Professional Development

The career novelist will develop a writing improvement program, beginning with a notebook.

I am all about professional development. Its fun. Or maybe I’m just weird. But think about it: going to conferences, reading, writing, reading, rewriting, workshops, critiquing, editing. Doesn’t that just excite you? A little?

Okay, maybe you like it, maybe you don’t, but it is something we all need to do. In order to improve, we have to be willing to see the stark naked truth of our weaknesses, accept them, and work to change them.

James Scott Bell puts forth a writing improvement program and shares one aspect of how he does it. A Writing Improvement Notebook.  He breaks the notebook into three sections:

  1. Exemplar: examples of authors you love and writing that moves you.
  2. Outside comments: how else would we know what we needed to improve upon?
  3. Self-study: create a plan to overcome your areas of weaknesses and then do it.

My weakness is character development. In my mind I see dynamic characters, but what’s on the paper, not so much. I also want to learn how to add layers of mystery to the story like Jill Williamson posted in her blog the other day.

So what say you? Do you like professional development? What are some things that you’ve done to improve your craft? What areas are you working on now?


4 thoughts on “Professional Development

  1. Yes to professional development! Currently I am blog hopping, making connections, “networking.” I love getting to know others in the industry and finding out how they got there and how they stay.

    Thank you for this post. I finished “The Art of War for Writers,” but had to return it to the library – reading your post updates refresh my memory. I need to make a notebook.

    I would say that my weakness is main character development – my secondary characters are colorful and full of interesting oddities, but my main characters are a little blase. I am working on it, though!

    I look forward to your next post!

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      Thanks Gabe for joining in on the discussion! I’ve attempted to make a notebook when I first read this books, so I went back to look at it and found that I only got as far as slapping labels on a blank file…I need to get cracking! It is a nice way to keep up with notes and goals, but it is a suggestion. If you find something else that works better for you, please share!

  2. C.L. Dyck says:

    “Doesn’t that just excite you? A little?”

    Totally. I’m such a nerd about it. 😉

    “What are some things that you’ve done to improve your craft?”

    Study and do and study and do…lather, rinse, repeat. Also, freelance magazine work (nonfiction). Early this year, I determined that I’m done with that for awhile–just too busy–but it’s been fabulous for teaching me how to work with editors, meet deadlines, and shape the work to specific market demands.

    Secondly, I’ve now spent a few years working regularly with a partner who has complementary strengths and weaknesses, but extreme similarity in thinking style. That is totally a serendipitous gift of God. There’s no way I could have arranged for it myself.

    Thirdly, professional feedback and counsel. Irreplaceable.

    “What areas are you working on now?”

    Process. My next major goal is to work on a clear and consistent personal process for book-length materials. I’m weird; I expect it to be unique and quirky.

    Because of homeschooling, it hasn’t been the right time of life for me to worry about consistent creation till now…I’ve focused deeply on craft and the business, but balanced living involves some sense of method as well. As the kids leave home over the next few years, I’d like to have that foundation laid in my writing life.

  3. J. L. Mbewe says:

    I think it is neat to be able to have a writing partner that does work well with you. There have been so many times that I need to bounce ideas off someone and, if a person isn’t in the story from its conception, he/she might just look at you weird or smile and nod. 🙂 Plus it would balance me, I think that’s the beauty of marriage. We don’t have a choice, but to balance each other and we become better people for it…

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