Learning Humility as a Writer
I've struggled to come up with ideas for a blog. Should I just post any updates on publications? Or maybe I have something more to contribute? Can I save a new writer a lot of grief if I share what I've learned over the years? What do I have to offer that others haven't said already?
I'm not sure that my meanderings will help anyone, but if they do, then so much the better.
Don't fool yourself. Your first drafts are garbage.
Arrogance can blind us. If you're an attorney, like me, you've probably thought that your writing skills would translate over to fiction. Well, yes and no. Sure, you know how to string together sentences, but do you understand plot? Character? Pacing? Narrative voice?
There's a new learning curve to overcome. So . . . write . . . but study the craft as well. Educate yourself by picking up a "how to" book about narrative fiction. Join a local writers group. Find an online writing community, like Scribophile, Book Country, or Critters.org. There are plenty of opportunities out there to find critique partners. Find one. Better yet, find several.
Study, study, study.
When I went to my first writers group meeting, I thought my writing was decent. Not great, but not bad either. You can guess what happened.
Not a picture of our writers group leader, but a close approximation to her reaction to my first chapter.
Yup. I got shredded. Deserved it. Every bit. Not enough setting. No connection between the readers and the main character. Too much backstory.
Did things get better? Eventually. I took the advice given to heart. I attended a writers conference. Read several books on writing.
Strange enough, I ran into another attorney at that first writers conference. He planned to pen his memoir. I asked him what he thought about the conference. He scoffed and thought there wasn't much to learn. After all, he knew how to write. He'd been writing motions, contracts, and appellate briefs for forty years.
Wow. Had I been like that at my first writers group meeting? I don't think so, but my memory is spotty.
I tried to explain to this older attorney how different writing a book would be from penning legal documents. I wanted to save him some embarrassment. He didn't want to hear it.
I hope he learned some humility.
I did. And I am grateful for the Bradenton Writers Group in the Florida Writers Association for giving it to me.