Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Education of a Writer

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.
Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990)

Several years ago, when I first started writing seriously, and by that I mean with the intent to sell, I needed and approach... for a lot of things. The first question that my online friends asked me was, “Are you a member of Romance Writers of America?” I was not. I had no idea what RWA was! They told me that I simply must join. MUST? Being the ignorant, innocent, trusting soul that I am, I thought, “Hmm, perhaps I had better check into this group.”

Therefore, I went online and found the RWA website. “Gee, they look pretty legit. I wonder if they have a local chapter? Gee, they do! The Magnolia State Romance Writers.” I went to the MSRW website. Wow! They’re having a meeting this week! I e-mailed the local President and asked if it would be all right if I attended. She graciously extended an invitation. It was the beginning of many friendships, without which, I do not know what I would do.

Let me tell you about Romance Writers of America. If you are an aspiring writer, like I am, an organization of this sort is essential to your success. It is an association of published and unpublished writers, from all over the world. Its only aims are the promotion of the Romance genre and helping one another. That specifically includes new writers. The philosophy seems to be, “Come play in our sand box, and we’ll just make it bigger for everyone.” The organization has an enormous mentoring program. Every member that I have met has been unfailingly generous with their time and advice. In a short blog, I cannot begin to list all of the benefits that are offered. To tell you the truth...I don’t even yet know all the benefits offered. I’m still finding new ones everyday. However, I would like to focus on one, which to me is priceless.

In my last blog, I quoted Edward Gibbon about lacking training and knowledge. I was not kidding. I have an undergraduate degree in English from a fine college, and yet not a single class in creative writing. Not only that, but it was forty years ago! How much do you remember from last week? The important thing for me is that RWA has online chapters, which offer classes, at reasonable rates, taught by experts. These classes cover everything from the nuts and bolts construction of a story through the organization of the global publishing industry. Do you want to build a world in another galaxy? There are classes available. How does the FBI work? Take a class. Did you say that you don’t have a marketing pan? Quick, you have to take the class.

Over the last year, I have been OD-ing on classes taught through the Outreach International (OIRW) chapter of RWA. I cannot praise this group and its wonderful instructors enough. However, they are not the only branch of RWA to offer classes. In the list, Very Useful; Very Important, on the left side of this page you will find links to many wonderful writing organizations. Many have free online articles that the novice writer will find invaluable. Please, surf the list. You won’t be sorry.

Happy writing,


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future


Tammy said...

Thank you for the great information Francis!

I'm only doing short stories (under 10,000 words) the information is also helpful. Case in point - I'm tryng to discover if it would it be correct for a police Officer to own a Corvette, if he wasn't on the take? Maybe he should be just a patrol Officer, but maybe a higher grade, but he'd still have to be in uniform for the first meeting.........

Off to work on it.

Keep up the writing Francis!

Frances said...

Hi Tammy. I am glad that you found the information helpful. You didn't say if you are a member of RWA. Since you are writing about police, I am sure that you would find their Kiss of Death Chaper helpful. You should also know about Sisters in Crime:
It is an important resource for your genre.

Happy writing,


Jess said...

Hi Frances,

I found your comment on PBW (Lynn Viehl)'s blog and thought I'd say hi. I write Fantasy/Romance.

I'm 22 and I have a degree in creative writing from a fine university. Let me tell you one thing: it doesn't matter to anybody but me. The things I learned earning my degree YOU can learn just as easily whether or not you take an online class or not. The only true way to learn this gig is to keep doing it. :)

(But if you ARE going to do classes and join a group and stuff, RWA is definitely the place to go.) Just wanted to give you that note of encouragement. The only thing that matters is that you keep writing because you'll learn just by doing it (and reading, too).

In Lynn Viehl's immortal words, "Don't give up. It annoys the cynics."

Frances said...

Hi Jess.

Thank you so much for your encouragement. You are so right about *doing* being the best way of learning in this business.

I think that getting the terminology has been one of the important things that I have gotten from the classes. Structure too. Also, where else could I get a trauma class taught by an MD, and a marketing class taught by a marketing executive? Self editing is the next goal.

I went over to your blog. It is beautiful. I can't wait to read the whole thing. LOL

Time is too short to waste reading or writing anything less than the really good stuff. :-)


All things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Tammy said...

Hi Francis,

Sorry to take so long in replying back. Been busy, I figured out what my cop needed to be/do, and finished the story, sent it to a beta reader and got it back, did a few rewrites and sent it to publisher. Now I wait.

Oh, and as for your question of do I am in the RWA, unfortunately, nope, can't afford it.
Happy holidays!

Frances said...

Tammy, best of luck with the sale of your story. There are loads of online websites that offer free info. Also the classes offered by various chapters of RWA are usually open to non-members, and still quite inexpensive. If you have trouble finding something in a regular search engine, let me know. You never know what I might have stored away in years of bookmarks. *G*