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 (http://fmwriters.com),
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
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?