I’ve always dreaded English classes, especially the writing part. The writing prompts always intimidated me. There was no right answer. Math and science made me relaxed, because there was an answer always. Not knowing what the teacher wanted was difficult. That grew into a strong dislike of writing and thoughts of inferiority in English.
One writing prompt I still remember was Who is someone you look up to? I had no idea how to answer that question. I’d never really thought of anyone that way. What could I say? Help!
I made up something to answer the question. I was always good at making up something. I thought about fictional characters that would fit the bill. That probably wasn’t the intention of the prompt, but it could work. I choose Superman. He had ultimate power but chose not to use it. It was flimsy, and I was terrified of doing it wrong. A standardized writing test was basically paint by numbers, and it was a struggle.
I should’ve taken a more difficult English class sooner to work through the kinks. I did well in English, but everything was a struggle, unlike the coasting I did in everything else. In the last three years of high school, I took difficult English classes for the first time. High-performance English classes. Doing something difficult or going through the crucible forced me to improve in ways I’d never thought possible. I worked harder at school than I’d ever had to before. The prompt anxiety went away when the teachers allowed us to pick our own topics.
I never had to take English classes after that. Now, I need to work on the less glamorous aspects of the craft. Things like story structure, plot choice, and becoming more familiar to the average reader. What’s the way to do that, if you’re self-taught? The DIY MFA.
I ran into this great post on Ninja Writers about just that. Actually, that got me onto this. The plan is simple. Read a book on writing once a month, read one fiction book a week, write a short story a week, get feedback, and learn about querying. I added that last one.
Everything was already coming together. I’d recently found a list from Penguin Random House of the best books on writing. Through The New York Book Editors blog, I found a class on querying. I had already built a list of fiction books to read. Then I was brainstorming story ideas. Perfect for short story prompts. I’ll give the stories out to friends and family for feedback.
Then there’s the motivation to even start this. One of my friends recently turned her whole life upside down to take an MA in writing for children. That involved a move halfway around the world. She’s an amazing person. Check it out her author’s site.
I’ve started the reading. Some time those story ideas are going up. I’ll post the short stories when I start that.
Come back for another post in two weeks.