Self-Directed Learning for Writers

Today I met a fiction writer who is utterly alone in his writing. He doesn’t have contact with any other writers, doesn’t know what to do with his book, and when I offered to tell him about resources, he politely declined. He is an outlier among writers I know.

Fiction writers are a distinctive kind of learners. They create illusionary worlds and to do that they draw on their imagination and any resources they can accumulate. Most do research on their characters, settings, and story. Some make up their stories out of whole cloth.

For some, creative writing programs help them with learning the basics of their craft. But even those who have creative writing college programs behind them must pay their dues. I don’t know of any writer who started at the top.

For those who didn’t go through a college program, they must develop their own writing program. Their own program may include learning about the writing craft per se, learning about their genre, and learning about marketing and publishing. As we say in Texas, that’s a tall drink of water.

Most writers learn by doing as I do.

Year before last, I read a number of books on writing Science Fiction. This year, I am reading on writing itself and editing. Here is my reading list for 2014 so far:

Elizabeth Lyon, Manuscript Maker: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can afford to Ignore.

Elizabeth Lyon, Writing Subtext: How to craft subtext that develops characters, boosts suspense, and reinforces theme.

Alice Munro, Dear Life: Stories

Gotham Writer’s Workshop, Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School.

Don McNair, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave.

Renni Browne and Dave King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.

Scott Nicholson, Write Good or Die: Survival Tips for the 21st Century.

Eddie Jones, A Novel Idea: Story Structure Tips for the Break-out Novelist

It is not my intention to say you should read these books, although I do recommend them. My point is you should have your own plan for informing yourself about writing as a craft and writing in your own style.

I also attend a monthly workshop for writers. Usually we have successful writers as presenters. We have an opportunity to ask questions, and then talk about what they have presented.

Finally, I attend a workshop or two per year. That’s where I get to meet other writers and share ideas about writing, publishing and other areas of interest.