Lesson 1: What in the crap are we doing?

Well, what’s your answer to that question? If someone were to ask you what a novel is good for, what would you say?

No, don’t go clicking on the links below.

You’re here to learn. You want to learn? Let me give you a tip. If you take a moment to generate your own answer to the questions before hearing what I have to say, you will learn and retain significantly more.

How do I know this? It’s what the research says as well as my 20 years of mind-blowing teaching (well, some of the minds were blown . . . somewhere. I’m sure of it. Mongolia maybe?)

So what’s YOUR answer?

Get out your study notebook, turn to page one, and write it down.


Here are my thoughts.

You thought you were done. You’re not (grin). Get out your study notebook. Write down your answer to the opening question now. Make it as short an answer as you can. If you disagree with me on various points, write down your disagreements. Don’t cheat yourself.

Here’s an even more effective way to learn–get another brain.

But John, how? Is this an iffy procedure only performed in Mexico?

Get yourself a buddy who wants to learn the same thing, and walk through this together. Or find someone who is somewhat interested and will at least listen to you blather on and discuss the ideas with you.

Once you have the gist of this concept, you need to see more examples of it. You need to learn to recognize it in action. So where do you find these examples? Everywhere. Look at the current book you’re reading or a movie or TV program you just watched.  Or go enjoy a new one, and after (and I mean after; don’t ruin the fun by doing analysis when you should just be enjoying it), take a moment to discuss with your buddy the service that story provided, i.e., the effects it created in you, i.e., the experience it guided you through. Describe what parts you liked.

Now before you move on, I want you to do something that will start to give you your direction. It will start to define you as a writer.

Take 10 minutes and jot down the effects you love. Create your master list of the things you love in your favorite stories. You want to write the kinds of stories you want to read. Making this simple list is a key to doing that consciously.

You need to be aware of the reader effects.

You need to be sensitive to them.

In the end, they are the only things that matter because everything you’re doing is based on them.

By the way, sometimes this takes a while to get all this down. Here’s my story about how I wandered around in the bushes for 10 years. Boy, how I wish somebody had given me a map!


One Response to Lesson 1: What in the crap are we doing?

  1. Kent Jones says:

    I heard once that a guy gets attacked in a bar in the UK, on average, every ten minutes. I thought, “How does he ever drink his beer?”

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