The Path to Writing Proficiency
I think it's this way!
End of Year 1
It’s been a neglectful four months since I last posted. I will save wasting readers time on pitiful excuses for laxity.
Nonetheless progress on the DIYMA journey has continued.
Craft Seminar Module
The whole of the third seminar of the ‘Craft’ module focused on ‘Styling Your Prose’, with modules on parts of speech and voice, amongst others. I maintained the usual schedule of a module every two weeks, as did George, resulting in completion of this part of the first year in early June. All exercises were completed, and feedback given and received.
Writing Workshop Module
The syllabus suggests creating a portfolio of revised work of about 5k to 8k words, by the end of year one. Back in January my writing buddy, George, suggested that as this matched the entry requirement for a well-known novel competition we should enter. This in addition to the writing practice and exercises in individual units.
We both submitted entries. Our efforts entirely fulfilled our expectations and have not been mentioned in any short, long, or other listings by the competition organisers.
Professional Development Module
This module has been completed using online talks by authors, and by attending an online course from 27th April.
‘Commercial Fiction’ was a six week course organised by https://www.londonlitlab.co.uk and facilitated by Anna Freeman https://www.annafreemanwriter.com
The course involved giving and receiving feedback on three pieces related to ongoing work. Topics covered were: character, conflict, and plot. Anna provided comprehensive notes and an unscheduled Zoom meeting for participants.
If one thing could have made the first year more effective it would have been more writers undertaking the course. Four would be a good number, I think. Small enough for everyone to have adequate time when meeting, but large enough for a variety of opinions. Having said this, I cannot understate how valuable it is to even one person to travel alongside.
Forward to Year 2
A long summer vacation seemed pointless during lock down. So after a two week break George and I began year 2.
The focus of this year is a manuscript. Andrew Wille https://wille.org/ suggests 50k in three months or 75k in six might be good targets to have. We chose the latter.
We submit about 3k words a week to each other on Friday and meet the following Monday for critique. There are 26 weeks from when we began until Christmas. As of today, we will have made seven submissions.
George’s company during this course is immeasurably beneficial. It is not only the feedback and critique of writing that helps, but also the energising agreement between us, a commitment to each other to complete tasks on schedule.
George knows more about my current work-in-progress than anyone bar, perhaps, myself. This means his feedback is not specific to one submission but is also related to the broader canvas of the unfolding story. Feedback from George often includes comments about character voice consistency, identification of plot conventions, considerations of character arcs such as ‘would A be doing this now?’ or ‘it’s unlikely B would be motivated to do that’. This depth of feedback is precious. I hope I reciprocate in equal measure (I do my best).
I also take short extracts to the three writing groups I attend monthly (currently via video). Feedback here is often much more about accuracy in the writing and believability in plot and dialogue. These are also valuable. The effort required to reciprocate for other members is nominal compared to the benefits. There is much to learn from reading someone else’s work and creating meaningful feedback for them.
Initially I intended to post to this blog weekly. I soon learnt this was impractical for me and moved to fortnightly or less. After four months without posting, I shall now renew my commitment to this blog and post monthly. As today is the fourth Friday in July, I shall aim to post every fourth Friday. Posts will continue to be about the DIYMA course, but also about writing in general.
If you have read this far, thank you for your attention. If you haven't, thank you anyway.