Thursday, October 30, 2014
This semester, I've taught two classes for our Community Education program, one on Dynamic Characters and the other on Dialogue. I've been fortunate to have several students who have signed up for all of my classes (six over three semesters). Whenever I ask myself why I'm throwing more obligations into my already overfilled schedule, I remember the rush I get from having people tell me they've learned something. I would classify my courses as craft classes, so we spend a lot of time looking at the fundamentals and rules of writing. Most of my students are beginners -- some of them haven't written anything yet -- and I can see them looking more and more panicked as I start talking about beats, speaker attribution, dialogue tags, and rhythm in dialogue. Whenever I see that look, I remind them that most of what I am telling them is for the SECOND draft, not the first. Robert Ray, author of The Weekend Novelist calls it the "discovery draft," which I think is a great way of thinking of it. I have a saying that I put in all my presentations (and it hangs over my writing desk too) and that is: It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be written. I also tell my students that if they want to be successful, they need to think of themselves not as writers, but as re-writers because the skill lies in how well you fix what you've written.