Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continuing Education For Authors

Over the weekend, I submitted a piece for a writing book. I included my thoughts, opinions, and advice on such topics as writers block, pantsing vs. plotting, and editing, as well as on staying educated about this fabulous profession known as making up stories for a living.

Writing, as with any job, requires that authors stay up to date on styles, trends, and technology, and that they constantly work to improve their technique and craft. To compare writing to other professions: Architects don't graduate from college and never take another class, or never invest in industry journals and further education as a means to continue learning. Some professions even require a certain number of classroom hours every so many years for a professional to maintain accreditation or certification. Authors who want to maintain an edge need to continue their education, as well.

How? Writers can attend workshops, conventions, or take creative writing courses. I took two long-term writing courses at the Long Ridge Writers Group, one in writing for short stories, and one for writing novels. These two classes were invaluable as a means of learning what it takes to be a bona fide author. While they focus primarily on what it takes to get in print with a big publishing house vs. how to self-publish, I believe that writers must learn to walk before they run. And walking involves learning the industry and what it takes to get published the traditional way before running off to self-publish. Those who simply say, "I want to write and self-publish a book," but have no basis for what it takes to be traditionally published, miss a huge chunk of knowledge that can make their writing the best it can be. In short, just because writers can self-publish now and circumvent the traditional route doesn't mean they don't need to know how the industry works and how to write. Courses, classes, and workshops help fill that gap.

Another way to maintain a writing edge is to read books on craft. There are books on all facets of writing, including showing vs. telling, how to write a book in a month, how to build a series bible, how to edit, and how NOT to write a novel. Below are some of my favorite books on writing. Go through each and determine which would best suit where you are and what you need to learn right now. A couple of the books at the bottom of the list are stellar and have average ratings that float just under 5 stars on Amazon.

By no means is this list all-encompassing. I own each of the above books, but own many more that I left off the list. The point is, there are hundreds or even thousands of books on writing craft that you can buy to help you improve your writing. You can spend hours on Amazon going to the additional books they recommend when you pull up a new book to view.

When I read one of these books (or even just a chapter in one of these books), I often come away inspired or with tons of ideas. If you're stuck in your story, try picking up one of these books for a while, and watch the magic happen as your mind starts to come back to life. Soon, you won't be stuck, anymore, and you'll be writing like a pro again.

Happy Writing!

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