I realized starting to write late in life, that I had a lot of learning to do. Where do you start? If you spent most of your life making a living, and then decide you want to pursue a passion for writer, what’s the next step?
I found myself in this very dilemma in 2010. Retired from my career in business, wanting to pursue writing, and ideas for stories bouncing in my head. I realized to my horror, that I had no idea on dialogue. Yes, the “Well, I think we need to go over here,” he said with a firmness that masked his nervous twitch. There was that, and the idea of how to have a beginning and middle and end.
Yes, I was somewhat adrift in a sea of writers angst. Where to begin. My very fist class was a Creative Writing Level One course at Mount Royal University in Calgary. There I was, the old grey haired guy, amongst the young trendy set. I brought out my trusty notebook and pen, and the nice young men and women with their laptops and pads gave me a knowing smile.
What I received in that first class, were the very first elements, the bare bones of instruction in writing. The instructor was Naomi Lewis. A wonderful award-winning writer and editor, who kept the class on topic, and pushed us to do writing exercises in every class. Writing exercises! The meer mention of it sent chills down my spine, and when I did them, they were a complete joy.
We held readings in class, and I could hear the enthusiasm in the voices of others. I gave my readings, and could feel the tension in my voice, as something I had written touched me. We were introduced to a book called Imaginative writing, the Elements of Craft, by Janet Burroway, and from the exercises, I learned about writing styles I never knew existed.
I wrote the first chapter of Polar Bear Dawn, a novel I intend to publish next year, I read the first chapter in class, and it was proclaimed, “Gnarly,” by a young man in the second row. That was all the confirmation I needed.
I recommend writing classes to everyone who is yearning to write, and looking for some kind of guidance, but there is a caution there. Sometime, after the classes are done, you need to sit down, and write. Find your story, the one only you are passionate about it, and write it.
The technique is out there. You’ll find a multitude of books that will tell you how to do dialogue, and pacing, and structure, and all those important things, but what is missing is you – your story – your uniqueness to the world. And that after all is what matters.
Happy learning, and writing.