Thursday, April 8, 2010

From an Almond to a Peach

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."
~ Mark Twain

Photo of cut peach by Patrick Tregenza, courtesy USDA Agricultural
Research Service Image Library Fruits & Veggies


For writers, training comes in many forms. We have alpha readers, beta readers, CP's, online courses, workshops, conferences, favorite craft books, contests and blogfests... The opportunities are limitless and all are valuable.


Unless we are willing to accept constructive criticism and to work hard (for however long it takes) to improve our skill, we cannot expect to grow into our potential. Tom Romano says that the minds of others is an ally we have to "deepen our thinking and sharpen the quality of our writing." He adds that "Admitting people into the process of our writing, however, is a greater act of faith and fearlessness than writing about what we feel strongly but cannot yet envision."

Today, I encourage us to do whatever we can to exploit opportunities. I have not attended a writing conference yet, but it is a huge goal for me, despite my currently awful, one-minute pitch. Charmaine @ Wagging Tales highly recommends several online writing courses. Elana Johnson wrote a fantastic eBook, From the Query to the Call, and has been doing a series on how to be better bloggers. Roni @ Fiction Groupie and Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse provide incredible posts to help improve and strengthen our writing.

The opportunities abound. Use them. Enjoy them.


What have been some of the greatest resources to you in your writing development?

37 comments:

Aubrie said...

Query Tracker is a great resource for me. Also, my critique buddies and my beta readers. The blog community has been surprisingly supportive and has a wealth of information!

~Sheri Larsen~ said...

I love your words '...grow into our potential.' How true. Thanks you, Shannon.
S~

Kimberly Franklin said...

I've said it before but I'll say it again... my writ partners save me and teach me everyday.

Bish Denham said...

Taking writing courses with the Institute of Children's Literature was a HUGE help. Then I got to be part of a small intimate workshop with Jane Yolen, for a whole week-end!

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I don't think I can choose just one!! Here are my top three

1. CPs. Holy crap they are amazing and my book would NOT be what it is today (and it's still being refined) without their help and support.

2. CJ Redwine's 2 week query course. Amazing.

3. Agents on twitter and Agents' blogs. There is a WEALTH of information out there.

I'm sure conferences will make their way up there too--I'm going to WisCon in May and SCBWI in July...

storyqueen said...

Books,not necessarily about writing, but books that are so amazingly written that you can't read them and not think "Wow. How did this author do that?"

I like to look at great authors as my mentors.

Shelley

Kelly said...

I've taken a few online classes from authors that helped me improve and stretch my writing. Mostly though, I learned the most about the nuts and bolts of publishing from Verla Kay's blueboards. I was so naive about what to do (and I didn't realize how competitive the market was). I continue to learn through fabulous blogs too!

Tracy said...

Honestly, the biggest thing that's helped me is to reading. Through obsessive reading I've subconsciously absorbed what makes a good story and what doesn't.

The betas and blogs, etc. are the icing on the cake .

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I read a lot of different books. I read a lot of different blogs. I have a couple of really great readers for my manuscript. And I critique for other people, too. The critiques for others really help me hone my craft. It's awesome.

Tamika: said...

I've learned so much from blogging. The resources I've found are innumberable. I crave craft book and agen t blogs.

Jennie Englund said...

I SO wish you were going to the Seattle SCBWI Conference this weekend!

We could meet up over a mocha, and talk and talk and talk.

For me, my writing group is my best resource ever. Last night, I brought stuff so rough, I busted up laughing right in the middle of it.

I'm still laughing!

Bane of Anubis said...

Peaches, cauliflowers, and cabbages -- remind me not to eat at Mr. Twain's house :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Querytracker, my beta readers, and my blog readers have been my greatest resources. I don't know what I'd do without them!

DL Hammons said...

I would have to say the blogosphere has been the single most important tool in my development. Post such as this one with links to incredibly useful information have been awesome.

I too see a writers conference in my future. Picking the right one at the right time will be important.

Kelly Lyman said...

Great post! I would say my CPs and blogs. There is a wealth of knowledge out there. It also helps me to know that I'm not alone in some of my struggles.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

First, love the food images. Could I possibly be hungry? Didn't I just have lunch? :) I'm with Storyqueen. Sometimes, the very best teacher is a great author, through his/her words. A beautiful children's author friend of mine, Lenore Look, suggested to me that before I head into the revision process, I take time to go back and read one of my favorite books in that genre to get into the mode of great literature. There is nothing to better inspire me in my own writing than a book full of well-chosen thoughts.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, you guys have some great ideas!

Query Tracker (I should have included that one)
Institute of Children's Lit.
CJ Redwine
Verla Kay

keep it coming! :-)

Shelley Sly said...

Such a true post! We do need each other in order to grow. It all depends on how we take criticism -- if we choose to just ignore the words of our betas and peers, or if we can admit that we might not be at our greatest potential yet, and take their advice to improve our craft. Thanks for this great reminder.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Great links! thanks for them.

My undergrad was a double major in English and creative writing, so of course, learned a lot there. Grad school in English, so learned a little more.

But most of my writing improvement has come from experience. There's something to be said for writing more and more and more. It's truly the best way to improve. But CPs and betas and the occasional bloggie tip helps immensely as well. Publishing, however, is a whole other matter altogether. I don't think you could read, listen, and learn too much about publishing. You can be a brilliant writer and never publish if you don't know what you're doing.

Great post.

Heather said...

Having attended retreats and conferences I'm a huge believer in them. They can change your writing and your life. As for tips, there is a list of books and websites helpful to writers on my blog. Let's see if I can remember some: THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass are must have books for writers!

L.T. Elliot said...

Conferences and my crit group have made a world of difference for me. I also try to read a lot (both fiction and non-fiction about the craft) to improve myself. There's nothing like getting a reader/crit partner to help you see something more clearly. Thanks, Shannon! A great post. Again, you're so inspirational.

Angela said...

Aw thanks. I'm glad to know my writing posts help. I think for me, one of the key things I did to grow as a writer was reach out to others for knowledge. We can only get so far on our own, and I really feel writing is a community thing, not a solitary thing.

Christina Lee said...

A great reminder!! READING tons of YA, my critique group, making on-line writer buddies, writing conferences, networking on twitter and through blogs all HELP!!!

Faith Pray said...

I want to hone my craft, and need to spend more time studying. My most indulgent resource is reading tons of books in my genre and trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. But I know I need to study more from mentor voices, so thanks for the resources! I love that Twain quote!

Mary Campbell said...

It is hard to let people read our stuff, but it is so worth it. I'm grateful to everyone who has read my work and found something they liked and also pointed out the things they didn't - I'm a better writer for it. Hard work is the key - and sometimes I'm afraid I don't have it in me.

Gail said...

Great post! And so true. I took a webinar today that was awesome- I'm going to highlight the info in my blog tomorrow.
I've been to regional conferences, but I'm planning to attend the BIG one this summer- SCBWI in LA- for the first time and I'm so excited!

New to your blog, love it, I'm a follower now!
Gail
www.writefromthesoulvisualeyes.blogspot.com

Mary Campbell said...

sorry Shannon didn't mean to be such a downer. You're sweet to be concerned about me. I'm really alright - just frustrated that I didn't get the chance to write yesterday or today yet. I'm hoping for some time later, but I'm worried it's not going to happen. Guess I need to make it happen - thank you for the blue skies reminder.

Susan Fields said...

I think my writing buddies have been such a great resource. Not just because they give me honest critiques, but because they're such an encouragement and push me to better myself. I wouldn't have a blog if it weren't for the encouragement of a close group of writing friends we lovingly call "The Wad."

Jemi Fraser said...

I found Agent Query Connect about a year ago. Amazing group of writers who are very willing to help writers of all levels. Great place.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

My critic group is priceless. Plus, the internet is pretty awesome. Always love the pictures you use.

Elana Johnson said...

Thanks for the linkage, Shannon. You are too kind. And look at all these people who love QT! I'm so humbled and I'm going to tell Pat how awesome he is.

For me, the biggest thing that helps me in my writing is my critique partners. They tell me where I've fallen short and provide the encouragement to pick myself up and try again.

They are awesomesauce.

Katie Ganshert said...

Agent blogs have been very helpful. I paid for a two professional critiques, which were worth their weight in gold!

Patti Lacy said...

Experts who give of their time to help me get the words sounding "right"
So if a nurse reads my ER scene, she will say, "Aha. This woman knows nursing."

Terresa said...

Other writers have been my best resource. Also, writing-related books (Bird by Bird, Writing down the bones, etc).

Love that Twain quote, too!!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Conferences, blog writers, writer friends, a few books on the craft, and real people and their stories. I love listening to people tell stories.

Thanks, You're a peach!
M.

Heather Zundel said...

I think this is great advice, and I think the quote from Twain is both funny and apt. Your posts can be so succinct and informative at the same time. Love it.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Classes have been invaluable for me, not only for the knowledge the teacher has to impart, but for meeting other writers. Invaluable.

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