Monday, September 08, 2014

SEX EDUCATION: TEACHING CREATIVE WRITING TO TEENS

So – true confession time – I was one of those kids who went straight from “Little House” and “Ramona” books into romance and women’s fiction, bypassing the entire YA genre altogether. I read my first Sidney Sheldon novel at the start of 8th grade, and that was it for me.

Let’s just say the sex scenes didn’t hurt.

Around the same time, I remember the TV show, “Square Pegs,” featuring a high-school English teacher getting his students interested in classic literature by standing in front of the class and reading “the good parts” from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

If it works for getting kids interested in reading, how about writing?

At age 13, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. A writer (like Sidney Sheldon). The problem was, there aren’t a lot of places where a teen can go to learn how to write romance novels (either with sex scenes or without). High school English was absolutely no help. Either we were diagramming sentences, parsing symbolism or perfecting our essays for the AP composition exam. Or my Creative Writing teacher was explaining that there was only one right way to write creatively – her way. And woe be it to anyone who dared disagree. (Despite my getting an “A” on every single one of my assignments, she tried to give me a final “C” for the semester, due to my bad behavior. Said bad behavior included disagreeing. Frequently.)

What I wished back then, more than anything, was that I could just sit and watch a real writer at work (preferably Sidney Sheldon), to see how they did it.

Back in the late 1980s, that wasn’t really an option. Sure, people put out “How To” books (I particularly enjoyed Lawrence Block’s “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit”), but it was all still mostly theoretical. I wanted to see the nitty-gritty, day to day stuff. I wanted to watch a story come together, so that I could learn from the process. Unlike most people, I actually wanted to see how the sausages got made.

With the advent of the Internet, things picked up somewhat. Writers would periodically put up drafts and get feedback from readers. It was a start, but it still wasn’t precisely what I wanted.

So, in lieu of a role model, I proceeded to just make up stuff as I went along. I wrote many, many books, and I sent them in to many, many agents and publishers. It’s pretty much what I did for the bulk of my college years (college English professors were about as helpful when it came to learning to write genre fiction as high-school teachers had been.  For most of them, genre writing wasn’t something that even existed, much less warranted being taught at an academic institution).

I finally sold my first book, a Regency romance to Avon, in 1994. I followed up with another Regency, two contemporaries, five figure skating mysteries, three soap-opera tie-ins and a few books of non-fiction. Finally, I was at a point in my life where I could become the writing mentor I’d so badly wanted in my youth.

The only question was: How? I did some research of what was already available, and I discovered that no one was doing exactly what I had once dreamed of: Writing their entire book live, so that it were as if you were literally standing over their shoulder, watching them type each word. Then stop, delete, write again. Stop, delete.  Delete the entire paragraph, followed by the entire chapter, then throw their hands up in the air. (What? Just me?)

I decided if no one was doing that, then I should. (Did I stop to wonder WHY no one was doing it? No, I did not. It’s one of my many character flaws.)

Read more about my live writing project, http://alinaadamsmedia.com/live/, at the Romance Junkies blog!