I was nine when I spoke to Dad for the last time. I’d forgotten to thank him for a birthday present. I believe it was a Radio Shack radio.
“You forgot, huh?” he said, on the phone.
Long pause. I was a sensitive kid. I think I knew that my nine years as his son were about to get gutted.
“Screw off,” he told me, a thousand miles, and a two-month old divorce, away.
I remember Mom grabbing the phone and screaming, “What did you say? What did you say to him?” until she was crying as hard as I was.
Ten years later, he’d finally succeeded in drinking himself dead. As I stood over his coffin, I was out of tears. And regrets. I was out of everything, even breath. But I shoved a goodbye through the scar tissue. I found some words.
I love to learn. I don’t always have time to learn, mind you, but I love to learn. The huge selection of classes out there makes it both easy and tough to get started. Many options can be too many options. And who’s credible? Who has the class to give a good class? I’ve taken dozens of courses online and found Udemy to be a favorite. They have a robust community who give honest feedback so shopping via starred reviews is a dependable way to spend your hard-earned dough!
I thought it would be useful to share the three best online classes for writers that I’ve enjoyed most, and that tried the hardest to enrich my life.
If you use Scrivener (or want to) you may be overwhelmed by its features and interface. Yes, it’s a useful piece of software but it’s also hard to get around. The best advice I ever got when it comes to Scrivener is, “Take a class to learn how to use it.” I took this course and got a good sense of how the software can fit into my writing process — and how it can’t.
Sean Platt does an excellent job of showing us how he and his partners at Sterling & Stone leverage Scrivener to outline the beats of their story. Sean guides us through fleshing out the big picture, honing in on the stuff that makes the story work and then summing it up in an elevator pitch that will resonate for that chance meeting with Spielberg. This course kicked me in the butt and got me out of a writing funk last summer.
If writers block is an issue it can help to listen to someone talk about process. Simply copying someone’s routine can be inspiring. Write a Novel Outline from Scratch dives into the creative flow and it helped me crawl out of a rut. It’s a solid course that walks you through Andrew Butcher’s take on outlining. While I didn’t agree with him all the time I appreciate the depth of thought he puts into his routine. I benefited from this course.
What helpful online courses have you taken? Please let us know in the comments! I’m pining to take a course in comic book writing…
Note: These courses include affiliate links. You’ll still pay the same amount you would otherwise pay, but I get 40% of the cost if you sign up. Thanks so much for your support!
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Humor author John Logsdon and I are having a blast with our new author podcast!
It’s called You Should Be Writing! (With the exclamation point! Just because!) We’re up to episode 14 and each one has been more fun to do than the last. Does that mean that each one is better than the last? Absolutely not even a little bit, no.
We discuss the indy book publishing world and all of its peaks, valleys, oceans and trolls under bridges. Reviews, newsletter sign ups, the newest gurus, the latest tools… we have it all. We do the podcast every Friday (though we’ve missed a few over the hectic summer). If you want to keep up to date and maybe even show up for the taping, just Like our YouTube page.
This is either a “No duh, Ben” post or a “Holy cow, that’s cool!” post. I was playing around with Facebook search the other day and found it to be much more useful than I thought. There may be a buried tool in there to help people find you and buy your book…
I typed in the name of a friend of mine to see what he’d been posting recently. I usually see much more chatter from him and I was worried about his Facebook silence. He’s also a fan of my work and we share a love of Fantasy books that will keep us close, even in the afterlife (where I’m sure our perspectives on Fantasy will likely change).
Well, I found that he’d been posting as often as ever but Facebook decided to show me less of his life. Thanks Zuckerberg!
But I noticed something cool in my friend’s Interests column. He’d recently liked Snow Crash (he’s slow sometimes) and it got me thinking.
Can I search for all of my friends who like Snow Crash?
I typed “Friends who like Snow Crash” in the field and, boom, got a list of friends who like Snow Crash. Okay, maybe that makes sense to you. Facebook is, after all, a social network!
But then I typed “Friends of my friends who like Snow Crash” and you know what? I got a list of people, most of whom I don’t know, who like Snow Crash.
How is this useful?
Well, imagine that you’re targeting lovers of Snow Crash in your marketing efforts. Now imagine you could compile a list of people who may be interested in your book and they’re a free nudge away from giving your book a shot. All you have to do is let your direct friend know that you think their friend may be interested in your work and ask them to call out their buddy in a FB post.
So this is how it would work:
1) Determine what books your book is similar to.
2) Search for friends of friends (FoF) who like each of these books.
3) Make a list of FoFs, who your mutual friend is, and which book the FoF likes.
4) On launch day, announce your book and then ask the friends with FoFs to comment on your launch post with a direct call-out like: “Hey [FoF name] I think you may enjoy this book. It’s like [Name of similar book that the FoF likes].”
Yes, you could spend a few bucks to reach the same person but they’re more likely to respond to a recommendation by a friend instead of a sponsored post in their feed.
Mind you, I haven’t tried this myself but it seems like a no-brainer way to get the word out about your book.
Something has to give. I’m just not sure what yet.
I’m in New York City for the next two months, teaching a marketing course at School of Visual Arts. While I’m here, I’m writing the next Shirley Link. The final draft will be done by the end of the day! I’m excited by that in ways I’ve never felt before. This Shirley adventure has been the toughest one to craft yet. By far. Part of it is that I’ve had the idea for the mystery for a long time. That meant wrestling with age-old preconceptions about how the clues would be set up, how the players would respond to them and how they’d be revealed. But once I sat down to write the book, well, none of those ideas lasted a single draft. Still, with the help of my beta readers, I’ve worked through it and I think this may be my new favorite Shirley Link book! Stay tuned for launch dates and peeks at artwork soon ;-)
Then there’s The Camelot Kids: Book Two. I found myself at 40k words before I knew it, so I know the book is primed and ready to emerge. I’ve been getting up at 5:30am every morning to work on it and that’s worked well on a number of fronts. There’s something about writing Fantasy (that’s heavy in magic) at the start of the day when the world is quiet. Magic is more present when our lives are still. But to tap it means pushing aside all concerns. It means assuring The Stress that it can come out in a little bit and do its thing. It means gently nudging strong insecurities back into whatever caves they spring from. While the story is all over the place right now, I’m excited to release the ending to a story that’s been dancing around my head for ten years.
And then there’s Atticus. The book died last night. I mean it was dead. Flatlined. It had frustrated me one too many times. I went to sleep in despair. My good idea had no legs. It had nowhere to go. It gasped for oxygen and I tried to give it some but it wasn’t enough. Then, this morning, its eyes popped open and it breathed in a lungful of air of its own making. So, on its own, it’s showed me a way forward. Now I’m more excited than ever about the story, though I also see that it’s bigger than I initially assumed.
Excited. Terrified. Tired. Pounding on three books will do that to a guy. So wish me luck. I’m headed into the final pass on Shirley Link & The Party Poopers and then I’ll be outlining the next Shirley! Yeah, you know that title I gave this post? The one that advises against writing three books at once? Well, I may be addicted to the feeling so, uh, do as I say, not as I do…