Joss Whedon, on judicious use of spaceships.

For the folks who build houses, repair complex machinery, or bake wedding cakes, they spend years to learn, and train, and master their craft.  (For my dayjob, I had three years of graduate school, a grueling multi-day certification exam, and then years of “apprenticing” to learn my trade.)

I have concluded that fiction writing is not much different.  So I signed up for a class with Dean Wesley Smith.  Here is the suggested curriculum order and I started with a six-week course of Depth.

The theory behind Depth is to help you the writer pull the reader in deep, so deep they forget they are reading.

It was amazingly helpful.  We had self-paced video, weekly assignments, and feedback from Dean himself.

I also audited a class on adding Emotion to writing.  Both of these classes not only helped me improve my writing, but also showed me just how much there was to learn.  (This is not to suggest that I think learning should slow down the writing and publishing trajectory.  Just more of a supplement along the way.)  Here is an assignment from the course where the prompt was: “write about running into an ex at a restaurant.”

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Week 4: Betty runs into ex at a restaurant.

As she dredged the last bit of bacon through the yolk splattered across the square white plate, Betty watched the boats heading out to sea. She envied their freedom. She always sat here, at one of the cozy tables lined up before the tall glass panels with its sweeping view of the dark Pacific waters.  June in Santa Cruz started out deceptive, with its gray, gloomy mornings before burning off the fog in the blaze of the rising sun.

Set into a cliff, the restaurant and bar occupied the lower levels and the rest of the restored hotel wound its way gently up the hillside along the scenic Coast road.  Young coconut trees lined the parking lot of this hotel and attached restaurant, their graceful fronds bending from the ocean breeze.  From her premier seat, she could see the pier, the famed Boardwalk with its rollercoaster, and if she stayed late enough, the beach volleyball players.

Betty loved eating breakfast here after her early morning swims. Often she would race up from the beach showers, up the steep cement steps to the restaurant with her hair still wet and the salt not quite rinsed off of her skin.

With the wicker basket chairs, the lava lamps on the glass tables, and the O’Neill surfing posters lining the bamboo walls, the décor had a definite local vibe.   However, any low-key hippy era notions were immediately dispelled by the upscale menu with Silicon Valley prices.  To Betty, this idyllic retreat was worth every penny.

Max sauntered over, his steps silent in the darkly patterned carpet. Betty chatted with him as he refilled her coffee, grateful for his genuine manner.

The aroma of the coffee teased her nostrils and in her haste to pick up the small white coffee cup, her left hand clanked against the china, nearly cracking it.  Damnit.  Betty sucked in a breath, careful this time to gently grasp the delicate handle.  The gears whirred quietly as she tilted the cup to drink from it.  The cybernetic arm was a miracle, but it had a steep learning curve.  Finishing her brew, she paid her tab, leaving a big tip for Max.

As she turned to door, a tall gentleman strode in, the morning light behind him casting his face in shadow.  Betty blinked, and as he came closer, he seemed as startled as she was to see him.  She hadn’t seen Jason since the accident.  The engagement ring had been lost with her arm, gone like all their whispered promises to each other.