Lately I’ve become a writing class junkie. In the last six months, I’ve been to three day-long writing intensives as well as a weekend-long writing conference in Austin with nonstop craft classes. What a fun excuse to hang out with other writers and hear really smart people saying really smart things!
I end up taking copious notes during the classes. Sometimes I capture brilliant nuggets of wisdom. Sometimes I hear a really good quote about writing. And sometimes I write down stuff that makes absolutely no sense two months later. Here are some of my favorite things I’ve picked up recently:
- Jeffrey Deaver spoke to our Mystery Writers of America chapter, and this is my favorite note from his class: “Books aren’t made the way babies are made; they’re made the way pyramids are made.” Point being, you don’t just have a big Aha! moment and write a book; you work hard at it and construct it carefully. (Which most people probably already know, but what a great way to say it!)
- “Be detailed.” One teacher used art concepts to bring writing advice to life. She said that when she was taking a painting class, she learned to put a dot of red paint in the corner of the eye. “That spot of color brings a portrait to life. That’s what makes it feel real. What are the tiny details that will transform a scene into something that’s alive?”
- “One of the great pleasures of reading is pulling out inferences. Don’t deprive your reader of that experience by spelling it out.” This nugget of wisdom really struck me. As a writer, I’ve never thought about it in those terms, but as a reader, I love when I make connections that aren’t explicitly stated.
- “Theme is most effective when it isn’t used as a door of entry. It emerges as you’re working on the book like a hidden passageway behind a staircase, surprising everyone, even the author.” So for anyone who’s ever felt like they need to know what their theme is, permission has hereby been granted to charge forth and let it sort itself out in due time.
- “Your job is not to tell your book no.” In the moment, this quote struck me as important, and I wrote it down. And now? I have no idea what it means! I still think it’s good advice, though, so I’m standing by it.
- And finally, I picked up this great quote from Terry Pratchett: “There’s no such thing as writers block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”
Readers, what’s a great piece of advice you’ve heard recently (writing or otherwise)? And does anyone have any guess what “Your job is not to tell your book no” means?