Three years ago I wrote a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month. Since then, I’d picked at it, knowing it needed a lot of revising before it would be ready to pitch to publishers. But I could never get the motivation to do the hard work — maybe because while I knew generally what I needed to fix, I didn’t know why or how.
Then, I stumbled on a blog post about some fiction writing classes taught by Lani Diane Rich. I knew the name because she’s the first amateur writer to have her NaNo novel published. (She’s since published quite a few others.) I was inspired, and intrigued by her method of teaching — via webcast and a private forum where she’d answer her students’ questions in some detail.
Lani offers two classes: Discovery and Revision. I chose Revision, which is in many ways geared toward NaNo writers who emerge triumphant from November with 50,000 words and then realize they still have quite a lot of work ahead. Discovery is more of a pre-NaNo class, where you work on shaping an idea and a world for your next story. Halfway through our session, she opened up classes for the summer and I signed up for Discovery without a second thought. That’s how much fun I was having.
Over the six weeks of Revision, I learned so much about plot, pacing and story structure, which honestly have always been the weaknesses that held me back from giving fiction writing a fair shot. Not only did Lani’s class help me figure out what I need to fix my current manuscript, but I feel like a lightbulb went on and I now have the tools to shape any idea into a compelling story in the future. And while her lectures are invaluable, she also goes into the forums every day and answers questions, helps analyze story structure, offers her ideas for fixes … I can’t think of anywhere else you could possibly get that kind of tutelage for less than $200.
So, if you’ve got a dusty manuscript somewhere that you’re going to fix “someday,” I highly suggest you take the opportunity to have Lani help you whip it into shape. Or if you’ve got a novel idea rattling around, come join me in her Discovery class, and then we can suffer through NaNo 2010 together.