Writer's Wednesday: What I'm learning while teaching

For the last few weeks I've been teaching a class on novel writing at the local senior-education non-profit. I started with a lot of ideas about what I should cover and how I should teach it, almost all of which I had to chuck the first day. Instead, my four students and I are wandering through different aspects of creating a story, the decisions that must be made about character, setting, plot, voice, narrative point of view, etc. 

The result? A great excuse for me to delve more deeply into elements of my craft that I haven't thought about consciously, or haven't thought about enough. I get to talk about them with people who read a lot and write at least some. My neat and orderly progression through the stages of writing got dumped, but I, at least, am learning a lot!

Here are some of the very relevant things I've been thinking about:

Character. What does it take to make a character that readers will like, identify with, or at the least give a hoot about? How do you manage the zillion little things you may end up knowing about the character but that the reader may or may not need to know? Key point: everything that you put into your book should be, in the parlance of the spy trade, on a need-to-know basis.

Plot. Where do things go? How does the cozy mystery structure match the much-touted "Save-the-Cat" beats, or even the classic 3 acts? What's my character supposed to be learning, anyway? Can't I just have her solve the mystery?

Point of View. This is a big one that I've been working on--moving more towards a deep POV, but also asking where and how much is appropriate? I had my students bring stories for us to mess around with, and honestly, sometimes deep POV isn't the right approach. The take-away: it's not one-size-fits-all. You have to figure out what is right when. Then--whatever POV you take, do it as well as it can be done.

I could go one, but you get the point. I haven't started putting all this together with the two novels I now have in draft form, but I am working on polishing a couple more short stories to send out into the world.

And... because I have so many nice pictures it seems a shame to give you all these words and no eye candy, here is one my late husband shot at Mono Lake in 2019.


  1. Isn't that how it goes with plans? We make them and the day comes and they end up getting chucked out the window. It sounds like you are having fun, though.

    1. I am. I was really nervous at first, but my students are nice people :)

  2. It’s so great you signed up for this! And even better when you could let go of your plans and delve into these hard concepts. I hope you’re making some new friends, too 😀


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