The other week, a friend of mine asked me to come and speak to her women's group about being an author. They wanted me to share my experiences in publishing, then answer any questions they had.
I always get nervous before these things, because I never feel like I know that much about writing. There is always someone around who knows more or has more experience than I do.
In this case, I was the expert in the field.
These ladies fired all sorts of questions at me. Topics ranged from how to craft a story to how to create good characters to what's the best route for publishing to how did you get interested in writing?
As I was answering, I found out a lot about myself. Yes, it seems strange, but there you go.
One woman asked me how I learned to write a story. How did I plot?
Part of me remembered hearing wonderful writers saying very deep and moving things about plot and feelings and how the characters wove into the story to make conflicts and how the emotional payoff at the end had to be good enough to satisfy the reader.
None of this came out of my mouth. What came out of my mouth was this, "You know what, I follow the 15 point beat sheet. Go read the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. That's how I plot."
And it's true. I'm sort of helpless without those 15 beats. The 7 point plot system works as well, and I shared that with them, but in a nutshell, I'm a Save the Cat girl. I also mentioned that some people can't outline. They have to write themselves into a corner, back up and go again. Everyone's process is different.
Another question I got was "How do you go about writing a second book?"
Again, all sorts of deep and meaningful things about inner conflict and not letting the middle sag floated through my mind. But what I said was, "Go watch the Empire Strikes Back. Follow the pattern. It is perhaps the best and most successful second act of a trilogy that has ever been filmed. I find something like that and follow the pattern. My story will not turn out the same, but it gives me a direction for my 15 beats."
I said it, thought about it and decided that this is totally true. It's how I roll.
There were around ten women there. One had self-published one novel and was working on her second. The others merely had aspirations. Each one of them thanked me for being so honest and excited and knowledgeable about writing. They plan to start a writing group to see if they like it.
Now, I'm well aware that I have a lot to learn about writing, but it's good to take a step off of the path and look back at how far I've come.
The journey is long, and some parts are steeper than others, but like on any hike, glance over your shoulder and see the distance you've put behind you. You might be both surprised and awed.