So my wife got me thinking (as she often does): Why don’t I teach writing?
My replies were: I would rather write than teach writing. I’m not a successful writer by my standards (i.e. I am not making a full-time living from my writing and as of this post I am only making beer money). I don’t feel like I’m enough of an expert at craft to be able to teach it.
I thought they were all fair points. She didn’t.
There are plenty of people that you can help that are just starting out.
But I still had serious concerns. I am of the mindset that you should not teach something unless you are, in fact, more qualified than the people you are teaching. I do not feel qualified to teach a course on “How to write a Bestseller” or “How to succeed at publishing.”
However, I have been writing for most of my life. I have spent the last decade studying and honing my craft, and wrote easily over a million words in that time. Not as many words as the pros are pushing these days, but more than most amateurs. I am not an English professor, but I have my BA in English.
My wife also pointed out that I’ve been a teacher for most of my life. In fact, I have been teaching ever since I was a teenager.
I was one of the better swimmers on the seasonal, club and high school teams that I swam for (as of 2021, I might still have a record or two) and so I frequently helped out by teaching younger swimmers and/or newbie swimmers. Mind you, I wasn’t giving older swimmers advice, but that’s how I got my start. Eventually I got certified to coach swim lessons and coach swim teams. COVID put a damper on that, but I spent the better part of the last fifteen years teaching all different ages and ability levels: I’ve taught swimming to everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. From special forces trainees to state ranked age group swimmers. I’ve taught children that were over-excited and adults that had near-drowning experiences as children and had to reprogram a lifelong fear of the water.
I bring these up, not as credentials, but as examples. Those of you who are fitness savvy or teaching savvy might have heard of “cue words”. When teaching a skill, sometimes different students respond better to the same thing explained in slightly different ways. I’ve dealt with many different ranges of ages and ability levels, and no two people respond to cues the same way.
So, no, I don’t feel comfortable teaching amateur writers, because I still feel like an amatuer. But I do feel comfortable helping those aspiring writers who are at the beginning. Those writers who want to write their first short story or their memoir. Maybe even those that want to write their first novel. Or those that are still finding their confidence stringing sentences together into scenes and figuring out which scenes go where.
As I look back, I think I was already working toward posts like this, but I never thought to organize them into a series.
So, what will you learn in this ongoing series? You will learn the basics of how to write. We’re going to start with the most basic of skills: Sentence by sentence construction of scenes. We’ll touch on characters and settings. Eventually we’ll construct short stories. Maybe later we’ll talk about large scale structure (think novelette and longer).
What I won’t be going over:
- Grammar — honestly, this one you’ll pick this up pretty well through osmosis. Read a lot and write with some kind of spellchecker software.
- Motivation — I’ve already done a few blog posts on motivation. Being interested in learning about writing is a good start, but eventually you need to actually write. As a rule, spend more time writing than you do learning about writing.
- Advanced topics — This is a beginner’s course! Plus, a lot of “tips and tricks” can be found online. If you find the stuff in this blog series too easy, then feel free to move on. It’s all good.
Right now, I still plan on alternating these with the Monthly Obscure Tropes posts, so stay tuned for these posts roughly every other week.
So, there it is: The introductory post to another ongoing series.
And here is Part 1.