Monday, October 10, 2016

Ask PZM: Oct 2016 - UPPING OUR GAME AS WRITERS

Q.  Do you think continued learning is necessary for writers throughout their writing lives?

To answer this question, let me begin with a true story.

Several years ago a fiction writer I knew had several of her books traditionally published.  Then somehow her new book proposals were not getting the traction her previous book proposals had gotten.

I suggested that she consider taking a writing class or two to help her go to the next level of writing.  The writer did not like my advice and I am not sure she got subsequent traditional publishing contracts.


My personal viewpoint is that writers – just as people in all different fields – should never stop learning. And we should definitely have an open mindset to tackling new things – see a favorite nonfiction book of mine titled MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol Dweck for the concept of an open mindset to being willing to fail at new tasks.


What does this have to do with book marketing?

Improving our writing has a great deal to do with book marketing.  As authors marketing our books we have to compete with an enormous number of other books in our same genre, writing style, historical or contemporary period, etc.  This means we need our books to be the best they can in order to stand out in the sea of other books.  And in my opinion being the best means continuing to improve our writing as well as exposing ourselves to new ideas.

(I recently joined a book club that meets twice a month because I wanted to be required to read books outside my comfort zone.  Who knows how this exposure to new ideas may impact my writing?)

When I first started learning how to go from newspaper writing to fiction writing, besides taking writing courses I bought several Writer’s Digest books, which were tremendously helpful.  Such nonfiction writing books as these can often be borrowed from public libraries in physical or ebook formats.

In researching for this post I discovered that Writer’s Digest now has a subscription platform for writing video tutorials – see https://tutorials.writersdigest.com – and I plan to soon check out this opportunity.  (First I have to complete watching the https://www.masterclass.com online fiction writing course taught by James Patterson as well as complete the eight-week screenwriting class with http://coreymandell.net/ , which requires reading the book MINDSET before the first class.)

Sometimes even the smallest nugget of an idea can improve our overall writing.  For example, Corey Mandell talks about creating stakes that matter, and I am now engaged in doing the homework for his class to work on this aspect of writing.

And remember the free dialogue “tutorial” that is available for all writers – eavesdropping in restaurants and other public places.  While this eavesdropping is NOT for us to copy the dialogue exactly, the purpose is to stimulate our minds to think of new ideas and ways to express those ideas.
In the comments below, add your best tips and techniques for continuing education for writers throughout their writing lives.


Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) blogs on book-related topics at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com and her fiction ebooks on Amazon can be read for free via a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription at www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller and her nonfiction ebooks on Amazon can be read for free via Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription at www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller


27 comments :

  1. I personally never want to stop learning. I want to learn how to improve my writing and my knowledge. I love trying out new software programs and apps just to see if it can teach something I don't know.

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    1. You've got a great attitude, Hank. Another reason why I appreciate your posts.

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  2. Sometimes shaking up what you've been doing for a while does give you a new way of cobbling together those words and phrases. I'd love to take a writing class and try some ideas out. It would be great to have some different feedback.

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    1. I miss the critique groups of the past. And taking a writing course is a great idea. I'm all for it. Thanks, Lee.

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  3. I personally disproved the ridiculous notion that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". With four teens and almost-teens at home I completed a bookkeeping course. When they had all graduated I started my own dog show business. When hubby retired I accelerated my interest in writing and took my first online course. I'm a big advocate of keeping challenged. If we aren't continually learning and growing, we're stagnating...and that's true in every aspect of our lives. ::climbing off soapbox now::

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    1. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why Carol is my hero. You rock, Carol. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  4. I agree with you- whatever field we are in we can continue to learn. Things change all the time and learning about the things we are passionate about will only benefit it. Happy learning!
    ~Jess

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    1. I agree 100%. Sadly, not everyone does. Thanks, Jess.

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  5. I agree - we can always learn new things. I read writing articles all the time (I particularly like Kim Weiland) and even if I don't find something "new" I often find something put in a new way that gives me fresh ideas. I think with trad publishing though, it's usually all about the money. If the writer was having trouble getting contracts, that probably comes from the buyers looking at her past sales and deciding they weren't "great" enough. I know someone who pubbed with a small company and sold 2000+ in her first 6 months. Her agent turned up her nose and said, "That's not enough for me to take your other books to the Big 5." End result - agent was fired and the writer has pubbed 4 more books, all selling "enough" for her and her publisher to make money.

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    1. That's a sad story in one respect. So much of our era is about money. Human beings are supposed to come first. We should matter to these Big 5. I have to stop thinking about it. I rant about this subject forever. Thanks for visiting, Lexa.

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  6. I'm doing the JP masterclass as well. Maybe I'll see you around the water cooler sometime. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. I'm going to look into JP's class. It's just funny because he's not considered a writer by many of the established authors on the BS list.

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  7. We always have to keep improving. There are so many opportunities, like those tutorials, that there's no excuse.

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    1. So true, Alex. We owe to ourselves to evolve.

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  8. I'm of the opinion we constantly need to be studying. It's too easy to forget information, say nothing about learning new stuff! In this dynamic book climate, we can't afford to be any other way.

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  9. I am always striving to learn new things, especially about the writing craft. I do as much as I can. :)

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    1. I know that firsthand, Chrys. You are an inspiration.

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  10. An inspiring piece. You've made me think I must do another course, too. Keep striving! :-) By the way, Joylene, your upcoming release looks fab!

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  11. It's easy to get into a rut where your writing becomes stodgy and stilted. You have to keep learning and re-inventing yourself to avoid this trap

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    1. What we need is to read more of your work, Hank. You make the world a much nicer place to be.

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  12. Hey, all the best for your tour. Thank you for stooping by my corner :)

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