Grammar Joke

Today’s post is a fun one. Here is an image I downloaded several months ago from theCHIVE, because I’m a nerd who thinks grammar jokes are funny.

 

Happy writing all!

James Patterson’s Masterclass

I have Facebook to thank for this one. I’d never heard of Masterclass until the Facebook ads, in their infinite targeted wisdom, displayed a page for James Patterson’s 2017 Co-Author Competition. Of course it caught my interest right away. Author a book with James Patterson? Yes please!

The contest was simple: submit a 1,000 word sample chapter and a 2 sentence book hook. It wasn’t open to just anyone, though, only students of James Patterson’s Masterclass. If you’ve never heard of Masterclass, it’s a site where experts from almost any field you can think of offer online classes teaching everyday people how they do what they do. I’ve only taken the one class, but others include: Steve Martin teaches comedy, Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking, and Reba McEntire teaches country music. You get the idea. Currently there are at least 20 classes offered.  $90.00 signs you up for the class and grants you lifetime access to all the lessons and materials available.

So I signed up. The lessons are all videos that you move through at your own pace, each lasting up to half an hour. James Patterson discusses his own writing process and coaches you on how to emulate him in your own work. As the bestselling author in the world, he’s worth listening to.

I learned a lot from James Patterson. He’s a very interesting man, and he shares many anecdotes and life experiences over the course of the class. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be taking all of his lessons to heart.

There are some points that are basic to every story, regardless of what the author is trying to accomplish. You need to have believable characters, you need them to have engaging dialogue, you need to keep driving your plot forward with each chapter. These lessons I’ll keep. But.

If you’re familiar with James Patterson’s books then you know that he has a very distinct writing style. His chapters are short, often less than 1,000 words, and are action-filled and dynamic. This works great for a thriller, but not so much for other genres. I’m currently writing a fantasy, which doesn’t lend itself well to short chapters and non-stop action.

Another thing I disagree with him on is outlining. His outlines are impressive, there’s no denying that. He spends months writing outlines, and every single detail is laid out before he actually begins writing chapters. I can’t do that. I tried. I probably could, if I wanted to spend the time learning the process and working at it, but I have no desire to. I have my own process, and I feel no need to adopt his.

I rarely outline. Or rather, I write very brief outlines. I have a basic plot, an idea of where my characters need to end up and what needs to happen to them along the way, but all the stuff in the middle is up for grabs. I enjoy the freedom it gives me. Not that I’m right and he’s wrong, just that our processes are different. Then again, he’s a best selling author and I’m a nobody, so there’s that. Still. I believe that my comfort level is an important aspect to any process I use, and I’ll continue to ignore outlines until I feel otherwise about it.

What about you? Writing friends, do you use outlines, or do you just wing it? Let me know!

As always, comments and subscriptions are appreciated!

 

Setting Realistic Goals

I started trying to write my first novel seven years ago. I was fresh out of college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics. I had moved to Illinois and was working at a long-term acute care facility. I was dating someone (now husband) and we got to talking about it. He was trying his hand at a story, and I mentioned that I’d always wanted to be an author, and his response was, essentially, why not? I don’t remember the exact conversation, but he encouraged me to give it a shot if I truly wanted to do it.

So, I started a novel. I didn’t make it very far. I didn’t plan anything out, just had a basic idea, and I soon hit a wall. I thought a little about getting published, but at the time it caused me significant stress and panic. It was too big. If I was going to start this journey, I needed to think smaller.

Going smaller goes against conventional wisdom, I know. In a world of “reach for the stars” and “go big or go home”, we’re encouraged to set goals as big as we can imagine. Maybe that’s okay for some people. It wasn’t okay for me.

I decided to set a stepping-stone goal, something realistic for me. I wanted to write a novel. That’s it. No plans to publish, absolutely no thought to the future.  I didn’t allow myself to consider anything more. I wanted to write a novel to prove to myself that I could do it. If I did, then I’d consider taking the next step.

I had a few false starts. The first one I already mentioned. I gave up on that story quickly and started a new one. I tanked the new one too. I didn’t plan well for either of those stories. I had very few characters, a limited plot, and no idea how to expand them into a full-length book. They just needed…more.

I started my third story, and Origins was born. It wasn’t easy. I was working full-time, and finding the time to write was tough. I also struggled with working from a computer. I still don’t like writing into a Word document, and I use Scrivener instead (which I love, but that’s a topic for a different day). The entirety of Origins was written by hand in a series of notebooks, then transcribed into Word. It took a long time. I got discouraged often, and would set the whole project aside for months at a time.

When I finally finished, the whole thing had taken me about 3 years to complete. That’s a major reason I had to set it aside and couldn’t bear to work on it further (more about that in this post, Letting Go).

But, I achieved my goal. I wrote a novel. No matter how hard it had been, or how many mistakes I made getting there, or how often I’d given up completely, or how much the finished product might suck, I still did it. That’s an achievement I will always be proud of, finishing that first novel.

Now, I need a new stepping-stone goal. I’ve proven that can I do it, now I just need to do it over and over and over again. I’ve started setting myself deadlines, with definite plans and timetables for the projects I’m working on. I think my next goal will be: secure an agent or self-publish. I’m not really in charge of that one. I’d love to have my work represented, but if it’s not, I’m more than willing to follow a self-publishing route.

I accomplished the little goal. Now I can move forward toward the bigger, scarier goal of getting myself published. It’s still scary, and I still stress out about it, but it doesn’t seem so impossible anymore.

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I know the comments section doesn’t appear on the homepage (I’m working to fix it, I just don’t know how yet), but comments can still be made by clicking on the title of the post. Also, I’ve set up an option to subscribe if you’d like to receive notification of new posts.

Future Competition

My niece is writing a book. You know how everyone thinks their kids are the best? Well, I don’t have any kids, but my nieces and nephews rock. Claire just turned 7, and she’s one smart cookie. Today I thought I’d share her book with you:

Not bad, huh?

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.