Never too old to learn

[Posted previously, in error, for about two minutes. I apologize to everyone who tried to comment on the original post which disappeared so quickly.  The error was entirely mine. –Josh]

I’m pleased to share this guest post from a wonderful writer friend. Though she’d been a teaching professional at the college level for years, creative writing was something new for her. She’s been a delight to work with, and I’m proud to count her among my good friends. Herewith, the words of my talented colleague, Betty Smith, Professor of Anthropology, Kennesaw State University (retired). Enjoy!

On a lark, I signed up for a course on creative fiction writing taught by Josh Langston. Never did I think I would actually write a novel. Josh assigned weekly best opening contests. Each opening required a person in a place with a problem and a hook to draw in the reader. I wrote two openings that I determined could be used together, and I began to write. Fifteen months later, I finished my novel, Abby’s Choice. What have I learned through this process?

Who knows where all the words come from?

First, I learned I am a pantser, not a plotter. I knew how I wanted my story to begin and end but not what would happen in the middle. I sat at my computer and typed as the words come to me. I didn’t even think about an outline (what a plotter does) until I was well into the story. By then I needed a list of scenes to make sure I didn’t get lost.

Second, I learned I tend to rush through my scenes – Josh kept fussing at me about that, forcing me to go back and rework scene after scene. Slowing down to get the most out of a scene has been a hard lesson for me, but it will be a big help in my future writing.

Third, I learned I am pretty good with dialog. Most of the time there is verisimilitude (Josh’s favorite word) in my dialog.

Fourth, I learned I did not write a typical romance. In most romance novels, there are only two or three main characters: the woman, the man, and the woman’s best friend. I had lots of characters. In most romance novels, all the action takes place within a few days or weeks of the man and woman meeting. How anyone can write 50,000 to 60,000 words encompassing so short a time is beyond my grasp. In my novel, nearly a year elapsed before the happy ending.

Fifth, I learned I’m a writer – not the best, but, nevertheless, I’m a writer. I have no idea where the words come from. They just come. Putting them together into a coherent whole is fun, as Josh always says writing should be.

Cover testI finished Abby’s Choice, and, for a while, experienced an emptiness, not knowing if I had another novel in me. But now I’ve begun research for my next novel, so I guess it’s in me, somewhere. Again, I know the beginning and the ending, at least in very general terms, and I’ll discover the middle as I write. Don’t know how long it’ll take to finish this one, but I’ve got plenty of time, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Betty Smith

[Please note: Abby’s Choice, Betty’s debut novel, will be available soon. Stay tuned for an announcement!]

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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8 Responses to Never too old to learn

  1. mjfronzak says:

    Neat story, Josh. A teacher’s reward. Please pass along to Betty that I’m 99% sure that it’s “Creek don’t rise,” as opposed to “creek don’t rise,” since the Creek in this case is a body of Indians, vice water. There’s always critics and editors floating around out in the aether…:) Matt

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE smartphone

    • Betty Smith says:

      Hi Matt, I agree the phrase originated with reference to the Creek Indians, and I read it as “… and the Creeks don’t rise up.” Betty

  2. Amanda Rillema says:

    Hi! Just wanted you to know that when I tried to comment on your latest blog post, the link didn’t work. I really enjoyed reading the guest blogger and think it’s really cool how much she learned from you 😁!

  3. An-l says:

    Josh, I tried several times to make a comment on Betty’s wonderful article but I always page not found. I’m been following your page for years. Why would this happen? And, how did you guys come out at the Ga. Author’s Award presentation yesterday? Hope it went well. Be in touch. I miss everyone. Annel

  4. polinto says:

    Great job, Betty!

  5. Robin Castillo says:

    What a great testament to Josh’s talent for mentoring and gentle guidance!
    And a really great story, Betty!

  6. Sonya Braverman says:

    Hi there, Betty,
    Great post! I enjoyed it so much. I guess you’re just a “naturl borned talent!”

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