I am about to start my 14th class, though some have not specifically been on creative writing, they are all by renowned writers in some genre.
At about number five I started to worry that I was becoming obsessed with taking the classes and needed to stop learning and start writing. I did start writing, but then went back for more and I am glad I did. The more varied authors I listen to the more I realize that what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. But wait, there's more - they contradict each other!
One author will be absolutely adamant that you have to follow his rules, and another, equally famous and successful author, will contradict those rules. For instance, Dan Brown feels very strongly that you must get every detail correct. He recommended not just Google and library research but also traveling to locations and ensuring that descriptions are exact. James Patterson, equally famous, considers this a waste of time; he believes that all you need is the internet and imagination. I tend to agree with the latter, when I was reading Inferno I found myself skipping the descriptive paragraphs in order to get back to the story. I wonder if the cost of travel could be claimed against your taxes if it were for research purposes, hmmm. Of course, in order to pay taxes you would first need to publish and sell.
Dan Brown said in his Masterclass that he believed readers needed these to give them a rest from the cliff hangers or fast pace of the story. Many of those skipped paragraphs contained the detail gathered from the authors trips to the location. Perhaps some readers enjoyed it, for me it was an irritant, I would have been happy with "it was beautiful" now lets get on with the chase.
Those I have completed so far include writers of every genre - thrillers, comics, romance, historic, mystery, humor, children and young adult stories, screenplays, social issues and more. They are all successful writers and they all had valuable information to share. Most I had heard of and read, some I had never heard of but, after the class, I bought at least one of their books to see their lessons put into practice.
It is hard to say which were my favorites, I learned something useful from all of them. There were a few hints that were common to all.
- If you want to be a writer, then you are a writer you just got to write.
- Keep a notebook at all times and write down everything you see and hear that you feel might be useful.
- Read your story aloud.
- Write, review, edit, repeat.
- If it is superfluous to your story, cut it out.
- The opening line, sentence, paragraph is all important but don't sweat over it, what you originally start with will change as the story develops.
- The ending is equally important, don't sweat over it for the same reasons.
- The title is important.
- The cover is important.
- Finally, writer's block doesn't exist - just write!
Of all of the classes I have taken so far, Judy Blume is probably my favorite, and I am currently reading her book 'In the Unlikely Event' which I am totally engrossed in - it is another one to keep me on the treadmill. After her, Amy Tan and Phil Sedaris with a special mention for Roxane Gay. I have to say I loved them all and I have learned a lot from each one of them, even if what I learned was to unlearn something from the previous class!