Bill posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Well I think I am ready to get started. I purchased your book to day and downloaded the Snowflake software. I was also a system architect and I know the power of databases and sequenced activity.
This question has probably been asked a thousand times and I apologize in advance.
Should I read the book first or jump into the software and read the appropriate section for that stage later?
Also, it would be really cool to have a forum here so that struggling writers can share with each other and you. If there is one then I apologize for being too dense to find it. LOL.
Randy sez: A lot depends on what your learning style is, and that depends on how your brain is wired. Some people learn best by trying first, and then learning a bit of theory to help them understand what’s going wrong. Other people learn best by reading the theory first, and then going and doing it.
The hazard of writing first is that you might spend a long time writing badly, when you could have saved yourself a huge amount of work by learning from the experts.
The hazard of reading first is that you might never actually write anything at all, because you’ll always want to read “just one more book before I get started.”
If you’re a “write first, read later” kind of person, I’d suggest that you give yourself a set amount of work you’re going to create on your own. You might decide that you’ll spend one month writing every day. Or you might set a goal of writing three chapters. You’re free to choose your goals here, but I strongly recommend that once you hit those goals, do these things:
- Get somebody else to read your work and critique it.
- Once you have a critique, go read up in a book on how to deal with the weaknesses that were exposed in the critique. (Since you’ve already bought my book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES, just leaf through the table of contents, find the chapter that deals with a particular topic, and read that whole chapter.)
- Set yourself another writing goal and repeat the whole process.
If you’re a “read first, write later” kind of a person, I’d suggest you set a limit on how much study you’re going to do in advance. Since you’ve already bought my book, and my book is a general book that aims to give you a broad foundation, I’d suggest you read carefully through Part 1 (Getting Ready to Write Fiction) and Part 2 (Creating Compelling Fiction). Then SKIM the rest of the book (on editing your book and getting it published). Then get busy writing.
- Work through Chapter 3 of my book (on choosing your target audience–this is critical)
- Read Chapter 4 (on creative paradigms) and choose the one that seems best for you.
- Do any action items in Chapter 5 (on managing your time and your work space)
- Start writing! This may mean starting in on the Snowflake method, if that is your creative paradigm. It may mean just typing words every day (if you’re a seat-of-the-pants type of writers.
- As you feel a need to study more, do so, but don’t let that keep you from writing. Most all writers ultimately learn by doing. Learning the theory is great and it’s very important. That’s why I wrote my book and created my lecture series–to teach you the theory. But you will only get good when you internalize that theory by writing.
One final note on your comment on the need for a forum: I would like to have a forum. It’s been suggested several times by my Loyal Blog Readers, and I think I’m long overdue to create one. Like everyone else, my time is limited and I haven’t yet found the time to launch a forum. I work best when I focus on one thing and execute it well. I have a strategic plan for this web site, and a forum is part of that strategic plan, but it’s not the next step. When the time is right, I’ll do so. So stay tuned. I do have some major improvements planned for the next several months.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.