In last week’s column, I shared an opportunity for those whose 2012 to-do list includes becoming better writers. If you are, in fact, an aspiring writer looking to hone your craft, but you aren’t able to make it out to one of the Pen on Fire salons, never fear, I have an amazing tool for you that can be used any time of day in the comfort of your own home.
“The Writer’s Compass” by Nancy Ellen Dodd, promises to take you “from story map to finished draft in 7 stages.” Dodd, who visited Newport Beach in September as a presenter at the Southern California Writer’s Conference, knows from whence she speaks. As a writer, university instructor, and an editor with two master’s degrees in writing, she has my vote as a great source for writing tips.
In “Compass,” Dodd gives writers ideas and insight on mapping a novel from idea to final draft. Separated into three parts, the book starts with part one “The Beginning-Building a Writing Life” in which she shares advice about how to truly become a writer, rather than just talking about it. We learn how to organize our time to make writing truly a priority.
We continue with part two “The Middle -The Story Map and the 7-Stage Process,” which is the true meat of the book. In this section, Dodd teaches us how to create a “story map,” then walks us through her seven writing stages, which begin with the first stage, developing one’s ideas, and go through the whole process, right up to the last stage, editing and submitting.
The book finishes up with part three “The End – Living a Writer’s Life,” In this section, she discusses nine qualities of successful writers, networking and, possibly one of the most important things, setting goals that make sense in your life as a whole, not just as a writer.
A very well mapped out book, “Compass” covers every topic necessary to see a writing project through to completion, including simply setting time aside to write, and not letting the distractions of everyday life keep us from fulfilling our goals.
One of my favorite passages comes from chapter two, “Becoming a Writer.” Dodd says, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in procrastination. I believe in being afraid to write and being afraid of not being good enough. I believe in being too overwhelmed by life or career or stuff to write. There are times when we are afraid of failure, success, being wrong, making a mistake, facing “The End” rejection, and fear of criticism, whether justified or unjustified. These are all legitimate fears. Most writers have them, but serious writers don’t allow those fears to stop them – they use those fears to motivate them or to find a deeper emotional level in their writing.”
Sage advice, I think, for writing and for life. The first step is not letting our own selves stop us from achieving our goals. There is enough opposition to any task from the world around us; let’s not let ourselves become our own biggest obstacle. Dodd also says, “The only thing that will stop you is you. Even bad writers have successful writing careers because they don’t give up and they stick with it.”
I definitely recommend “The Writers Compass” to anyone wanting to kick-start their writing goals this year, but I say let us all take Dodd’s advice to heart. Whatever your goals may be, be committed to them, give them your all, and don’t let your fears stop you from achieving all you can.