When I became serious about writing and admitted that it was more than a hobby to myself, I signed up for a Novel Writing Class. In the end, I ended up taking two such courses, attending an Advanced Creative Writing course as well. Even though neither met all of my expectations, they taught me lot and got me going in the right direction.
For me, learning is twofold. There is the instructional part where you are told what not to and what to do. Then there are examples – the learn by doing part. With only a few handouts at the beginning of class, most of which we never took time to go over or discuss, the course focused on “doing.” For some multi-session participants, it was what got them writing with a weekly deadline. Thankfully, I don’t need an impetus to get me writing . . . I generally need one to stop me writing (My husband is no longer a fan of extended battery life laptops, since running out of juice is the only sure way to get me off the computer. Of course, I have lots of journals for backup!).
I had the typical learning curve of most writers: too many adjectives or adverbs, improper comma use, awkward phrasing. Since producing material wasn’t a problem, I had plenty of time between classes to improve structure and phrasing. One of the best parts of my Novel Writing course was that every participant got a copy of your week’s work to mark up as you read out loud. They were handed back that night. The teacher gave you her copy the next week. After reading, five minutes of immediate feedback were given, most of which I scribbled down on my copy. All of this provided great comments that I could take home and mull over.
Which I did. Especially the one night where I was ripped apart for specifically using an adjective that, low and behold, another budding author used later the same night. Only she was praised for it. What the @#**%^$! gives? That is what I was wondering.
Sure, it would have been easy to just say that I was the new girl while the other author was a long time participant in the class. Or that we worked different genres: she was working on a memoir while I was in the beginning of my epic fantasy novel Born of Water. Those are just rationalizations, but they did hit on a good point.
Most of the participants were non-fiction writers with a sprinkling of tales developed from fictionalized life. There were three of us who broached into the realm of deep fantasy. Due to those statistics and the basic information provided in the class, there was never a discussion on genre trends. If I wanted some feedback on what was good writing in fantasy, I was going to have to look elsewhere on my own (okay, I’m also a pain in the @ss and don’t take “you’re doing it wrong” in a contrary fashion very well. Actually, that tends to spur me on . . . . ).
So I went to my bookshelf and pulled down four novels written by fantasy authors. I photocopied pages looking for a mix of dialogue and descriptive sentences. Then I spent some time with pens highlighting the adjectives, adverbs, and other phrases or words I’d been “written up” for in class.
Want to know what I found?
My use of said words was perfectly in reason (haha). I could always strive to do better, but I wasn’t overdoing it. I went to the next class with a bit (lot) more confidence and took some of the recommendations with a dose salt!
Below are sections from four of the novels I used to compare my writing to with the various words that were at issue in the class picked out. How do you measure up?
AND . . . if you noticed I blacked out the book and authors names . . . . WELL, there is a good reason for that. I thought I’d put a bit of a challenge out there. First person to email me with all four of the correct authors AND books (heck, two of them should be wicked easy), I’ll send you a free e-copy of Rule of Fire when it is published this spring!
I don’t think it has to do with quality but with an attempt to modernize the writing process.
I read best selling authors from 10-20 years ago. They have scores of adjectives in their text but I never really notice it, I don’t understand the fuss about adjectives.
That is a refreshing thing to hear. There certainly is a lot of fuss over adjective use. I hear it from publishers, writing groups, and information on line. It would be so freeing to just ignore it!
Are you a writer as well?
I am first and foremost a reader, but I like to think I’m also a writer.