As long as it takes to write the first draft of a book (I mean, normally, not the 8 first drafts I went through for my current WIP), I think it takes 10 times longer to revise it into something worthy of an agent or editor. Or writing teacher, because I want to prove I was paying attention in class 🙂 .
Fourth round of revision, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s stuff to adjust in the storyline. Go figure. I mean, of course each round of revision means refining the story, fine-tuning the plot, tweaking the characters. That’s the whole point. At this point in the process, part of me just wants to toss it aside and work on something that’s much, much closer to a worthy finished product (like that manuscript I queried for two years that I went back to read and now know how to improve).
I have two weeks before I turn the manuscript in to my writing teacher. It’s my “final”, the last task in my journey toward a writing certificate, which does nothing more than give me a bit of “street cred”, but has also been good for learning the craft.
That’s what it’s all about, right? Learning the craft. Practicing what we learn. Learn some more. Keep practicing. The key, though, is having someone review our progress and guide us on improving the craft. It doesn’t do any good to practice the golf swing if you never get that one piece of advice that could knock your handicap down a stroke or two.
We need critique partners to look at a story from the outside, point out weaknesses, and suggest ways to improve the story. We need beta readers to get a wider perspective of the story and ensure we keep the reader’s interest and enjoyment of the overall story.
I would add that we need writing teachers or coaches every so often to help us learn better ways or different ways to build the story with stronger material, better technique, and guide us to become a better writer than we were last month or last year. If you don’t know shifting your grip a quarter-inch will knock a stroke off that drive, you’ll never lower your handicap.
And no, I have no idea where all the golf comparisons came from. I don’t even play golf!
Practice will help us improve. Critique partners and editors will help us improve. Craft books help us learn things we can do to improve our craft. But there’s something to be said about taking a writing class, attending a writing webinar or seminar, or working directly with a coach.
When asked what the best thing I’ve done in my writing journey has been, I will always say choosing to attend a week-long, novel-writing master class and taking online creative writing courses. I have learned so many things (not all of them have stuck, however 🙂 ) over the past few years that I would do it all again just for the refresher.
Okay, so this ended up being an ode to writing teachers. Seriously, though, I feel fortunate to have found a writing teacher (and writing sisters!) who, to this day, continues to inspire and sit on my shoulder like the proverbial angel (devil?), whispering about scene goals, ticking time bombs, touchstones, and sidekicks.
If there’s a National Writing Teachers’ Day, let me know, because I need to send my writing teacher a bottle of wine and some chocolate 😀
Keep on writing!