As every writer who has sampled the vast universe of online writing instruction knows, the quality of courses offered can range from forgettable to fantastic. This year, I've taken two courses that not only immediately improved my writing but will impact the way I write for years to come.
Today I'll focus on the first fabulous course I took, C.S. Lakin's "Eight Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel." In her course on Teachable, author and instructor C.S, Lakin covers such topics as building each scene to a high moment, invoking micro tension on every page, and writing tight, distilled dialogue. Each week of the 8-week course (which you can complete at your own pace) includes a video lecture and numerous examples from published authors. Lakin sometimes offers the course with a critique-group component, which I chose not to take advantage of due to time constraints.
What did I get from this course? A new understanding of how to plan, write, and evaluate a scene. Lakin's first tenet, that every scene in a novel must serve a purpose, seems like a no-brainer, but really getting it has changed my writing life. Now, when I sit down to write a scene, I ask myself:
What is the scene's purpose?
How will the POV character's situation change from the beginning of the scene to the end?
What is the high point of the scene, and how can I best lead up to it?
When I've finished the first draft of the scene, I question myself again:
Does my POV character react to and process events before making a new decision and plunging into new action?
Have I added specific sensory details in the appropriate places?
Have I dispensed necessary backstory in tidbits rather than large chunks?
Have I shown my characters' emotions through some combination of visceral reaction, naming the emotion, and character thought?
Working with the material Lakin presents in this course helped me not only get to The End but to feel that I'd actually written the story I set out to tell.
Tune in next time, when I'll talk about another fabulous writing course called "Writing Sexual Tension" with Mary Buckham.