If I Knew Then What I Know Now

If I Knew Then What I Know Now About Craft

This week, I begin a series of blogs on if I knew then what I know now about various aspects of writing. Periodically, I’ll post a blog on some topic that I’ve learned more about over the years.

If there’s a specific topic you’d like me to write about, please post a comment.

To begin the series, if I knew ten years ago what I know now about the craft, I would have saved a bunch of time and heartache.

Back in the day, as the cliché goes, when I started seriously writing, I didn’t have a clue. About anything. About plotting and building characters. About weaving tension and conflict into a novel. If you read some of what I write now, you might say that hasn’t changed.

I didn’t have a clue about getting an agent, about preparing a proposal, about pitching (well, I did know a left-hander with a decent curveball could get a multi-million dollar contract, but I digress), about marketing and selling me and my book. In many ways, I’m still the guy who is so introverted, I won’t even talk to myself.

I knew I wanted to—needed to—was called to—write. What I didn’t know was I didn’t really know how to write. I could put coherent sentences together. But combining them into a story anyone would want to read was something else again. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to begin with several chapters of back story and flashbacks to get the reader grounded in your hero. I didn’t know how to hook your reader in the opening scene.

So, how did I learn? By getting magazines and books on the craft and wading through until I began to understand the jargon. I found the Christian Writers Guild and took all their courses. These opened me to two vital components of writing: meeting deadlines and opening myself to criticism.

Through North Texas Christian Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers, I discovered we can’t learn without feedback from a critique group or partner, from a mentor or coach, from an agent or editor who rejects our proposal but takes the time to provide concrete and useful feedback.

Once I experienced the value of feedback, I developed the thick skin we’re told all authors need. I separated my writing from me.

Lights went off in my head like a Christmas tree. I saw the connections between all the concepts I was striving to learn. Sentences flowed better. My voice became stronger. My characters came to life and my plots not only hung together, they had twists and surprises to keep the reader hooked.

It’s been an exciting ten years of writing, of learning, of getting better. And there’s so much more to look forward to.

What are you looking forward to in your writing journey?


6 Responses to If I Knew Then What I Know Now

  1. Jackie Stem October 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    How right you are, Henry. I don’t how anyone ever gets anything published without a good critique group. We have to think of our creations as a craft to be perfected, not a unique and perfect baby we birthed. (That might apply better to us girls than to guys)

  2. Mary Boyle October 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    really? a multi-million contract for a decent left handed pitcher? Who knew!
    Seriously, I just enjoy the ride. It’s a lot of work, but fun to get the checks. (Even though it means keeping my day job for the rest of my life!)

  3. Henry October 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Thanks, Jackie. I can relate to the perfect baby. My wife and I had five perfect babies.

  4. Henry October 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    I’m with you, Mary. This is a wild adventure the Father has us on.

  5. TNeal October 11, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    “I separated my writing from me.” I appreciate the truth packed in those half dozen words. Your words enlighten and motivate. Thanks, Henry.

  6. Henry October 11, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    You’re welcome, Tom. Praise God my writing blessed you.

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