I haven’t been very good at blogging lately. Pardon me, that’s the biggest understatement I could’ve made since I haven’t blogged in about three years. Probably by now, no one reads this, which is fine for me at this point in time.
Having taken 2014-2015 off from writing, I came back strong in 2016 with renewed vigor and purpose. What was the change? I decided to start investing in my writing career more than I’d ever done before. With that said, here are three areas which I’ve invested in my career to take me to the next level. What is the next level you ask? Well, since doing these things, I’ve been hired to ghostwrite two full length novels, which is an entirely new experience on its own and worthy of a book in and of itself.
Investment #1: Attend Conferences
Conferences are a great place to network and learn. Workshops offer a host of different subjects within the writing community. I’ve been to screenwriting workshops and conferences, huge, annual novel writing pitch-fests, and small, low-key events at libraries where authors are giving a talk about their work. All of these avenues offered me incalculable rewards. Not just in education, as I learn something new about either the business of writing or the craft of writing, but in networking possibilities.
During one conference, I met a consultant, a professional coach, who reviewed my work and provided me a detailed analysis of the positives and shortcomings of my writing. I’d never been so overjoyed at being thoroughly skewered because it gave me perspectives I’d not considered before. Many of these coaches cost money, and, if you have a good rapport with them and like their qualifications, make the investment if its not too burdensome.
Make no mistake, however, this is a significant monetary investment in your career. Workshops and conferences, even for writers, aren’t free. Next month, I’m headed out to New York for the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference and pitch-slam. Factoring in hotel, airfare (I’m using miles so my airfare is free this conference, but that’s usually not the case), food, the cost of the conference, it adds up to a hefty sum. Some can’t afford this more than once or twice a year, however, because the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference has a private Facebook group where we all chat through, there are writers flying in from all over the world to attend.
Investment #2: Take Classes
Classes? I already went to college. Yes, classes and no, they don’t have to be with a college. I went online and found James Patterson’s Writing Masterclass. It was $99 and covered eight weeks or so of material, with homework (including reading one of Patterson’s books, which, of course, you have to buy – good rub there). And, before, I’d laugh some of that stuff off because it may have been, well, too generalized for me and I was a specific writer (or rather, more honestly, I thought I was better than the other attendees taking the class and didn’t need it). However, after much debate and eating a few slices of humble pie, I decided to splurge on Mr. Patterson and threw my credit card down for $99 (plus the book, which I bought used on Amazon for $0.10). This was by far one of the best investments I’d ever made. Why? Because James Patterson took you through his exact step-by-step process of how he writes books, including, how he creates outlines. I’d never been much of an “outline” writer, but had been progressing towards that style because of all the time (and words) wasted in extraneous plot I’d removed during editing that didn’t serve the purpose of the story. After working through his process, I found it very satisfying and ultimately, through about a year of tweaking with it, came up with a process of going from log-line, to summary, to full-fledged outline that rooted out all tangents of the story and covered plot holes before I even wrote one word of manuscript. Well worth the $100 investment.
Investment #3: Want to be the Best? Study the best!
Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write.”
I read a variety of genres so that my writing and style is diverse and well rounded. I love biographies to study the lives of interesting people who’ve shaped the world, particularly those who come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds as myself. I consume thrillers to find out what keeps a reader on the edge of their seat. Stephen King is a master at suspense and world building, providing you with so much information (and so succinctly too) the reader intimately knows his characters. Lee Child is one of my favorite writers because his stories and plots are relatively simple and straight forward and his writing style matches that, yet for all its simplicity, Lee Child is a thoroughly enjoyable writer. His books taught me that even though I write fantasy, I shouldn’t have to rely on magic and mysticism or complex plots with ninety-three characters to write a great story. The story speaks for itself and the writing is an extension of that. But had I never ventured beyond fantasy, because many writers refuse to read outside their genre, I would have missed out on an opportunity to learn how to craft a heart-pounding story that doesn’t need cheap thrills to entertain.