August 31

Back to Basics

September! (Well…almost.) School supplies line store shelves, buses are back on the roads, and young minds are being filled to the brim whether they like it or not.

Though I’m not heading back to the classroom this year as a student or teacher, I am heading back to basics: the basics of writing.

When I first started writing, I read lots of books on the craft of writing. I joined SCBWI. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I was a member of an active critique group. I took online writing courses. I worked through writing prompts and exercises.

But once I got an agent and published my first book, all of those good practices fell by the wayside. Maybe it didn’t happen all at once, but as I spent more and more time writing and revising and trying desperately to continue the tiny bit of momentum I’d gained, I neglected the basics. I was a writer, so I thought I needed to just keep writing. I didn’t think I needed those “beginner” tools anymore.

Wrong. Instead of gaining momentum, I’ve fallen flat on my face. Hard. I’ll be honest and admit that since my first book was published, I’ve written three manuscripts that will never be published. Looking back, there’s no one to blame but myself. I was working hard, but I was doing the wrong work. Doing work that wasn’t good enough. Not doing the work that got me published in the first place.

So now, instead of writing, I’m going back to the writing basics.

I’m reading books on craft. I started with Nathan Bransford’s How to Write a Novel. If you love Nathan’s blog, you’ll love this book and get a lot out of it! Then I moved on to Plot Perfect: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman. Currently, I’m reading The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham. After this, it will be Writing a Children’s Book by Pamela Cleaver and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (with the accompanying workbook).

I’m making the most of my daily commute and listening to writing podcasts on the way to and from work (my current favorite is from DIY MFA). I attended Writer’s Digest’s annual conference, and now I’m going back and listening to recordings of the craft-related sessions I was unable to attend.

Does all of this guarantee that the next manuscript I write will be published? Nope. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep going back to basics. Keep writing. Giving up isn’t an option.

And because this is ATWN, here’s a little “Back to Basics” from the ladies of Pitch Perfect 2…enjoy!

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