To Become a Master, You Must Apprentice First

The process of learning hasn’t changed, like ever. You must decide what you want to know and either find someone who knows how to do it, or find a book written by someone who knows how to do it. Today, you might add looking up a video of someone who knows how to do it. The idea remains the same, if you want to learn something, you’re best off finding a teacher in some form or another.

Photo by Will Suddreth on Unsplash

No one starts at Master

Writing is one of those hobbies where some people believe they need no guidance, where the words in all their power and beauty are hiding within them and it’s simply a matter of allowing them to flow forth. Perhaps you’ve met a few of these people, heaven knows I have. There are one of two things that happen with those who carry this belief.

The first outcome is that they simply let the words fly and fall however they may. The first draft is the only draft they make. There is no need to return to correct or improve anything because what is written is as perfect as it can get. Reality tends to blindside these people hard and fast. They try to find agents and publishers and are met with radio silence and polite canned rejections. No one understands their brilliance and in the end they often choose to self publish this unedited pile of thought to the unsuspecting world.

The second outcome is more probable. The writer tries to write their book believing it to be a fairly straightforward process. They’ve read lots of books like it and feel they have a good idea how everything is supposed to look and feel. When they start writing they find they get stuck while trying to make the words do their thing. Maybe they can create settings but not dialogue. Maybe they can do action, but not internal monologue. What’s important here, is that these writers realize that they are struggling and then reach out for help.

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Being willing to learn is the mark of a successful apprentice

You can’t start out any skill as a master. Even if you have lots of experience watching and reading about something, there’s something very different in actually doing it for the first time. Back in medieval times, young people would start their apprenticeship around the age of 12 when the opportunity presented itself. They would live in the home of the master and follow in his footsteps learning as they went. This apprenticeship lasted around 10 years until the master deemed the apprentice good enough to go out on their own.

That was when they became a journeyman and were allowed to use what they’d learned wherever they could find work. With time and careful practice, they’d reach a skill level that would make them worthy of being called a master and then the cycle would repeat itself.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

Hemingway, the master of less than ideal advice for young writers, held the belief that writing was something that no one could master. Everyone had their own set of vices and strengths with which to deal with and throughout the course of their life they’d steadily improve as long as they were willing to put the work in to do so.

In this I wholeheartedly agree. While any writer might produce what is called a masterpiece, that work will still have it’s flaws, at least to some eyes. There is always something to learn more about and to work on.

There’s always room to grow

So, if this message is finding you frustrated at where you are at in your writing career, remember that you must take the attitude of apprentice and allow yourself to learn and grow. There are thousands of writers who have gone before you who had to pass through the same frustrations and can guide you in their writings and classes. Never stop learning or growing.

What have you learned recently?

For me, I had a surprising realization about the importance of making all characters interesting and not just the main cast. Every character should feel unique and have something that sets them apart.


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Five Things I Learned From Reading a Janet Evanovich Novel

I did something a little off the beaten path this week and tried out a Stephanie Plum mystery, famously written by Janet Evanovich. My pick, Hardcore Twenty Four, loosely centers around a zombie mystery. This is so far from my usual cup of tea, it’s laughable. In fact, it’s so far from what I’d normally pick up, that I almost put it down.

Then curiosity got the best of me. These books are NYT and USA today bestsellers, and there are over 200 million Evanovich novels in print. Those are some pretty amazing statistics. So, I put my research hat on and decided to take a deeper look.

I discovered that this is the kind of book that’s the perfect read for anyone who wants a happy distraction, and judging from the state of things these days, that’s literally everyone. The prose is easy to digest, the characters are unique and likable, the problems are relatable but treated in a way that they are more humorous than anything. And, there’s a splash of intrigue to glue everything together.

It’s like cotton candy. Sweet, fun to eat, and mostly fluff.

Have no fear, I did grab a few important lessons that are applicable to everyone

For every itch there is a scratch

There are people who love, and I mean love, these books and characters. Reading these books is the perfect escape and a great way to spent a weekend or long afternoon. If you don’t love them, that’s okay too. It goes to show everyone had their own likes and dislikes.

All you really need are charismatic side characters

Stephanie Plum is an interesting character by herself. She has a pet hampster, a crazy grandma, and works as a bounty hunter. But, it’s her friends that spice up the story. From the mysterious Diesel, to the romantic cop Morelli, to her bedazzled coworker Lula, there’s a little of everything to keep things interesting. It goes to prove that life is way better with interesting friends.

The bad guy is the one you’d least expect

This is true for lots of villains in fiction, the one responsible for all the problems is usually the one you’ve been led to least suspect. Or, they sincerely believe that what they are doing is going to either help someone, or give them a unique opportunity. This is true in real life as well, usually people aren’t being jerks because they’re evil. Usually there’s something else far more complicated going on.

If you’re going to have a fantasy boyfriend, make him hot (and talented)

Imagination is a wonderful thing. It allows us an escape. It allows us to dream of new possibilities. It makes reading fun fluffy stories that much more colorful. Every one of the men in Stephanie’s life are a) gorgeous and b) have a unique set of skills, and c) are committed to helping her with anything she might need. Spending a little time in her shoes means readers can dream they have the same thing. Just a heads up – in real life you can only have two of the three.

Everyone has a story

If anything, these books prove that everyone’s got a story, and if you dig deep enough it’s an interesting one as well. In Hardcore Twenty-four, we learned all about grannie’s lovelife, Ranger and Diesel’s special set of skills, and Ethel the boa constrictor’s food preferences. If you want to make someone’s day, find out about their story. I’m sure there’s something interesting there you’d never expect.

Get your copy of Hardcore Twenty-four on Amazon today.


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