Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I've learned from Tom Bailey

This semester, I've learned so much about writing, thanks to my professor, Tom Bailey. He realized how eager I was to learn, and he treated me like a serious writer. His Intro Fiction class is my favorite class I've taken in college so far, and it has made me a much better writer. Here are some of my lessons from Tom and Intro Fiction:

-Just because I want something to happen in a story doesn't mean it fits or makes sense. I used to create situations in my stories and thought readers would accept them because I said so. Now I always stop to question "Is this realistic? Would this character really do this?" before/during/after I write.

-Don't be afraid to delete. Most of the time, my story becomes stronger after I've cut meaningless description, dialogue, characters, and plot points.

-"Good" writing isn't just flowery description. The characters drive the story. If they aren't well-developed and realistic, my story (while prettily written) will not be strong.

-Never shelter my writing. My stories became stronger after criticism from Tom and my classmates. I wouldn't have the stories I do today if I'd kept them hidden on my laptop.

-I cannot come up with a good title. Tom has changed every single title I've come up with for my drafts. No joke.

-Fiction deepens feeling. This is a direct quote from Tom. While fiction might be made up, its readers feel the truth in it. It has to be honest, relatable, "truer than true."

-I'm a talented writer. This semeseter is the first time that a successful writer (meaning someone who is published, a tenured creative writing professor) has validated my work. Now I know this is something worth pursuing, that I'm not just wasting my time. I have a shot at being successful.


  1. You have more than a shot at being successful. You have the talent and determination to be a writing superstar. Just promise I get autographed copies, okay?

    I love your lessons learned. Obviously the one about deletions is something I can relate to, and "fiction deepens feeling" is just ... perfect. It's so very true - sure, it may not technically be reality, but it needs to feel like it in ways. We need to be able to understand, to relate, to feel what the characters do.

    Congrats on an amazing semester!!

  2. Thanks, Shari! I love the "fiction deepens feeling" one, too. Tom said that over and over, it's SO true!

    And don't worry, you're at the top of the autographed copies list. :]

  3. Wow, this is really good stuff! I'm so jealous- I'm still in high school and my school doesn't have any creative writing courses. I'm really hoping to study creative writing in college, though :) i have to admit that I'm always afraid of "deleting." Sometimes I get really attached to a certain idea and I can't get rid of it. It's something I have to work on! I also get too caught up in making my writing flowery and "good." Thanks for this post. It helps a ton! :D


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