On Writing: How I’m Trying to Get Better

As I’ve shared in other posts, I come to writing first as a reader, a lover of books and TV and movie stories. I wanted to write my own and tell my own, and just am in love with words, basically.

In the interest of knowing my own self and being proud of the work I know I can do, I do believe I am a writer; I think I can write well. But being able to write well and write a good novel, I’ve learned, are two very different things. And I’ve had a great education, but I don’t have a creative writing degree, I don’t have a masters in this and haven’t studied at any special programs or participated in any special workshops or fellowships. Sometimes, I’ve let that worry me, as if that somehow disqualifies me from being a published author, but I decided early on that while degrees and special programs can certainly enhance your abilities and give you great experiences, I wasn’t going to allow not having those things to keep me from learning, growing and pushing myself as a writer. After all, only I can do that – take charge of my own learning, my own work. Only I can put my mind and my hands to the work I feel called to do. Having all the degrees and experience in the world won’t make that happen.

So in the interest of pushing myself to grow, beside reading a ton of other authors in a wide variety of genres (Which has been really difficult for me during this Covid season, to be completely honest…I seem to be able to write again, but getting lost in other people’s stories…I’m struggling. It’s not them, it’s me. I just haven’t been able to fully immerse my brain like I’d like, to truly let go. I’m just too tied to our current reality and the ever-changing news and my own sense of uncertainty about our futures. But that’s ok, my ability to read will come back, it ebbs and flows. If the future is anything like the past, I go through seasons of only wanting to read and I read like mad, and then I go through seasons where I only want to watch movies or TV and absorb stories that way. Either way, it’s ok. Grace!) – I am trying to read more books about the craft of writing.

All that to say, Lisa Cron’s books have rocked my world this year and completely revolutionized the way I’m approaching drafting. I can’t say enough about much I’ve learned and how I feel that this approach (figuring out your main characters’ key misbelief and how you’re going to challenge that misbelief throughout, to fuel the character’s internal change and the whole story) was honestly just such a relief!

When I look at graphs of plotting or try to break down my story through other methods writers use, I honestly get so frustrated and feel like I’m trying to learn Greek or Latin, or that my story has turned into a math problem. But this approach, while still requiring a lot of work up front, is work that I feel able to do – answering a bunch of questions about my character’s motivations, writing backstory scenes, really fleshing out your scenes and how each one is going to continue poking at the misbelief your character holds – it’s figure-outable! I don’t think I can say it makes writing easier, because every book is hard and there’s not a lot about the process that’s easy. There is no easy button for this stuff. But her books have given me a road map, a guide to follow and now, I don’t feel lost, like I have with previous stories.

If something isn’t working, I can go back and figure out why and figure out a way forward that still keeps the engine of the story going. What books or resources are you reading that are helping you grow in the craft of writing?