With due respect to Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady and Pygmalion fame, I’ve figured out how to get published as a writer:
“Well, duh-h-h!” I hear you blurt, as if I had made the stupidest proclamation in the long-suffering history of the “Aspiring Writer,” henceforth known as the “AW.” Of course, the AW needs to get better so he can drop the “A” from his introduction and simply and proudly answer the question “What do you do?” with a modest chuckle and a less modest “I’m a writer.” At which point the writing groupies (male or female) swoon at the foot of the writer (female or male … or vice versa), and agents and publishers commit misdemeanors and/or felonies while trying to sign you up for a ten-book deal or long-term representation.
What is always way-y-y easier to figure out than How. What? Become a better writer. How? Take a damn class!
If not that, then read a damn book. Go to a damn conference. Attend a damn writing class (live or online). Take a damn W (Writer, as in published writer) out to lunch and pick her brain until it bleeds and you are certain that every secret this woman ever knew about how to write publishable work has been sucked from her brain for the low low price of a three-white zinfandel lunch at Chez Tu Riche Por Vous.
My (most recent) breakthrough came via an online class offered by Margie Lawson. Check her out. She gets it. She directly helps AWs become Ws. She knows what sells, at least for genre fiction and commercial literature, but what she teaches should be in every writer’s quiver. Good stuff. Basics that I didn’t know I didn’t know.
The class is about “Deep Editing.” The focus of the class is to revise a story in ways that make it more powerful, emotion-packed, compelling prose that readers will enjoy reading. But it doesn’t matter what class you take. If you (and me) are still an AW, the main reason is probably that you (and me) are just not good enough.
So anyway, during one assignment for the class I was scanning my WIP for examples of metaphor and simile that I had written (too few, which in itself was revealing) when the strangest thing happened.
I was also noting a sentence that could be improved with the use of Asyndeton, another that would work better with Polysyndeton, another that might be improved with backloading, another that had a good power word, another that needed a power
word, a weak attempt at Anaphora that I knew I could fix with a new phrase or sentence. An Epistrophe here, Litotes there, here a blue, there a pink, everywhere a highlight. (Oops, got carried away!) Stuff that I had learned earlier in the class.
In other words, I was thinking like a real writer! One who went from reading his prose over and over, knowing it was weak, not knowing how to fix it; to a writer who gets it…. well, gets at least some of it now. A writer who can revise with the confidence that his writing will sound better, read better, carry greater emotional impact, keep her turning the pages as fast as possible. Not just a writer who cleans up grammar mistakes, typos, and plugs holes in the plot.
I was truly amazed at the change, all in only two weeks. I can hardly wait to see what I’ll be thinking and writing by the end of the month. Learning can’t take the place of executing, but the former is necessary before the latter can be realized. I’ve added a building block to my foundation. Another set of tools to my writer’s tool belt.
If this AW can improve his writing, everyone can. But improve it by learning from those who know what it takes to achieve quality, however you define it in your writing journey
I’ll leave you with one final thought, a phrase that I’ve come to believe more and more as I age:
The more I learn, the more I discover what I don’t know.
What have you learned about writing that has moved you a step closer to your writing goal? Or any other goal you have?