Monday, September 01, 2008

Think Sideways Writing Course - month 2 report

I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to get out of this course. I mean, I don't have trouble coming up with ideas, I don't have trouble finishing novels, I'm good with world building, etc. But none of it happens as fast and as smoothly as I'd like, and I don't quite have the discipline to treat my writing as a business, which is something I need to work on. I've had short stories published, but I still don't have my novels on the local bookstore shelves. I'm at a point where I'm ready to start sending DTD out, but the whole agent/editing/publishing/success side of it I have little experience with. I've enjoyed following Holly Lisle's journal of the past couple years, and have found her writing essays on her website very useful, so I figured, what the heck, why not take the class. I need a fresh outlook on what I do, new tools in the box, new techniques.

And I got them.

We're six weeks into the six month course, and I've really been surprised at how much cool stuff is here. I figured most of it would be like, "yeah yeah yeah, I know that," but that's not the case at all. Her techniques so far take me straight to the heart of a book. I love it! Some of it, like coming up with your single defining sentence, is something I've always tried to do, but I never had a good explanation for how to do it, and so I never could write an effective sentence for my own story. I always tried to do some variant of a TV Guide summary line. That might work for some people, but it never did for me. In one of the first few lessons, Holly provided a straight-forward explanation and examples of what the sentence does and how to create it, and darned if it her technique doesn't work like a charm. For the first time I can turn them out rather easily -- and for the first time, I've realized why some ideas fall flat -- because they're missing part of what forms the sentence. It may seem like such a little thing, but this technique alone is almost worth the price of admission.

I don't regret signing up for one moment. It's been eye-opening in the best ways, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm applying things to my completed novels, my novels in progress, and a new one I'm working on specifically as part of the course, and I'm watching things come together that have been giving me fits. That also, has been worth the price.

The class sold out when she originally offered it, but if anybody's interested in checking it out for themselves, she's opening the course up again to new students for this week only. Click on the link above or in the sidebar if you'd like more information.


  1. K, I'm sold!

    Maybe I'll see you around on the boards. :)

  2. Yay! Definitely, and we can always talk about stuff in email too.

    And man, I was telling one of my friends tonight how I found this contest today I was thinking I really needed to submit to ( cuz it's just a 150 word story, and I need to write some shorts again. So instead of launching in the way I would have a few weeks ago, I decided to use some of the stuff I'd learned.

    I chose a couple completely random things from my Sweet Spot map, thought what the heck can I do with these (they were "mass murderers" and "desert islands") but amazingly enough, I had a full idea in literally just about a minute's time, even while I was rolling my eyes about my useless word choices. Nope, and that's the beauty of the map, it's all things I feel strongly about, for good or bad. I then whipped up that all important Sentence that described the story, and a half hour later had a draft. Just like that. Can you believe it?

    I honestly don't think I could have done anything that quick or easily before this class. I mean I haven't been writing any new shorts at all, lately, and flash fiction can sometimes be the hardest of all. I was thinking I'd be lucky to have a story idea in a week or so. Not written and done less than an hour.

  3. That's really cool! Is the Sweet Spot map in lesson 2? I'm done with my lesson 1 work and impatient to see what comes next.

  4. Yep, it'll be coming right up next! It's fun.