By Henry McLaughlin
James Scott Bell posted a blog called Don’t Ever Mail It In where he wrote about the attitude that we’ve reached a certain point in our writing where we don’t have to improve.
What struck me most is his definition of a real writer. It’s someone who honors the craft and never settles.
In this blog, I’m going to expand on a couple of his points.
One is something every writer has heard before. My paraphrase is great writers are great readers. And great writers don’t just stick to their genre. They read widely, exploring how other writers apply the craft.
We need to be intentional about studying the craft. I’m committing to doing something every week. Will you join me?
I’m going to focus on specific areas of the craft to address my writing needs.
Not sure where to begin? Ask your critique partners for input. I know my partners see needs in areas where I think I’m fine. And I’m blessed they are honest enough to tell me in constructive ways.
Bell identifies seven critical success factors in the craft:
Meaning or theme
I would add an eighth: the setting or story world.
I see theme as my weakest area. My writing partners may have a different perspective and I look forward to their suggestions.
Following Bell’s advice, I’m going to develop a six-week self-study program for this area.
First, I’ll read books and articles.
Second, if there’s a conference coming up, I’ll look to see if it offers classes in the area of theme. If not, I’ll explore podcast and webinars and blogs.
Third, I’ll practice, practice, practice.
Finally, I’ll get feedback from others.
With some planning, I could develop a strategy to raise the level of each of these eight areas over the course of the next year following this format.
This system of learning can also be applied to being intentional about the business of writing.
Some of the critical factors in this area are:
Imagine developing a self-study program for each of these.
What critical factors of the craft of writing and the business of writing are you weakest at?
What would prevent you from developing a plan to address them? How could you overcome these obstacles?
What other factors would you add to those already listed here?
Henry McLaughlin’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He serves as Associate Director of Story Help Groups (formerly North Texas Christian Writers). Besides writing fiction, Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.