Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter Writer #1: Self-study

"The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn't know enough to take vacation." -Clarence Day (American humorist & writer, 1874-1935)

When planning out my writing goals for December, I felt stalled. It wasn't The Dreaded Block; I have new ideas I can't wait to pursue and new techniques I'm looking forward to trying, but I also felt burned out. It's no surprise following the hectic schedule of NaNoWriMo. I decided this December would be an excellent time to hibernate - That is, instead of diving into a new writing project, I would take the time to regather my strength, refill the creative well, and explore things I've been putting aside. I'm considering making this a yearly endeavor, kind of like "renewing" a license.

This writing repose will also help me flex my creative muscles in new ways. Think of it as writing yoga - I hope to emerge in the new year with new writing muscles and inspiration. Of course, there's no substitute for writing and reading. But I don't want to just write - I want to grow as a writer and keep trying new things.

This month, I'll be focusing on three areas: self-study, bunny farming, and newing/renewing.

Winter Writer
Part 1: Self-study

Oh, how I wish I could attend WorldCon and spend a week at a writing retreat and take a few years off to earn an MFA! Alas, 'tis not to be. At least, not this lifetime.

My current "study hall" - chocolate not optional!
Instead, when I decided to become "serious" about pursuing writing, I knew I would have to "homeschool" myself. Think about some of the things you've taught yourself. I bet you can think of more than a few! It's easier than ever now, with access to the internet. Over the years I've accumulated quite a few volumes on writing. Oh, and there's all those internet sites I've bookmarked but never read, and all the blogs I've favorited but haven't gotten around to perusing yet...

Well, now's the time! I broke out some blank notebooks and colorful pens and page tabs. It's like studying for the SAT/GRE all over again! I read a section or a chapter, and then take notes or try out writing exercises. I make comments in the margins and highlight areas I want to revisit.

And it's been fun! I can feel the writing exercises and knowledge flexing my creative muscles and churning up new ideas.

Go through the archives of some of your favorite writing blogs. Read the biographies of favorite writers. Get out those dusty issues of Writer's Digest you've been hoarding. Your curriculum will be up to you!

Here are some of resources on my "syllabus" this month:

On Writing by Stephen King - King lays the writing process bare in this book on the craft.
45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt - Uses ancient mythology structure as creative templates.
Take Ten for Writers by Bonnie Neubauer - Mini writing exercises to get the creative juices flowing.

Nathan Bransford, Author - One of the most well known writing authorities out there. Tons of tips for writers hoping to publish.
Writer's Digest - A leading authority on the writing and publishing process. Delve into their article archives for some real gems.
YA Highway - A massive compilation of information on the YA genre, with articles about everything from creativity to diversity in YA.

2012 Writer's Market - The writing Bible. This massive tome lists agents, publishers, magazines, and contests, all with submission guidelines.
Dan Wells on Story Structure - Dan Wells (author of The John Cleaver series) presents story structure in an intuitive and thought provoking way. I learned so much from this! Watch the videos and download the presentation.

What is, or what would be, on your self-made Writing 101 syllabus? Are there some resources you've bookmarked but haven't gotten around to actually using yet?

P.S. Just a few days left to enter the Holiday Giveaway!


  1. You should check out Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. It is my favorite writing book, even though it is for screenwriters. It really helped me learn how to plot my books. I also love Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (an agent).

  2. @Liz: Both of those are on my Amazon wishlist. Maybe it's time for an early holiday present, from myself to myself. ;)

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