Nugget #2

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

"Your writing should never be an audition for the respect of others."
- Anonymous


Thoughts as I Go #1: My Very First Goal

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

My very first goal for this writing blog has been met: it pushed me to write.

I was procrastinating, afraid to crack the books and start. And that meant I wasn't posting, which worked on me until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then I opened the first book and did the first writing assignment. As with most pressurized procrastination I felt immensely better the moment I did what I'd been procrastinating. Once again, the antidote to fear and avoidance turns out to be the very thing feared in the first place. Ah, irony.

I began Phase 1 of The Course with the creative activation category; in this case, Cameron’s The Right to Write. It's the only creative activation textbook in Phase 1.

As mentioned, I enjoyed it. I wrote. Cameron's first lesson is a bit more like journal writing than anything else: it's an exercise in writing about where you are right now, physically, emotionally, etc. A map of the head space. I have to confess I’m a little suspicious of the “higher powers” undercurrent in Cameron's approach. You'll see what I mean if you read the introduction and chapter one, yourself. However, the first exercise had me writing immediately, and it's pretty hard to argue with that (even if what I wrote did devolve into half a page of expletives). All things said, I plan to keep an open mind and forge ahead with this text.

I also tackled the grammar book, The Elements of Grammar, by Shertzer. It was…well, it was grammar. But it was far less fugly a read than I feared. I find I’m actually looking forward to more - go figure. However, I concluded pretty quickly that trying to memorize, study, or take notes on the grammar would melt my brain. So I’m just reading this material, with no active attempt at retention, trying to soak it up. I figure I'll try to study and memorize grammar in later Phases (*sigh*).

For inspirational reading I went with a little bit of the Hemingway book, Ernest Hemingway on Writing, by Phillips. Hemingway owns one of my favorite (and more famous) quotations on writing. To paraphrase: “The first draft is always shit…” I take heart from those words.

All together, today's reading and writing took me about an hour and a half. Not bad, I think.

There are 43 chapters in The Right to Write, and if I can average 5 chapters per week then I’ll be done with this book in a little over 8 weeks. Cameron’s book is almost the longest, I think. Theoretically that means I could be done with Phase 1 in 8 weeks.

Why does 8 weeks* feel so unrealistic to me?

Well enough. The ship is underway, and we’ll just have to see where and how it sails. The first Weekly Progress Post is due in 7 days.

- Lou
Salt Point, NY

*See comments.


Nugget #1

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."

- Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast, p. 12


Weekly Writing Prompt #1

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

Write the first page a story. Use these words: trigger, garden gnome, and peanut butter.

Feel free to post your results as comments!


The Big Idea (or Why this Writing Course Exists)

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

Not too long ago, I sat around my home wishing I was a writer and glaring at the stacks upon stacks of self-help writing books I had collected over the years. I’m not an aspiring writer, I thought, I’m a collector of self-help writing books!

And really, just how many books on crafting characters did I need? Why had I bought them all?

I imagine this rings bells for you, because I imagine I’m not alone. I imagine that, like some of you, I bought the books because, yes, I wanted to learn what they had to say, but I also wanted to prove to myself that I had not given up. One day I would write, the act of buying told me. After all I had just spent money on it, hadn’t I? Fundamentally, buying was about nurturing hope. Nothing wrong with that.

But so much money! So many books! Books on character and creative awakening. Books on grammar and editing, on scene, structure, plot and dialogue, on theme and theory. I bought overviews, underviews, advice books, workbooks, and who knows what else.

As I glared at these piles of redundant and disjointed material, what I truly wanted was a mentor who could pull it all together for me. Someone who would weed through the piles, toss out the crap, and chart me a clean, straight course.

And not just any old course, but a careful plan, designed to develop my skills one caring step at time. A plan that would repeat material as necessary and skip the unneeded. I wanted a program specifically crafted to reinforce what I was learning, to buttress my weaknesses, to identify my strengths. I wanted someone to set the right pace, to encourage me when I slowed, and to chastise me when I went too fast. I wanted a teacher. A coach.

Doing is the only real antidote for “I want”.

So I imagined just such a mentor. I imagined someone with a deep and abiding interest in seeing me flourish as a writer. Then I imagined this teacher with terminal cancer, and finally, myself as that teacher.

Soon I will not be around to teach my cherished student. What legacy will I leave? What advice? What plan can I write down that will see my student through, since I cannot?

And that’s the “big idea” behind this little project. Write that plan ourselves. Design a course, test it out, get a lot of input from interested bloggers, revise, and see if the final result helps anyone to learn to write. In short, to build our own Paper Coach ™.

And to trademark the term "Paper Coach" because I really like inserting that little ™ thingy in my blog text. Come on, can you blame me?