Lost in Vegas and Writin' Good

Lost in Vegas?
I know it's been a LONG time since I last visited with you, and as many of you know, my husband and I went on holiday to Las Vegas...over Christmas. And no, despite my long absence, we didn't get lost, but we were almost swallowed by a monster - the amorphous blob of zombie shoppers and gamblers filling every hotel, show, restaurant and bus (The Deuce...no kidding, that's what they call it). Silly us, thinking it a novel idea to go to Vegas for Christmas. Seems everyone from Asia and the Middle East had the same idea.

Now with the whining complete, I can honestly say we had a great time. We didn't gamble, not even once! Never got around to it, but we had a FABULOUS room at The Venetian - the hotel with the gondolas. We slept a lot (much needed), ate excellent food and saw a ton of brilliant shows. If you love the Beatles like I do, going to see the Cirque Du Soleil's, LOVE, is worth the trip to Vegas. The music, the visual feast, the ingenious staging makes for a stunning event. Here's a little intro from YouTube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=bEsN9TRe7LU&feature=related

The other very cool thing we did while we were in Vegas is take a bus trip to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Skywalk is a suspended glass-floored bridge that hangs 4000 feet above the west rim of the canyon on the Hualapai Tribal land (or air, in this case). It's an amazing experience (scary, too!). Glass bottom boats have nothin' on this baby!

Now, what, you may ask, does all this have to do with writing? Well, nothing, but I'm FINALLY getting to that...

Writin' Good
You may remember that last year I subjected myself to a good thrashing at Borderlands Press Novel Boot Camp. It was fabulous, and being the masochist that I am, I went back for another whoopin' last month for the Short Story Boot Camp. Since I'm working on my short story collection, MAMA'S BOY AND OTHER DARK TALES (Apex - Summer 08), I thought it would be a great help to tidy up my writing brain and sharpen my skills with the help of writing masters, F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, Doug Winter and Ginjer Buchanan. Well, besides the literary lashings and the grueling all night writing sessions (plus, I got the freakin' flu on my drive down to the workshop...oops, more whining...sorry), it was the best thing I could have done! Let's hope my short story collection actually reflects the tireless efforts of the instructors and my very generous fellow writers (or Grunts, as we're fondly referred to). *fingers crossed*

The point of all this, other than shameless self-promotion? If you're a writer and you want to improve your writing, consider taking some classes. The submission/rejection process will help make you a better writers, but a couple of good classes can make an enormous difference in acceleratingly your skills in the craft of writing. Learning the fundamentals of plot, character development, grammar, voice, point of view, etc. can save you years of stumbling toward real publication success. Of course, some folks succeed without a single class, but it can take years...decades.

Starting with something as simple as a community college class in creative writing can be helpful. I started with local adult classes offered in my state as an education extension program. The classes were only a couple of hours a week for 6 or 8 weeks, but it gave me a starting point and some basics to work with. There are also some good online classes available, if you don't mind technology as opposed to face-to-face teaching. When I was starting out, I took a good class from the Ed2Go folks, Writing Fiction Like a Pro. It gave me an excellent start on understanding story structure via the Three Act Play concept. Also, Gotham Writers' Workshop offers online courses (and live classes in NYC). I took their Fiction Writing class with Terri Brown-Davidson. Of course, not all teachers are created equal, but Terri's class was excellent.

Gotham also has a couple of very good books available. They're literary fiction oriented, but good foundational writing is not genre-specific, so have a look at Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide, and The Fiction Gallery (great classic short stories - very good companion to The Practical Guide for reference to understanding difference in Point of View, dialog, etc). Also, Tom Monteleone's, Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel, is packed with excellent writing information, from basics to more advanced craft information.

A lot of literary fiction classes tend to be tough on genre writers, so be prepared to build a thick skin and maintain your focus on what's important; learning how to write well. And once you have the basics down, consider an investment in Borderlands Press Boot Camp, Odyssey-The Fantasy Writing Workshop or Clarion. If you're ready for an academic commitment to your writing career, Seton Hill College has an superb program with a Masters of Art in Writing Popular Fiction degree available. Their faculty list is definitely worth a look.

I know cash and time are often a big issue for folks when you talk about taking classes, but you can start small with a couple of good books, and classes can be as little as $50. Like any endeavor, whether for fun or for a career, an investment in yourself and your passion will come back to you in many ways. Besides, you're worth it! And no matter how you pursue your love of writing, be sure to spend plenty of time building those priceless friendships with other good writers. I've learned that fellow writers are an invaluable support. And you never know who might just be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling.

Okay, I'm done my yammering for today. It's great to see you all again. I'll be back soon. That's a promise...and a threat. *wink*

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Note: Thank you to Wally Cwik for the use of his Borderland Press photo of F. Paul Wilson, Doug Winter, Ginjer Buchanan and Tom Monteleone!