming out of the learning tunnel, and we are fast approaching February. My skull is packed with new info that I'm still trying to process. Basically, over the past 13 months, I have put myself through non-accredited writers' college at home.
It has been frustrating, humbling, frightening, nightmare inducing (literally), and absolutely 100% undoubtedly worth every minute of it. Last night, I sat down with my current Werekind manuscript, which is not completed, and went through it element by element. I have no doubt, my new skill set is going to make this my best Werekind book yet. I truly hope my readers like this one. It has definitely been a labor of love. But, I keep very close in mind that I am still learning. Still figuring out how to put these pieces together as I go. Rome - and apparently Silver, Colorado - wasn't built in a day.
After doing all this learning, reading, and research, I wanted to share my favorite writing books so far. The ones I have learned the most from, and that I would repurchase for my writing shelf if I lost them. Here goes:
Screenplay: Foundations of Screenwriting, by Syd Field (trust me on this one)
Also, recently, I was asked about purchasing the yearly Writer's Market Guide. In the early 1990s, I invested in a Writer's Market Guide. Back then, I'd get a new one every three or four years or so because they're expensive, usually about $30 US, unless you are part of a book club where you can buy a certain amount of books and get the yearly Writer's Market for free.
This was, of course, before the internet was what it is today. You didn't have the kind of network for writers back then that we have now. Nowadays, you can and should be on twitter, following as many editors and agents as you hope to submit to. They are there, and while they may not follow you back, they tweet information that Writer's Market can't give you. For one thing, some publishers and agents do not stay open to submissions year round. They close to submissions while they catch up on their inbox, or because they have a full client roster.
In short, Writer's Market, as expensive as it is, is not an up to date tool. There isn't much in Writer's Market that you can't glean from Google and Twitter for free. I hope no one from Writer's Market makes a voodoo doll in my image for writing that, but there it is. Get on twitter, follow a bunch of agents to find out who's taking queries, then hit Google and see if they are interested in the kind of books you write.
Another way to research agents is to do searches at www.agentquery.com . The information there is priceless, and it's free. You can search for agents by name, the genres they represent, and even look at past/present client lists on some of them.
Anyway, this is already a long post, so I'm going to dog it off before it goes too long to be readable. I hope at least it has made up for my absentee-ism. ;0) That said, I shall take a moment to do the happy dance, because it's Friday:
Have a happy weekend, everyone! ^_~