Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Writing Classes: One Size Does Not Fit All

Writing is an interesting thing to learn, because nobody’s processes are the same, nobody learns the same, nobody focuses on the same things while actually writing, and there’s no guarantee that something that was an epiphany for one person will even resonate with someone else.

When I was younger, I tried reading some writing books and gave up on the whole lot of them because they weren’t working for me. They either were telling me things I already understood, or the techniques they were suggesting seemed weird and arbitrary.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that when you read a writing book or take a writing class, nothing is ever going to be a perfect fit, because everyone is different. So, what you do is take when does work for you, what does resonate, and you drop the stuff that doesn’t.

Sometimes there will be that near-perfect class that snaps something you weren’t quite getting into perspective. And sometimes there will be a class that rubs you wrong the whole way through and you only emerge with a couple of new tidbits that kind of work.

The important thing to remember is that just because a class doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. I just finished up a flash fiction course that a friend took and found very helpful, but the process rubbed me wrong the whole way through. Is it a bad class? No. It just didn’t work for me. Process thing. I still picked up a few things that will be good to think about in the future, even so.

So, how do you know if a class will work for you? Well–you don’t until you try. As time goes on, you’ll be able to tell what sorts of things work for you versus what doesn’t (for example, I hate writing to prompts just to write to prompts, and anything that promises “writing exercises” will pretty much make me want to scream) so you’ll be able to make some decisions based on class/book descriptions. If you know other writers with similar processes to yours, what worked for them might work for you. But otherwise–who knows? And something that might not sound great at first glance might be perfect.

What has worked for you? Any classes/books you found amazing? Any you found not so great?

The Dark Truth About Editing

I learned something the other day that I’d never realized before.

Before we get into this, watch this short clip from the Simpsons.

Anyway, what I learned was that what we consider editing is not really editing. It’s really two separate processes: revision, and then editing.

Technically, when we cut things and move things about to improve content, we are revising. And when we check grammar, spelling, and punctuation, we are editing.

Now, this is admittedly nothing more than semantics. “Editing” has been expanded over the years to include most everything past the writing part of the process: revision, proofreading, and even formatting can be considered editing by publishing standards.

But I admit that learning this gave me a bit of a start. How was it that I, a professional editor of many years, didn’t technically know this distinction? How many other editors are also unaware of it?
It just goes to show that you can learn something new at any time. I know, at times, it can be easy to say that you know what you’re doing, that you’ve got nothing left to learn, and sometimes it can feel that way, when you see the same information over and over, but it’s always good to keep an open mind.

After all, who knows what will be the next piece of information to rock your world?

Ever learned anything that made you pause? (Writing or otherwise?)

In other news, Squiders, I’ve set up an email list for anyone who’d like to get news about new stories I have available, when I have contests or sales going, other interesting things, and occasionally landsquid. (As a bonus, I’ll also offer subscribers a chance to join another list that can get you stories and stuff for free!) You can join by clicking “Get updates!” in the menu bar above, or by going here!

Marketing to Distraction

I’ve noticed something lately. I, like many people, I suspect, have a limited amount of time every day to spend on writing-related activities. These activities include:

  • Plotting/planning
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Marketing
  • Publishing activities
  • Ancillary activities, like blogging or market research

I would like to break these down a bit, so, say, I always have half an hour to an hour for actual writing, and maybe another half an hour for marketing/publishing activities, but that doesn’t seem to be the way things are working out at the moment.

So everything is currently coming out of the same well of time. And with the current climate of publishing, where authors are increasingly in charge of their own marketing, it behooves people to be aware of marketing techniques and to keep up with new and changing marketing trends.

And I realized lately that I seem to be denoting the majority of my writing time pool to marketing. But not, like, actual marketing. Learning about marketing. Taking marketing classes, readings marketing blogs, going to marketing webinars. Most are writing-related, but some are just general marketing.

Am I procrastinating? Is it an excuse to not do any real marketing, because I’m still “learning”? (Though, at this point, everything’s starting to sound the same and I’m pretty sure I’m not getting anything new out of anything.) Is it something that makes it seem like I’m being productive when I’m really not?

I hope to be able to better utilize my time now that I’ve realized what I’ve been doing. But I thought I’d bring it up in case other people are unknowingly (or in denial about) doing the same thing. Learning is well and good, but if you’re not getting anything done, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Have you ever realized you were trapped in the illusion of productivity? And to stick with marketing, what is the most useful thing you’ve found works?

(In other good news, my Kit Campbell Books and Kit the Editor websites are back up. They did lose some of the more recent content, so I will need to get them back up to date, but if you need general info, it’s all there, so go and take a look!)

The Trouble with MMOs–Or Why I Haven’t Touched One in 10+ Years

Well, dear Squiders, I have a bit of an addictive personality. This sounds like a lovely thing, like people think you’re so great they just want to hang out with you all the time, but unfortunately what it really means is that it’s easy to get hooked on something to the detriment of the rest of your life.

Luckily for me, mine has always been pretty minor, and I’ve trained myself to be responsible even when I don’t want to be. It’s also extremely sporadic, and my “addictions” don’t tend to last very long.

Video and computer games tend to be a weak point for me, but I’ve found ways around this, such as playing games with episodes (typically beatable in a few hours as most) or online games where you only have a set amount of energy so you can’t play for that long. And I am royally terrible at any games that require me to use a joystick to move around, so that frustration also helps.

But MMOs–especially MMORPGs–are the worst. Basically, these games are giant worlds where you create your own character and run around doing quests for NPCs. There’s also a main storyline, if you want, and you can join guilds, fight other players, or work beside them to take down bosses and dungeons.

There’s always something more to do, and there’s no set break points, so it’s easy to run around for hours, killing spiders and carting letters between villages and learning how to farm or make armor.

In college I played an MMORPG called Dark Ages of Camelot, which was brilliant and lovely and very interesting, but it ate up all my time. Sure, I made it to class and practice, but I would get sucked in and eke out play time whenever I could. It wasn’t good. I swore off MMOs.

And I hadn’t touched one since. Til yesterday.

I’ve talked about Coursera here before, but I started a class that compares video games to literature and also explores storytelling across different mediums. (Or so the course promises, anyway.) And I’ve been really excited for it. But part of the class is to play Lord of the Rings Online which is, you guessed it, a MMORPG.

So I installed the game, created my character, and completed the tutorial. And then I spent another three hours running around, killing spiders, yelling at hobbits (hobbit errands are the worst, I’m going back to Bree-land), and also getting my butt handed to me by said spiders.

On one hand, I’m really interested to see how playing LOTRO ties into the subject matter of the course. (Maybe we’ll even discuss the tendency of people to get addicted to MMOs. That would be helpful.) But on the other hand, I’m worried that this is a bad idea, and that I’m getting myself into something that is going to negatively impact my life.

On yet another hand, one long gaming day does not mean anything. I mean, I played five hours for two days on Skyrim, and then never touched the game again. (Skyrim is fairly similar to an MMO, except without the other people. Also, you can teleport between places you’ve been, which MMOs should really get on because boo to running all over the place.)

Should I get out while I still can, Squiders? Or do I give myself the benefit of the doubt for a little longer, see how the gameplay ties into the the coursework? (In the interest of full disclosure, playing the game is not a required part of the class, though it does seem like you’re missing out on most of the content if you don’t.)

Microsoft Word Tutorials?

So, here’s a questions, Squiders. Well, actually, here’s an elaborate set-up, and there will eventually be a question at the end.

As you know, in my professional capacity I am an editor, and I also offer document formatting, such as preparing manuscripts for publication, either as print or ebooks.

And occasionally I will get manuscripts where it seems like people are still using a computer like a typewriter, or something else, that makes me think that perhaps it might be worth it to put together some Microsoft Word tutorials.

I’d probably make them available for a few dollars each.

Is this something that people would be interested in? If so, what sorts of things would you be interested in seeing? I could do basic Word functionality or focus things more on publishing techniques.

Or am I crazy, and perhaps I shouldn’t bother? (The business part of me – admittedly fairly small – says I shouldn’t so people will continue to pay me to format their documents for them.)

Let me know.

Are Writing Conferences Worth It?

It seems like a lot of people have been living somewhat vicariously through my writing conference experience. I am one of only a few of my writing friends who have ever been to one.

That part’s not rocket science. Writing conferences are expensive. It’s hard to justify spending so much money all at once. Well, maybe not if you’re a millionaire. And if you are, we should be friends. Yeeees.

(For those of you who are wondering how much writing conferences cost, well, it’s in the multiple hundreds of dollars, not including hotel or airfare if it’s not in your home town.)

So, are they worth your time and money? The answer is: maybe.

1. Beginners
If you’re a beginner writer, I would tell you to save your money for later. The conference may have panels aimed at beginners, with explanations of how plot or characterization work, but I’ve found that until you’ve got at least a completed first draft under your belt, a lot of it goes over your head. Writing is the best teacher at this point, figuring out how your personal writing style works and where your problem spots are. Wait.

2. Intermediate
These are people who have a few books under their belts, perhaps have sold a short story or two. If this is you, you will probably find a conference helpful. You know where your weak spots are, so you can attend workshops aimed at helping those areas. Plus, if you’re getting ready to start submitting, you can learn how to write or have your queries and synopses critiqued.

3. Those Who Are Submitting
The single most-useful thing about a conference is it allows you to interact with agents, editors, and published authors, all of whom are willing to give you a hand. And, in the cases of editors and agents, listen to your pitches. It gives you the opportunity to either bypass the query process or, when you do query, maybe have made an impression before hand so the agent/editor kind of remembers who you are.

4. Published Authors
I am not traditionally published, so I cannot tell you if attending a writers’ conference (as an attendee, not a workshop-leader) is useful or not. I’m going to lean towards no – you already have an agent and/or editor, and they probably tell you where your weak spots are.

5. Indie Authors
I’m going to go on “depends” for this section. Self-publishing and indie publishing is generally becoming more accepted, so whether or not you run into militant traditional people varies. It is a good way to network, but it might be easier (and cheaper) to find a critique or writing group in your area. But if you’re looking to improve your writing craft, it’s probably worth it.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Learning to Write

Over lunch this past weekend, my stepmother mentioned to me that she’d been talking to someone in college who had decided he wanted to be a writer and wanted some advice on becoming one.

Well, there’s really only one way to become a writer. You have to write.

You can read writing books, take creative writing courses, and plan out stories all you want, but until you sit down and start writing on a regular basis, it’ll never happen.

You may understand, on some level, how putting together a story works, but until you try it yourself, you won’t get it. And sure, some of the stuff at the beginning will probably be terrible. You may look back in five years and want to burn everything.

As Stephen King said, it takes a million words of crap before you get any good at it.

So, if you want to be a writer, just start writing. You don’t need an English or a creative writing degree. (Some people even say that you shouldn’t get a creative writing degree if you want to write fiction, but your mileage may vary. I have two engineering degrees so I have no opinion on the matter.) You don’t need to read every writing book known to man (of which there are more than you can read in one life-time anyway) – and you shouldn’t, anyway, since they don’t work for everyone. You don’t need to deconstruct your favorite novels to see what makes them tick.

What you need to do is be able to sit down and complete a story, start to finish, without getting bogged down by details and frustrations that can be fixed in rewrites.

If you want to be a writer, write.

End of story.