Two months ago, I put out a challenge to my writers group to write a short story. There were only three rules.
1) The story could be no shorter than 500 words, but no longer than 5,000.
2) The story deadline was the end of the month.
3) The story had to start with a particular sentence.
I ended up with varying results, but everyone liked the idea, and they wanted me to continue the challenge every month. November’s challenge started with, “You know, he weighs as much as a bowling ball.” December’s was “What do you think is in the box?”
I was very surprised at how many of the newbies were willing to try.
Many people out there think they can write, and I applaud the ones who try. Good or bad, getting the words on paper that describes the thoughts running around in your head is difficult. Sharing those words with others is even harder. Listening to the critics can be painful.
We tell everybody who presents their writing that everyone has their own viewpoint and opinion, but if several people say the same thing about something in your story, take a closer look at what you are doing.
There are a few things I wish someone had told me years ago, so that I would not have made those mistakes in my own writing. One of them is grammar. Yes, I said it, Grammar. Many people go through life not realizing how critical good or even decent grammar is. I didn’t until recently when a good friend gave me ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White.
I’m sorry to say that I was one of those people who, in both high school and college, could write a coherent sentence. The result was that I passed my English classes with B’s, but my usage of grammar to those in-the-know was deplorable. My writers group has been instrumental in showing me what I’ve been doing wrong. Yes, even published authors make mistakes. I’m terrified of reading what I’ve already published. I know that if I do, I may die of embarrassment.
The results were the same with some of the challenge entries, not just grammar. The story lines, not knowing your audience, breaking the reader’s suspension of disbelief, and formatting a story correctly, these are only a few items that I can remember off hand.
To any author I would say, keep writing, keep learning, keep getting better and never stop growing. If you think your writing is perfect, you’ve already lost the race.