Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 - New Year, new format

January, February, March Edition

In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it.  –Julia Cameron

Do you believe a writer is born not made?

Do you believe that something as intrinsic as storytelling cannot be taught?

Do you believe that there is something mysterious about the creative process?

Well, I'm a realist. I believe that the true definition of a writer is what Sol Stein said: "A writer is someone who cannot not write."

That is, regardless of whether or not said writer ever gets published or self-publishes, they cannot stop writing the story or the stories of their heart.

But here's what strikes me as curious—newbie writers think what they've been taught about English and prose is good enough for writing fiction. It's not. Why? Because it takes a step-by-step learning process to master techniques and devices of fiction writing to tell a story so well that readers cannot put the story down until they get to "the end."

And let me be the first to burst the bubble about creativity. It's nothing more than your imagination. That imagination is part of your subconscious. That imagination is part of who you are. It's not to be feared or put on a pedestal like some god. So, get to know that imagination, your child within who thinks outside the box to create stories.

Now, think about this:

If you want to swim and compete in a swimming contest or Olympics, do you go to the nearest pool and jump into the deep end, expecting your instinct will allow you to swim lap upon lap like a pro?

Chances are you'll sink to the bottom and drown. To learn to swim you might go to the Y and take a fundamental swimming course, then you advance to other courses that teach techniques and styles of swimming. You practice. You learn to swim well, and then you enter a meet and test yourself against other swimmers to see where you stand.

If you want to win first place in a horse competition, you don't buy a horse and then enter a horse show. You buy the horse, you get someone to teach you the basics of how to ride and control the horse. Then you advance to a riding instructor that teaches you to be one with the horse, to sit properly in the saddle, to balance properly, to control the horse with your body movements.  Then you test your ability in the show ring.

If you want to learn to break boards with a karate chop, you don't just slap a plank. You take karate lessons, starting with the fundamentals and working up to that chop.

Can you name any endeavor that doesn't require understanding techniques? 

Oh, so you think because you got A's in English and your teachers say you have a flare for prose that you know fiction writing? Think again. I have cataloged 144 aspects to fiction writing. All have to be mastered in order to tell a story well and which are needed to engage a reader and submerge them in a story world.

So if you want to go from writing the ordinary, pedestrian, and amateur stories and novels to writing ones that will stand out among the 4,500 new works being added each day to the already fifteen million books currently being published, isn't it time to learn the craft elements of fiction and storytelling? 

And here's the beauty of it—

            Writers are self-taught.

The information is out there. The courses, classes, tutoring, mentoring, and self-help books, videos, workshops, and conference. There are even writer's groups that should be joined in order to learn craft elements, bounce ideas off of, and get the facts about storytelling that works.

Talent only takes a writer so far. It's craft that enhances and liberates creativity. Craft can be learned.

May your New Year be one of where your writing resolutions are fulfilled.

Wishing you much success with all your writing,

Catherine E. McLean

***Comments are always welcome. Questions are always answered.

Connect with Catherine HERE  and join her private email list for updates to this blog and for notices of upcoming courses and workshops.

****As announced last month, the Writers Cheat Sheet Blog is going to a quarterly update this year so I have more time to write stories as well as making time for the many workshops and courses I'm scheduled to present.

Next topic (April, May, June): Said is not Dead    

Upcoming online workshops -
"Hooks" for NEORWA, January 10-24, 2016
"Cause & Effect Sequences" for Pennwriters, Feb. 1-29, 2016