If writing well was easy…

All you have to do is come up with a few characters, make one good and one bad, put them in an exotic land and have them clash until one of them, preferably the good one, wins. Add about 70,000 words around that plot and you have yourself a best-selling novel. I should be able to do all that on this first go ’round. Right?

I have been down this road before.

Way back when, I was an aspiring musician.  I was the best one on my block, so I knew that, with a few lessons, Stan Kenton would be stopping by to ask if I had time to go on the road.  (Showing my age, I know, but deal with it – I gotta story going on here.) As luck would have it, I found an amazing teacher who would end up being my adviser in college a few years later.

The guy was a monster player and an even better teacher. He insisted I practice every day, seven days a week. He also insisted that I listen to “established” musicians of all types, meaning sax, trumpet, piano, drums, violins, even banjo players. “You can learn from everyone,” he always said. “But you won’t learn anything if you don’t check ’em out.” He also made sure we had opportunities to hang out with professional musicians; my favorite place was a little jazz club called Popsicle Toes (named after the Tom Waits song.) Again, the adage was always “Just sit there and listen to them talk. Don’t think you already know it, because you aren’t where they are…yet. Whatever you do, make sure you listen to what they say and how they say it. Find out what makes them who they are.

The advice my teacher gave me “way back when” served me very well during my 24 years as a professional musician. But now I am trying to learn the craft of writing. Is it any different, really?

Indeed, I have finished two novels and two short stories. I also have the basic concept for another mystery novel and have been mulling over a story presented as a historical fiction piece. Yet, I am thinking I have just paid the five dollar cover charge and am pulling up a chair close to the stage at Popsicle Toes again. I need to practice the craft every day and I need to check out more writers to find out “what makes them who they are.”

Cue the light bulb above head.

So today I have connected with the Hampton Roads Writers. They meet monthly and often offer an open mic for authors to present a sample of their work. The also sponsor classes and conferences, all of which could only be a benefit.  I also have started looking around for professional writers by way of their blogs. This week’s addition to the blog roll – Warrior Writer. This looks to be an excellent blog that offers much advice to the new writer. Not just technical stuff, the philosophical stuff, too.

And lunchtime is now my “book time.”  In the cubicle desk drawer right now: Write Like Hemingway, Lessons You Can Learn From the Master by Dr. R. Andrew Wilson. Not exactly designed to make you the next Papa, but it is a good book written for the novice writer, using Hemingway’s work as examples.

Monday is blog night. The rest of the week, editing the NaNoWriMo effort. Sometime on the weekend – I write for Exploding Potatoes. That’s a tasty bit of writing (sorry, had to…)

That should keep me out of trouble for a while… maybe. We will see in 24 years.


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