Saturday, September 4, 2010

Putting my Writing Knowledge into Practice

Michael Salsbury
Knowledge without practice makes but half an artist.
(old proverb)

Writing is something I've always enjoyed. In high school and college, I wrote some poems and short stories that I was proud of. When I started working, most of that writing stopped. I spent most of my work days from 1987 to 1996 writing technical and marketing documents, so going home to write more didn't sound like fun. I bought a few books on writing during those years, but wrote very little. By the time I changed jobs in 1996, I had gotten out of the habit of writing for myself. Occasionally, an idea came to mind but I never did anything with it.

Last summer, at the Origins Game Convention in Columbus, I was feeling the urge to "create" something. I decided to sit in on a writing seminar by Michael A. Stackpole entitled "The Rules of Writing". It was a great seminar and gave me the writing bug again. A month later, at Gen Con 2009, I attended more writing seminars. I got so wrapped up in the idea of writing, I almost forgot about gaming.

In November, I took a much bigger step. I took part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) contest online. I didn't start until about a week into the month, but still managed to crank out my 50,000 words of fiction by the end of the month. It was the closest I'd ever come to actually finishing a novel!

Since then, I dusted off those writing books I bought 20 years ago and started reading them. I attended a few seminars at the game conventions this year. I bought a few of the documents offered by the authors teaching the seminars, and read those, too. I've learned a great deal from material written by several published authors, including Michael Stackpole, James N. Frey, Josip Novakovich, Orson Scott Card, and others. I suspect that if I were to go back and rewrite my 2009 NaNoWriMo book, it would be considerably better today.

One thing all the authors have suggested is that reading other novels is key to learning to write your own novels, so I've read a few of those in the last few months as well. I've recently read Aaron Allston's "Doc Sidhe", Michael Stackpole's "Talion: Revenant" and "I, Jedi", Chelsea Handler's "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang", and some others. I've found my iPod Touch very useful for this (since it fits in my pocket and goes everywhere with me, I can read any time I find myself not doing something else).

I started looking at software designed to help novelists out, things like Dramatica Pro, PlotCraft, StoryCraft, PageFour, Scrivener, yWriter, and NewNovelist. I also started gathering my favorite writing advice into a Microsoft OneNote notebook.

You'll notice by this point that there is one thing I really haven't done since last November... Write!

This weekend, I decided to really start fleshing out one of the story ideas I've had for a while now. I don't want to spill the whole thing (because I want you to read it when I finish it), but it's about an IT guy who stumbles on to some very nasty malware (malicious computer software) that turns out to be only the tip of a much larger iceberg. I used an old version of StoryCraft I found on eBay to help me start putting the story together, just to get a feel for that particular product. It's been helpful in organizing my thoughts so far, but I've got a long way to go.

(Note: All links in this article include my Amazon affiliate code, which earns me a percentage of your purchases there - without changing the price you pay. If that idea upsets you, delete the part of the url that includes "mikesalsbusbl-20" and you should be good to go.)

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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