Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview with Linda Style and Connie Flynn-Bootcamp for Novelists

Linda Style and Connie Flynn opened Bootcamp for Novelists Online, an online academy dedicated to writing the novel. Bootcamp for Novelists is a step-by-step approach to novel writing that begins with The Basics (taught by Connie) while at the same providing access to more advanced techniques, called The Polish (taught by Linda).

Tell us what's up with Bootcamp for Novelists. For instance, what are you teaching and who is it designed for?

Linda & Connie: Bootcamp for Novelists is designed for the writer who is strongly committed to becoming published. While we don't pile the work on, the program is consistent and rigorous, with a lesson and related exercise each week. While the hobbyist writer can gain from these classes, it is the dedicated novelists who gain the most. The exercises increase in difficulty and are designed to stretch both imagination and skill, always pushing the student to go beyond the box.

Connie: Hey, we didn’t call it a bootcamp for nothing. :-)

Linda: Our feedback is encouraging, always keeping the writer’s skill level in mind, but it is also direct. Our aim is to help the student grow and flourish as a writer.

How did you come up with the idea for a bootcamp and why?

Connie: Partly, because we could. Linda and I each have in the area of twenty years of writing and teaching experience. We're both published authors and are familiar with current publisher expectations. We both take a commercial approach to fiction writing and are lucky enough to have the ability to pass this on to others.

Linda: Connie and I have been good friends for years, and we’ve taught workshops together and separately, online and in classes. Doing so, we were very aware of how difficult it is for new writers to get an integrated education on writing the novel. We’ve also shared a belief that anyone can learn to write fiction if given the proper tools. A step-by-step program that takes a writer from the beginning of his novel to the end seemed the most natural way to do it.

So, you just said, let's go out and start a school?

Connie: It did kind of happen that way. There are so many areas to master in writing a novel. Characterization, plotting, conflict, structure, prose handling.

Linda: Then there's the marketing part—how to find an agent, what genre to write in, attending conferences, talking to editors, query letters, synopses. You name it, the working novelist is an entrepreneur and has to master many different skills.

Connie: So, yes, both of us being entrepreneurs ourselves, we decided an online program would be perfect. The idea of online classes isn’t new, but the Bootcamp step-by-step program is unique. Our goal is to provide an education in a manner for writers to learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.

You have two different levels, is that right?

Connie: Yes, I teach the basic structure series, aimed at grounding new writers in the fundamentals that all novelists must master to be successful, subjects like character development, plot structure, scene development, even punctuation for dialogue. My courses are straightforward, sometimes not too glamorous and often hard work (did we mention that this is a Bootcamp?) Linda teaches more sophisticated techniques of writing, nuances of character arcs, plot and motivation layering, adding twists and turns to stories. Her courses often contain more glamour but they're also bootcamps so that doesn't make them easy.

It kind of sounds like you must take the whole program or start at a particular time.

Linda: That’s a good idea for the new writer, but many unpublished writers have been writing for a while, some even have more than one book completed, and they know a lot about basic structure and plot. But they need something to get them over the hump from unpublished to published. They may not know, or have forgotten, the finer points, such as how to deepen characters, or how use emotion to engage the reader on that first page and make them keep turning pages. Some students are also authors who want to ramp up their skills. Beginning writers can (and do) take both the basic and the polish together. It’s a lot of work, but some want to be on the fast track and are willing to put nose to the grindstone to do it.

Connie: Students new to writing are advised to start with either Character Development or Plot because they are basic entry points to writing a story. But they can start elsewhere. Those who do could feel like they're playing catch-up but the knowledge they'll gain is still useful and, if they go back and pick a basic later, it will all come together. So, basically, you can start when you start, because all roads lead back to mastering the skills of novel writing.

You must be working very hard these days with back to back classes and new students every month.

Connie: There is a great deal of work, yes, and a few surprises, yes, and a lot of gratification, also yes. Teaching others to expand and apply their talents is so tremendously fulfilling and to be able to do it a wildly creative field like fiction writing is doubly fulfilling. Each time, I have an answer to a student's questions, I'm answering some question of my own I didn't even know I had. This is a life that's a privilege to wake up to in the morning.

Linda: Ditto that. I’m absolutely delighted when someone tells me they finally understand a concept they “thought” they knew. Advanced students often know the principles, but making them work is the hard part. We work with each student as much as we can to ensure each has a “working” knowledge of their craft. And like Connie, teaching also keeps me on my toes and reminds me what I need to do as a writer...and that’s continuing to grow. None of us can stop growing, the market won’t let us. And with that, we’re back to the commercial aspect. Yes, it’s great to write and flex our creative muscles--and it feels even better when we sell that first book!

Thanks Ladies! for more information.

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