Can You Learn to Write Fiction?

Let’s face it. Some people can write. Some people can’t. Some can write fiction. Some can’t. There are areas in between, but for those in the can’t camp, sitting in an infinite hours of writing workshops just aren’t going to help. Sorry. But that’s reality. End of story. Go home.

Me. I can’t handle numbers. And all the patient teaching I’ve had in my life couldn’t remedy that.

But there are plenty of people who can sort of write. There are plenty people who are decent writers and can get better. Hell, there are plenty of good to great writers who can stand to get better.

My new agent asked me the other day if I had a first reader, wife or a girlfriend or someone I trust. I didn’t think twice before saying, “My friend Jackie Cangro.” That The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival ever reached a state that it could be considered by an agent and sent to an editor and published? That was Jackie. She took a look at an early draft of the work, called “In Vain” at the time, and basically said, “Well, the writing is good, but this is basically a book about a simpering 30-year-old man who just lets life happen around him and doesn’t act on anything. He’s got no foil. No conflict here.” In other words, “This is basically you dressed as a priest and sitting in a room and who wants to read that?” (I might be paraphrasing.)

Before her, there was no clash between Father Steve and B.P. There was no B.P. Just Father Steve moping about the place. Jackie, a hardcore student of the fundamentals of fiction and storytelling, immediately recognized the gaping hole with the book. No conflict. And with no conflict you just have a bunch of words on the page trying to pass themselves off as literature.

You may not have ever heard of Jackie. She’s edited The Subway Chronicles and has had some things published here and there. And you will be hearing from her in the not-too-distant future, I’m pretty sure of that. But plenty of people think only regularly published folks can teach them or correct them. Actually, plenty of writers make for the worst teachers. Yours truly, included. (I can take your manuscript and rewrite it myself, but teaching you how to write? I’m not so hot at that.)

But Jackie’s not just a writer or editor. She’s a reader. And the sort of reader who reminds a writer that his duty is to the reader first and to his own hangups and sacred moo-cows second. She knows that stories have starts and ends and the good ones have peaks and valleys and buckets of conflict. She also gives it to you straight–without making you feel like a complete idiot.

Every writer should be lucky enough to have someone like her around. And now you can! Sort of. She’s started something she’s calling The Writers’ Salon. She’s billing it as a writers’ community, but the nitty-gritty is this: “Targeted one-hour sessions on writing techniques and getting published.”

As much as anything, writing is a craft and, for those who actually want to get published, a business. (Getting published is a craft as well!) Sessions include: Beginnings/Endings, Point of View/Narration, Dialogue, Revision and more. If it sounds workmanlike, guess what, writing is work.

And, yeah, she’s charging. As she should. $25 bucks a session. Live in New York and want to pick up some fiction skills? This is a good place to start. Take one. Take a couple. A la carte is a beautiful thing.

This isn’t a paid ad. This is my endorsement. She’ll probably beat me for doing this. Consider it a ringing one.

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