Over the last year I took a class taught bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, and his cohorts in the Philly-based Liar’s Club, Jon McGoran, Marie Lamba, and Denis Tafoya. It was set up so that folks who are just starting a novel, trying to finish a novel, or had an idea for a novel could have the opportunity to learn about the business, about the craft and a little about themselves (more on this in part 2). Over the course of the last nine months, I have finished my first draft of my novel (about two female serial killers and the poor unfortunate boys who love them), published a nasty piece of flash fiction, and got to make some nice networking connections. As the final class was this past Thursday, I figured I would do a blog on the unique experience.
The first class was led by Maberry who gave two important pieces of information that anyone who wants to take writing seriously should know. Number one, the pros don’t get writer’s block, and number two, a daily word count or page count quota will do wonders. The first bit makes a ton of sense. Pros don’t get writer’s block because they don’t want to give up their advance. While I am not a pro (yet), the information was useful because it gave me this “a-ha” moment where I realized that I just needed to find something to motivate me. Though I enjoy writing immensely and always have, I might enjoy procrastination even more. Finding a way to reward myself at the end of each day was immensely helpful in kicking the procrastination addiction. Maberry suggested throwing money in a jar whenever the word count quota was made, for others it may be breaking out that good bottle of Scotch at the end of each week (I’ll give you one guess who used that). Having your daily word count is important too, but it has to be realistic. If you work two jobs and have children, 3,000 words a day are not going to happen. However, 500 might. In half a year, you’ll have 90,000. Looks like a novel to me.
Most of the middle classes were taught by the others, Jon, Denis, and Marie. They focused on craft much of the time, covering important elements such as dialogue, voice, and character. Especially helpful was the second to last class when Jon and Denis had us bring in a scene where our main character has a major shift. The dissection of these scenes was vital in understanding how to make characters realistic and not static. These are things most writers know, but examining them and giving examples yielded a deeper understanding of these elements. Learning to “read as a writer” and recognize these features in the work of others helped to keep such concerns at the forefront while I worked on my own projects. All four instructors are different types of writers in both genre and style, and learning about their varied approaches was helpful for me to find my own method.
The final class was held the day after the Borders meltdown, so Maberry gave us a lot of information on how that is going to affect the business. We also measured our results as far as where we were in our own manuscripts and what was next (I am halfway through my second draft and writing short stories like a fiend). The class is still continuing an online forum on Yahoo to keep up with each other’s work.
The next class starts March 10th, and I encourage anyone who’s got a work in progress that they are serious about to sign up. It’s cheaper than a class at the local community college and a lot more fun. For more info, drop by http://liarsclubphilly.com and sign up for the newsletter.