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Learning the Craft by Sia Huff

Sia_Huff_croppedFor the last eighteen months, I’ve immersed myself in the craft of writing. Attending conferences, taking classes, reading craft books… you name it, I’ve been working steadily at it. There’s so much to learn and consider when completing your manuscript.

Plotting or pantsings? And if you plot – what kind – W plot? Snowflake plot? Fast drafting or not? Synopsis before or after? And revising – how many passes till you finally say enough? There as many ways to get to “The End,” as there are writers. We are all different. Finding advice that resonates with you is sometimes like finding ice at the equator.

Some methods I’ve tried are complete flops and some make me want to sing Halleluiah. Free writing is mSave the Caty friend, when I’m stuck, I grab a pad and pen and sit in a different place from the norm and set the timer for fifteen minutes.

In her on-line class, The Book Factory, Kerri Nelson taught me to break my day down into fifteen minute increments. I find I’m so much more productive when I do. I was lucky to attend a great regional conference, The Emerald City Romance Writer’s Conference in Seattle, Washington. It was fun to shake it up and cross the country to see speakers I wouldn’t normally see.

A book that helped me have several an ahh-haa moment is Save The Cat by the late Blake Snyder. He explained structure in an easy to digest way.

What about you? What book or class has helped you to grow and become a better writer?

Marilyn Baron - May 19, 2014 - 7:36 am

Over the years I’ve taken many valuable writing courses, including Save the Cat and, like you, have had many Ah-Ha moments. Recently GRW had an excellent class with Margie Lawson. I’ve read books on the craft and attended workshops and conferences. For some reason I don’t actually go back and read the notes and implement the advice before I start writing, but I’m hoping that, through osmosis, I’ve retained the lessons. I just write and hope I have improved as a result of what I’ve learned. For instance, in the case of the Margie Lawson workshop, since that was so recent I’m deliberately trying to use what I learned. Refresher courses are good but I think writing itself and reading good books is the best practice for getting it right.

Susan Carlisle - May 19, 2014 - 8:49 am

Micheal Hauge gave me a couple of eye openers. One was that the hero and the heroine get the essence of each other in the end. I use that idea with every book I write.

Piper - May 19, 2014 - 8:54 am

I love craft books too Sia, and I’ve been rereading and studying to push me up to another level. I still find myself, like Marilyn going back to the notes of Margie’s workshop. I’ve purchased the lecture packets and I am currently participating in a historical writing workshop with her. As a writer, it’s always good to keep the mind opening to learning. Thanks for a great post.

Maxine Davis - May 19, 2014 - 9:31 am

Sia, I really enjoy taking classes, but like Marilyn, I rarely go back over my notes. I hope to go to Seattle for a conference whenI read about a good one. Of course, I’d just love to go to Seattle again. I will get the Save the Cat book. I have some books and have read at least some of each one. Hoping, I get better . . .

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 12:54 pm

Hi Marilyn,
Yes, Margie Lawson’s teaches several great workshops. Like you, I had not been going back over notes, but recently, I find it’s like having a mini-refresher. I’d highlight (what I believed was) important information at the time.
I agree, writing in itself and reading is vital.

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 12:58 pm

Hi Susan,
Michael Hauge gives so much great information in one class, it’s hard to take it all in. He’s one teacher I’d like to have on audio to listen to again and again. Ahh, yes, the H/H being in total essence is paramount. It gives you their Happily Ever After.

Connie Gillam - May 19, 2014 - 1:00 pm

I don’t think there’s one craft book I’ve bought and finished. And I have quite a few: Save the Cat, Story, Dwight Swain’s book, Donald Maas,etc. I bought Margie Lawson’s packet last year with the idea I’d attend one of her immersion classes. I didn’t even know there was to be one in Atlanta in April-that’s how long I stayed with that idea.
The only thing I’ve stuck with is reading for pleasure. I’ve read everything from literary fiction to horror. I take note if the author does something in plot or phasing I like. Margie Lawson workshops (I’ve been to several)have helped tremendously. I’m going (as soon as I finish this post) and sign up for her newsletter.

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 1:03 pm

Hi Piper,
Good for you. Your studying has worked, Miss Golden Heart Finalist! And I agree with you, we should always be open to learning. I hope you enjoy your current historical w/s.
I’ll be rooting for you at Nationals.

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 1:08 pm

Hi Maxine,
I hope you get to go out to Seattle too. The people who ran the ECRW were welcoming. If you need help with structure, I hope you like Save the Cat. Let me know. As far as getting better… you have a wonderful voice. Keep writing. ;)

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 1:14 pm

Hi Connie,
In craft books, I tend to pick and choose sections that I believe I’m weak in, so I understand about not reading the whole book. I prefer classes where I can ask questions.
I’d stopped reading for pleasure for about 6 months and found myself very cranky. One of my sons “suggested” I take a break and go read a book. :) It works on my happiness meter everytime.

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - May 19, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Connie and I have something in common. I’m not sure I’ve ever completely read a craft of writing book. I have a ton of them and have found useful tidbits here and there, but the best Ah-ha! moments have come during workshops with Margie Lawson and Michael Hauge.

Sia Huff - May 19, 2014 - 9:05 pm

Hi Carol,
It seems there’s a consensus on Margie and Michael. They are both great teachers. I agree with you, I’d rather go to a workshops.

Pam Asberry - May 19, 2014 - 11:05 pm

I too have attended many workshops and have a shelf bulging with craft books. To all the other great suggestions, I have also found Kelly Stone’s books and workshops to be extremely helpful. Thanks, Sia, for a great post!

Marilyn Baron - May 20, 2014 - 5:19 am

Oh yes, I forgot about Michael Hauge. He has some great ideas about craft. I need to go back and find those notes.

Sandy Elzie - May 20, 2014 - 10:59 am

Hi Sia,
I love that book!!! I also went to a workshop where that book was taught…fantastic.

It’s always good to step back and review the basics…refresh our brains.

Sia Huff - May 21, 2014 - 8:54 am

Hi Pam,
I love Kelly’s w/s. She’s a wonderful person and a great teacher. Maybe I need to go back and review my notes. Thanks.

Sia Huff - May 21, 2014 - 8:57 am

That’s funny. Marilyn. I just thought the same thing about exploring old notes. It’ll be an interesting summer.

Sia Huff - May 21, 2014 - 9:00 am

Hi Sandy,
Glad you love “Save the Cat”. Yes, the workshop was fantastic too. Refreshing our brains is a great idea. wonder what else I can find.

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