things I learned from brandon sanderson's creative writing class

I am a writer.

(At least Jeff Goins says I can call myself one even if I am not published. He believes it is limiting to say aspiring writer so I ditched the word 'aspiring'. Honestly, I've actually never said "I am a writer" out loud. I usually just say, "I am writing a book." And by the way, if you say that to people they will look at you like you just said, "I have a serious crush on my toaster."  Oh yeah- it's a big conversation killer, right up there next to telling people that you homeschool.)

(If you know who Brandon Sanderson is, you may skip the next paragraph.)

(I'm getting carried away with the parenthesis again. Look out.)

Brandon Sanderson is a contemporary fantasy author who has written several bestselling books and is a professor at BYU. He is currently finishing The Wheel of Time series, an epic fantasy started by Robert Jordan, who passed away before completing the series. Sanderson is writing the last three books, two of which are already out and were excellent. (It is considered the epic fantasy of our day, just in case you are wondering. Robert Jordan is often compared to Tolkien in the scope of the world he has created. Tolkien, people. If you don't know who Tolkien is, then I really can't help you. On second thought- read this.)

So anyways, Sanderson writes full time, generally putting out a book a year (!) but also teaches creative writing. And thanks to someone, his classes are on youtube. So we've been watching them. For fun. Because we are just that cool.

 Here are some things I've learned.

1. Brandon Sanderson is a genius. Seriously, he has an extensive knowledge of literature, both past and present. He is extremely articulate, concise, and thoughtful in how he teaches, answers questions, and presents information. Its really impressive and entertaining. 

2. Sanderson explains that there are different approaches to writing. peole generally have a tendency towards being a gardener or an architect.  Gardeners (also called discovery writers) are nurturing the story and watching it grow. They tend to have ideas, hunches, gut feelings- but not extremely detailed plans regarding where they are headed. Architects have outlines, which can vary in detail but have a strong grasp on the plot and flow of the story. There are pros and cons to each, and the main thing is to figure out what works best for you. When I started NaNoWriMo, I had a general outline of my book. But then when I started writing, I couldn't seem to make myself follow the outline. Whenever I had a strong agenda for a chapter, I had this funny feeling as I was writing that the characters were rolling their eyes at me and talking behind my back. (Who does this lady think she is, anyways? What a stupid idea for a conversation...scene...ending...climax. Ugh.) It felt forced and unnatural. Thanks to watching this lecture, I had important insight into how I create. I discover the characters, their motives, their chemistry- all I as I go.  And in general, I think that it extends beyond writing and applies to how I create anything. I like to explore not execute a plan- even if its my plan! (You can watch that lecture here.)

3.  Writing is a craft. There is art involved- inspiration and creativity and moments of sheer madness where it all just happens- but mostly it is a skill that you hone and practice and just keep working at. There will be parts that come more naturally than others (the dialogue in my manuscript still sounds a bit like they are actually cavemen, or at least I think that's what the characters are saying behind my back. Writing good dialogue is so challenging for me!) To get better- you keep writing. 

4. There is a lot to picking the right point of view for a story. The voice of the narrator, how much they know or don't know, is one of the biggest decisions you will make in how you tell your story. I had never really thought of that.

5. Good information is out there. As much as I dislike the internet (the overwhelming number of ideas, oxymoron of social media, and the disconnected life that comes from being too connected) it opens up a lot of doors. In my phase of life, where leaving the house generally means four little people are coming with me or I'm returning a redbox movie at 8:30 p.m., the opportunity to learn the craft of writing is limited. But here is this gem, this entire course of creative writing lectures by one of my favorite authors! Which begs the question: what are you interested in? What area would you like to grow in? Get out there and find something to help you, right where you are. You can learn new things, use your talents, get excellent instruction, and invest in yourself in simple ways. It doesn't have to be something huge- just get out there and learn something!

So that's what I'm up to these days. Last night, in honor of the first draft being complete, I watched Mr. Sanderson's lecture on the revision process. I'm really glad I did.  Its daunting but exciting as I step into this new phase of the writing process.

And just in case you can't get enough of my kids holding those books, here's one more for the road...
Ella was pretending to read chapter 1out loud, Drew was actually reading chapter 1, and Isaac did not want to cooperate due to my interruption of his Wii time.


Anonymous said...

Yes dear, you are a writer! Your dad and I have known that for a long time!! Love the picture!

Keri said...

Did I read that right? You finished your first draft of the book you've been wanting to write? How exciting! I haven't read blogs for a while so I'm catching up! Been spending too much time trying to figure out writing too--actually, like you said, just doing it more often to get better at it. Would love to get together again soon . . . for real!

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