The right tools for the right job

This actually does relate to writing, so bear with me. I buy cheap shoes. Shoes cover my feet. As long as they do that, they’re good shoes. I might pay a little more for dress shoes, but not that much more. There’s one exception to this. Running shoes.

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I’m currently training for a half marathon. Among other things, this means my longer runs will be hours long. In that kind of situation, I’m not going to get the cheapest shoes I can find. I went to a specialist running store where they watched me run. They saw that I put more weight on the inside of my foot so they recommended a shoe that has extra arch support. The first time I bought that shoe, it cost me $160. Whenever I replace it, I get the same kind of shoe, and I can generally find it online for cheaper, but its still more than my day to day shoes, and I will likely continue to do so.

What does this have to do with writing?

Writing a skill, like any other, and few people can just start out doing it well. There is so much to learn. Can you write a novel without knowing about the hero’s journey, three act structure, and try-fail cycles? Sure. If you’ve been reading for a long time, you will very likely do some of these things without realizing it. The problem will come when you realize that a story isn’t quite working, and you don’t know why. Maybe your ending is falling flat because you never had your guide character reconcile with the protagonist, or your beginning isn’t establishing resonance with the reader, or it could be one of a thousand other things. A lot of these structures and storytelling tools give you a bunch of rules. Those rules are important. That’s not to say you should always follow them, but if you break them, you should be doing it deliberately, to achieve a specific end. It’s important to learn these things, especially if you want to go through a traditional publisher. It’s not that they’re not willing to try new things. It’s that trying a new thing from a new author is doubly risky.

On the subject of tools, there are a myriad of workshops and seminars available to help you learn every aspect of writing. David Farland (http://mystorydoctor.com) is a wonderful teacher who has various online and in person classes. I’ve gone to a couple, and have always found them well worth my time and my money. Every February, the Superstars Wring Seminar takes place in Colorado Springs. I’ve gone to this five times and built up numerous contacts. Last year, I went to the Writing Excuses retreat. I’ve gone to WorldCon several times as well as World Fantasy. These things are not cheap, but they are, or they provide, the right tools. Do you need them? No, not necessarily. I could run a marathon in any shoes, or none at all, but having the right ones makes it a lot easier.

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