Vision: A Resource for Writers

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A Forward Motion Learning Curve

By Jean A. Schara
Copyright © 2009 by Jean A. Schara, All Rights Reserved

As Vision’s fiftieth issue unfolds, I want to reflect upon some of the things I’ve learned since joining Forward Motion (affectionately called, FM) in September of 2002.  Vision (this publication) and Forward Motion (, independently intertwined, seek a common goal for their members and audience -- professional publication.  Forward Motion's learning curve can be steep, but it helps develop the patience and perseverance required of a professional writer.

I was 42 when I arrived at Forward Motion.  I’d had a vague notion I wanted to write professionally since high school.  I’d written short pieces off and on through the years --mostly poetry.  But I wanted to write novels.  I knew my writing was technically sound.  I’d studied technical writing and my undergraduate degree was in professional writing.  Now, if I could just learn the business of novel writing.  Where did one begin?

In my case, I familiarized myself with the site.  Even in 2002, Forward Motion was a big site.   I wandered around.  I read posts.  When I felt I had something to say, I commented on what I read.  It was quite a while before I initiated a post.  Why?  It took me forever to figure out how to do it.  Forward Motion has a learning curve, but patience and a willingness to wander pays off.  Each member should find an area where they feel comfortable and expand their territory from there.

Like many new members (and more than a few old-timers), I was fascinated and motivated by pips.  “Will write for pips” might seem like a site slogan.  Never underestimate the value of no-cost or low cost motivational devices.  Like cardboard boxes and kids, writers can convince themselves to do amazing things for colored pixel collections.  And my first writing efforts were largely done to earn a pip.  

It took me about a year on the site before I became more active in some of the activities – Think Tank chats and Word Count Marathons, for instance.   Those two activities coincided with beginning my first novel.  I chose National Novel Writing Month as the time to begin the novel, but I was doing preparatory work to “get in shape.”  I believed NaNoWriMo would provide the incentive to keep me working through the inevitable slow parts of novel writing.  FM has an active presence on the NaNoWriMo discussion boards as well as a board devoted solely to NaNoWriMo on the site.  Besides, I wanted to earn the finishers pip -- more "will write for pips."

During my first years on the site, I absorbed knowledge from the professional writers and aspiring professional writers with more experience than me.  I monitored discussions about agents, querying, and rejections.  I wasn’t ready to do any of those things yet, but the information was readily.  From regular exposure, I’ve gained an understanding of author etiquette as well as the concept of query letters and synopses.  I came to understand you don’t print your novel and send it to publishers, expecting they will be awed by your greatness.  I learned you don’t close the file at the completion of NaNoWriMo and mail your manuscript to agents or editors.  OK, I could have figured that out without FM, but I have read apocryphal stories of agents and editors being swamped with horrendous, incomplete manuscripts in early December, so, if you were thinking of doing that, don't.  I learned someone you trust should read should your work and offer commentary (critique) prior to sending your darling to an agent or editor.  Your golden words might not be so clear when read by someone who doesn't have the back story in their head, and you’d rather hear it from a trusted beta reader.  You only get one chance to make a first impression with an agent.  You want to make sure you present a polished, professional submission.  I’m confident the opportunities available at Forward Motion and the people I’ve met there will enable me present a solid product when I am ready to begin seeking representation.

I've had the opportunity to give back to the community, which has taught me so much by serving as a moderator.  Forward Motion has several moderators who do various things to keep the site running smoothly.  Moderator duties offer new heights on the learning curve.

And, finally, I’ve made friends at Forward Motion.  Writing friends who understand what I want to do.  We offer to critique each other’s work, we offer suggestions when asked, and we help each other when we’re stuck.  We cheer each other on, and we don’t let “good enough” slide through, because we want success for each other – in writing and in life.

Forward Motion is what you make of it -- an ocean of opportunity with people willing to help you establish a solid foundation if you're willing to learn and do the work.  It can be a tidal wave that overwhelms you or a wonderful surfing wave where you can "Hang Ten."  Which one it is for you can be found in your attitude and approach.  See you around the site?