Sunday, November 27, 2011

The greatest thing to learn about writing

A famous Christian novelist recently told a friend she loves to sit in basic writing classes because she often picks up tidbits on the craft. The woman who shared this with me said she sees some of the top writers in our industry sitting under the teaching of others when she attends conferences.
     Just as we never “arrive” in our Christian walk here on earth, it seems we never know all we need to know about putting words together so they impart knowledge, bless or entertain, call souls to Christ or greater living.
     I’ve been free lancing since age 16. I knew little about the craft when I started, but ideas that I felt needed sharing kept popping into my head. I also had a “fire shut up in my bones” that compelled me to share the gospel.
      A couple of patient editors became my mentors.” If you could shorten this article a little”; or “Add anecdotes to this one and we can use it.”
      In the 1960s I landed a job as a newspaper reporter in a city of 100,000 without ever taking a journalism course and worked three years until we had our third child. I stayed home with the children, added a couple more, and continued to free lance for the next 20 years. But I knew I wrote with an incredible deficit, so I took nine English credits from the University of Colorado Extension Division. I’d completed a course in writing for Christian publications not long after I started selling free lance, and later completed a novel writing course.
       The day came when we needed more income to send those five children to Christian colleges. During a time when we had two children in higher education, I enrolled at a nearby state school, took out the highest amount in student loans, applied that to the children’s tab, and started. I completed a four-year degree in 2 ½ years, taking 22 and 24 semester-hour credits a semester, motivated to get out before I was old enough for Social Security.
        When I graduated , the same newspaper I worked for in the 1960s created a reporting job for me.
I worked 17 years as a journalist, and during my adult life I’ve had few years I didn’t have at least one free lance article published.  I’ve had one book, several chapters in books, and more than 250 articles and stories published in religion publications.
        Since I retired I’ve written two novels that I am now marketing and a non-fiction book, Swallowed by LIFE, will be on Amazon in December.
      Yet, the publishing industry has changed. A writer may crash into defeat in one area, but find opportunities from here to cyberspace.
      Constants, however, do not change. The Christian writer has a dimension beyond the secular, and simple things like showing instead of telling and active verbs still improve our work.
      Don’t forget one of the greatest things you’ll learn about writing: You’ll never be a writer unless you start with the first sentence, keep going until you complete the last sentence, then send it to the publisher you had in mind when you started.