Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part one


Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part one

Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part one

All of us here on Seekerville have at least one thing in common – we love Story. Whether we’re readers or writers (or both!) we have discovered that there is an enchanting world to be found between the covers of a book.

Authors are often asked questions from readers who would like to become authors themselves. No matter which questions they ask, what they really want to know is:

How do I get from being a reader to being a writer?

How do I prepare for a writing career?

I remember being the one asking these questions. I started asking when I was very young (I attempted to write a script for an episode of the television show, Bonanza, when I was nine years old…yes, that’s how long ago it was!) and I still had questions as I finished school, married, raised my family, and started on the downhill side of middle age.

Today, I’m going to try to answer your questions by giving you the first three of six steps to get from point A (reader) to point B (writer.) The first three steps are in today's post, the last three will be in next month's post (Lord willing.) These steps are meant to be a jumping off point. A place to start digging deeper. A place to start writing your own curriculum to teach yourself how to become an author.

It won’t be easy – to quote Ruthy, “writing is hard” – but it will be doable…IF you are willing to approach this task with a willing heart and a teachable spirit.

Step 1: Live your life.

When I was just a young thing graduating from college with my shiny new degree in English With A Creative Writing Emphasis, the last thing I felt ready to do was write a book. I had spent four years learning things that were supposed to make me a writer (most of which I’ve long since forgotten,) but I was woefully ill-equipped. Why? Because I had spent four years learning how to be a "writer"…not how to develop characters, construct a plot, or even plan a other words, to write a story.

As I prepared for graduation, I knew, deep down, that I knew nothing. I had no experiences, no knowledge, no wisdom.

What could I have done differently? I would have studied a different major, first of all.

History would have been a good major. Or philosophy. Or psychology.

Anything that would have taught me about people.

But even studying about people would not have given me the depth of knowledge I’ve gained by just living my life and trying to understand it.

You don’t have to live as long as I have to cultivate your “people knowledge.” You can use your own experiences, your family’s experiences, and your friends’ experiences, examining them with a writer’s eye. Understanding those experiences, how they have been affected by the past and how they will affect the future. And seeing them through God’s eyes…with a Christian world-view.

So, for your first assignment, LIVE! And as you live, observe, ponder, and ask “what if I had done it this way…”

Step 2: Read as if your career depends on it.

I’ve talked about reading for writers in another post. You can find Part One HERE and Part Two HERE, and I recommend that you take a few minutes to read them to refresh your memory. We’ll wait.

I can’t add much to the posts I wrote earlier, except that the top priority of every aspiring (and published) author should be to read.

So, your second assignment is to read - but not just any book. Choose one that you finished with a sigh, thinking, "oh, I wish I could write a book like that." Then re-read the book, applying the techniques that I outlined in "Reading as a Writer" part two.

Step 3: Study the concept of STORY.

I can’t emphasize this enough.

Story is the thread that makes our stories resonate with readers. I believe we all have an affinity for Story built into our DNA that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

How do you learn Story?

1. Read. I can’t say that often enough. From "The Story of Peter Rabbit" to "War and Peace," each book we read tells a story – A Hero. A Heroine. A Noble Quest. A Dragon. A Sword. A Victory. Knowing how those elements fit together is the beginning of understanding Story.

2. Study. There are some wonderful resources for writers that explain how to tap into that elusive thing we call story. Here are a few, but there are many others!

“The One Year Adventure Novel” curriculum by Dan Schwabauer. 
My boys and I used this curriculum when they were in high school, 
and I learned more about writing with this curriculum than I did in four years of college. 
Even though this is curriculum written for homeschoolers, it’s useful for anyone 
who is in the beginning stages of building a writing career.
You can learn more by visiting the website HERE.

Another resource I recommend is “The Moral Premise” by Stan Williams. 
Dr. Williams has been a guest on Seekerville more than once, 
and you can read about his book HERE.
Or you can read an introduction to The Moral Premise
in this post from the Seekerville archives.

The third resource, and one that will take you deep into this
subject, is "The Writer's Journey" by Chris Vogler. He delves 
into the maze of Story and breaks it down into
twelve steps. You can find his book HERE
or the companion video course with Chris Vogler
 and Michael Hauge, "The Hero's Two Journeys" HERE.

Your third assignment is to watch this fun introduction to The Writer's Journey story structure in a short video. Watch here!

Whew! Are you ready to get started on your course of self-education? Tune in next month when I’ll share the next three steps!

Meanwhile, share your aspirations with us! Are you at the bottom of that steep learning curve, feeling like EVERYONE knows more than you do? (You aren't alone!) Or are you somewhere in the middle, looking for more ways to make your writing shine?

One commenter will win your choice of a copy of my newest release, "The Roll of the Drums," book two in the Amish of Weaver's Creek series. (US only for paper copy, Kindle for international or if you prefer the digital version.)


34 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: Making the Move From Reader to Aspiring Author, part one

  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 00:39 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Welcome to Monday morning at Seekerville! We have a full breakfast bar on the buffet - everything from omelettes made to order, to scones and muffins, to steak and beans (the cowboy's breakfast!) Coffee, hot chocolate, and tea are ready, too.

  • Erica Vetsch
    on March 16, 2020 | 01:14 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "I've had this question so many times from people. How do I become a writer? I'm going to keep this post and your follow up post as ready answers from now on! :)"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on March 16, 2020 | 04:13 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Jan, I agree with Erica. I've had people ask me this, and these points are great answers. And like you, I found life to be the best teacher, the best grooming ground. Once you've put fifteen or twenty years behind you and college or even high school (like me) it's amazing how much knowledge you've attained by simply living, helping, raising, cooking, working, volunteering... There is so much pertinent detail in daily life, and it's a wealth-spring for authors. Thank you for this!"
  • Glynis
    on March 16, 2020 | 08:51 Glynissaid :
    "These are great tips, Jan. You know that I feel like I'm somewhere on the bottom of that journey, even though I probably know more than I think I do. I'm learning to juggle plot and character arcs and now even secondary plots, but it's a lot of hard work (I knew Ruthy was right about that, even if I didn't want to believe it!). I know it will all be worth it when I have a polished manuscript in my hands. Thanks for the post and all the encouragement you've given me. And no need to put my name in the hat for your book. I'll be making sure to get my copy!"
  • Jeanne Takenaka
    on March 16, 2020 | 10:09 Jeanne Takenakasaid :
    "You may laugh at me, Jan, but as I read this post, I kept thinking about how you and I roomed together at my first-ever ACFW. You had such a heart for story, even back then, and it's special to see where God has led you on your journey.

    You have a lot of wisdom to share for writers. This was such a great post!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 11:14 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "I love that experienced writers can be guides rather than gate-keepers! I've learned so much from you!

  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 11:16 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "I think the difference in living for writers is that we are observers. As we're living, we're absorbing everything!

  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 11:18 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "I remember when I was a newbie writer - I thought that since I was a reader I automatically knew how to write a story. Nothing could be farther from the truth! It's a steep learning curve, but I love a challenge. :-)

    I'm looking forward to seeing how your subplots turn out in your WIP. It was great talking with you on Friday!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 11:21 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "That was my first-ever ACFW too, Jeanne! There was a lot of angst in that room with four newbies, wasn't there? But as overwhelming as that conference was for me, I was glad I had you to share it with!

    And yes, God has had His hand in every step of this journey. I can take no credit at all. If I was doing this on my own...well...I hate to think of it!"
  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on March 16, 2020 | 12:09 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Oh, I hope I'm not too late for a scone. Yum!"
  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on March 16, 2020 | 12:17 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Jan, I knew nothing about writing when I started. NOTHING. I just wrote. I'd finished my first manuscript before I ever attended a writers group, where I learned that what I really had was a bad first draft. But God knew me. If I'd gone into that meeting having never written anything, I would have thrown up my hands in defeat, believing I never could do it. Instead, He had me finish that story first. That gave me the stick-to-it-iveness I needed to forge ahead and learn the craft of writing. Like you said, God had His hand in every step of my journey."
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 12:20 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "A new batch just came out of the oven, Mindy! "
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 12:24 Jan Drexlersaid :
    ""What I really had was a bad first draft."

    But you had a first draft! God knows us so well, doesn't he?"
  • Sandy Smith
    on March 16, 2020 | 12:51 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Great post, Jan. I always wanted to be a writer but it took me so long to decide I could write a novel. Whenever I read a book I couldn't figure out how authors do it. I still kind of feel that way as I work on revising my first book.

    I am on an abrupt extra week off for spring break--and who knows if it will go even longer. So I plan to use this time to write, as well as get other things done. So it will be a good chance to test my discipline. I will still be working at the book store, so won't be entirely just at home. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 13:04 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "I've said it before, Sandy, but it's worth repeating: Congratulations on finishing your book!

    It is said (according to the internet) that 97% of people who start writing a novel never finish! That's a staggering amount of folks who have a dream but never follow through with it to the end. So finishing a book is HUGE!

    And once you have that first draft, well, I'd like to say the rest is easy. It isn't. But it's a whole lot easier that if you had never finished your story!

    So it's a big deal. And since you did finish your book, you must have figured out how to do it. :-)

    Have a great week off. I'll be praying that you get some writing done!"
  • Angeline
    on March 16, 2020 | 15:57 Angelinesaid :
    "Thanks for the post, these had some great points."
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 16:00 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "You're welcome, Angeline! Thanks for stopping by!"
  • Vince
    on March 16, 2020 | 16:37 Vincesaid :
    "Hi Jan:

    At times I feel like I've read all the writing craft books over the years. The two that stand out the most and which I wish I had read first, like decades ago, are:

    Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

    The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life by Alicia Rasley

    I strongly believe that not studying POV is like a film director knowing how to use only one type of lenses. I think one of the first exercises a new writer should do is write the same 500 word scene in each of the many different POVs. Doing this is an education in itself. At least know what is possible and why and when a given POV is the best choice.

    I agree that story is important but what is story? I'd say it is not the plot. There ultimately are very few plots used over and over again. If it is not just what happens, then is it how what happened came to be?

    It seems I don't remember stories that well but I do remember characters. I love Ruth's "The Lawman's Second Chance" but the plot is very simple: Hero lost wife to cancer, heroine had her husband leave her when she got cancer, neither hero nor heroine wants to risk a repeat of their great hurt.

    That is very simple. What makes it so great in my opinion? Isn't it the characters and what they did and how they felt? Story is not simple.

    One other thing: "The Moral Premise" has a great and powerful idea. What drove me nuts is that about 80% plus of the book is a history of philosophy showing that the concept expressed in "The Moral Premise" is not original. I loved it because my degree is in philosophy but none of it was needed. If I were a lawyer I would have objected and told the court, "The defense is willing to stipulate that the idea is not original. Now would you please state your case."

    Just read the end of the book. No one needs proof that it is not an original idea. Again, don't give up on the book. Just read the end first.

    Please place me in the drawing for a Kindle edition.

  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 16:47 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "There are a lot of great craft books out there!

    One thing that can be frustrating - even though I appreciate it - is that every craft book author has their own system that works for them. I love that, because every writer is different. The system I use to develop my characters and plot is the cafeteria method: a little bit from this book, a little bit from that book. It all works for me, but my method wouldn't work for you, or Ruthy, or any other author.

    And you are so right about Story. It's an elusive thing, and that's where the art of writing comes into play. No one can really express it, but we know it when we see it.

    Thanks for stopping by, Vince, and you're in the drawing!"
  • Debby Giusti
    on March 16, 2020 | 17:58 Debby Giustisaid :
    "Jan, so true about living life. In my youth, I didn't understand human interaction and what makes people react in various situations. With time...and life...I've come to see how people tick and why they act in certain ways. That knowledge plays out in my stories. So living life is a great suggestion for someone wanting to be a writer.

    Reading like a writer is important too."
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 18:02 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "It's amazing how my observation skills have been honed since I've started writing regularly. One of my favorite things to do is sit and listen to people can learn so much about speech patterns, facial expressions, and body language! And that doesn't even count the stories they tell. I never "steal" the stories, but ingest them and let them simmer, coming up with my own "what if."

    And then applying what we've learned in our own lives turns the idle conversations into stories...

  • Stan Williams
    on March 16, 2020 | 18:37 Stan Williamssaid :
    "Well, since Jan and Vince mentioned my book "The Moral Premise", and Debby Guisti pointed this out, let me suggest that a beginning writer start by writing stories about their own life that changed something about their personality or taught them a dramatic lesson. Memoirs are that way. I wrote one, it was really fun, and they end up becoming at once a series of short stories and a long one. But Vince, you should really take another look at my book. I spend only about 25% of the book explaining the history of the moral premise and how it is the natural law of storytelling way back to the beginning of time. After page 50 it's all theory and application. Blessings to all. Oh, one more thing. If you like Jordan Peterson, in the middle of the interview linked below he talks about the importance of the moral premise (although he's never heard of the book, I presume) from 24:00 minutes in until about 26:40. You can't ignore reality if you want to tell a true story."
  • Debby Giusti
    on March 16, 2020 | 20:28 Debby Giustisaid :
    "Stan, thanks for stopping by the blog! Great to hear from you. Your Moral Premise has made a difference in my writing, and I'm grateful! Are you working on any other writing how-to books? I hope so!"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:04 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Jan, what a great post!! I'm sorry I'm late getting by. I loved the Toy Story video for a reminder of the hero's journey. :)

    Thanks, too, for the reminder that taking the time to read is a GOOD thing. My book club has been great for me, giving me a stronger reason to read even when I don't feel like I have time."
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:09 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Vince, isn't it funny how different books hit us differently? Stan's was the first how-to book that I devoured from page one and read to the end. I usually just pick and choose chapters that are helpful in how-to books, but that one was an easy read for me that made a lot of sense. We're all different in how we learn! :)"
  • Missy Tippens
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:09 Missy Tippenssaid :
    "Stan, we're so glad you stopped by! Thanks for the link!"
  • Mary Connealy
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:19 Mary Connealysaid :
    "Three MORE steps? All right!!! :)"
  • Mary Connealy
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:20 Mary Connealysaid :
    "Hi Stan!!!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:40 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Stan! Thank you for stopping by!

    I've told many people that I don't write a book until I take it through the Moral Premise steps! Thank you for your guidance!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:41 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Reading has always been my favorite thing. Now I have an extremely good reason to indulge myself!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on March 16, 2020 | 21:41 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Lord willing!"
  • Erica Vetsch
    on March 16, 2020 | 22:08 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "Stan, thank you for coming to Seekerville today! I took your class once and thought it very interesting and entertaining! "
  • Debby Giusti
    on March 16, 2020 | 22:48 Debby Giustisaid :
    "Missy, my book club is a plus for me as well. I love the gals. We have fun together, and the monthly reads are often stories I might not have read on my own. So many stories to read, so little time! :)"
  • Anne L. Rightler
    on March 17, 2020 | 00:44 Anne L. Rightlersaid :
    "Some great suggestions (& 3 more to come!!) for the writers out there. I am a reader only. About the only thing I write these days are letters to friends on their birthdays and reviews of books I’ve read. "
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