Early impressions? After 17 1/2 years? Well, considering that I only used WritePro for a few weeks in 1994, then let the program lie fallow until last week, early impressions are accurate. So what is WritePro? In the words of the author, “WritePro is a hands-on interactive tutorial program for people who want to improve their creative writing skills quickly.” Sol Stein, a respected, master editor and author is the brain behind WritePro. But if you want to get a taste of Stein’s ideas about creative writing before springing for WritePro, I highly recommend his book: “Stein on Writing.” I’ve had this book for a few years and consult it often. It’s good.
WritePro distills Stein’s wisdom into a series of rules (or guidelines in the new edition). My full set of eight lessons contains 140 of these rules. The new, full version is now ten lessons. I completed the first two lessons back in 1994. When I discovered the printouts from these two lessons last week, I set out to recreate what I had done so I could continue the course where I left off.
Lesson one teaches how to create believable characters and how to produce dramatic conflict and begins with the first rule, “Somebody has to want something badly” then jumps immediately into rule #2, “That somebody should be your leading character.” WritePro gets you started by choosing that character for you, Beth Reilly, a 35 year old woman. A text entry box appears on the screen with “Beth Reilly wants” and a blinking cursor. Your job is to create the character. The best way to begin is to simply let your imagination go and begin writing. Don’t worry about being wrong because as you progress from screen to screen you will be given prompts and suggestions on how you might improve your character sketch.
The program saves the content of that first screen as your original so you can go ahead an make revisions as you go. At the end of the lesson, you will be given the opportunity to print both the original and your final draft. Once you finish with Beth, you will create the villain (or opposing character). Villains aren’t necessarily bad, but they are obstacles that create conflict.
When you’ve finished the first lesson, you should have two well rounded characters. You will use those characters, along with three others you’ll create in Lesson two to invent a ‘suspenseful plot’ and weave that plot into two scenes. Sol Stein will be with you the whole way, each new screen offering new rules and suggestions along with plenty of opportunities for re-writing and revising along the way. And remember, whatever you type into the initial box for a new character, scene summary or the scene itself will be saved as the original draft. When you reach the end of the lesson, you can print out character sketches, scene summaries and the scenes themselves and you will get both your original draft and the final version for comparison.
Discovering and reading the old printouts of the two scenes I wrote in 1994 inspired me to get back into the program. I liked what I had written and wanted to see what more WritePro could offer. In the spirit of sharing, I’ve uploaded a pdf copy of those two scenes. You will find the link in a new page I created. Just click on the Stories tab and scroll down to Beth_Reilly, then click on the link to download the pdf file. This will give you an idea of how much I learned in two weeks back in 1994 and another five days transcribing and editing. Keep in mind that the scenes are current, not final drafts and you’re likely to find some grammar and spelling errors.
I started in on Lesson three this week and I’m having fun. This lesson teaches how to write an opening scene that hooks a reader, whose point of view to use and more. I’ll tell you more in a later post.