People always ask me if I was an English major. Actually, I was an Anthropology major. And I then got my Master’s in Archaeology. In fact, I despised this boy in college who was an English major so I tried to avoid any English classes I thought he might be taking. Mature, I know, but hey, I was 18. It seemed like a really good idea at the time.
I’ve always felt a little leery about my chosen career path. What if by not taking a million lit classes, I missed out on my opportunity to be a better writer? Now that I am writing full-time, I can actually take the time to read the writing technique books I never had time for when I was writing in between my full-time job, dinner, house work, life, etc. And you know what reading technique books is teaching me? That you don’t need a class to be a good writer, but it won’t hurt you if you take one.
I just finished James Scott Bell’s Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure, and what I got from it were not ways to write better, but rather ways for me to express the things I already know. Any prolific reader knows what does and does not work in a plot, but can you verbalize why a plot is or is not working? When I write, I pull from my experiences as a reader to make sure my plot is moving at the right pace, my characters are likable and exhibiting growth, and that the first chapter grabs you from the get-go. But now that I’ve read this book, I can analyze why I’m doing these things. Often when I write I can tell that something is wrong. As I said, I’ve read enough books to know how a book should flow. But I can’t always explain why it isn’t working. I just know that it’s not.
Now that I have time to read books on technique, I feel less inferior about my degrees. But you know what else I have gotten from reading technique books? A new set of vocabulary for talking about books and analyzing the good and the bad. And maybe, just maybe, having read this and other technique books will allow me to better critique my own work and help me produce something people want to read.