9.16.2006

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?

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