via Rebecca Hoffman
Would you add anything to this? Do you disagree with any point?
via Rebecca Hoffman
Would you add anything to this? Do you disagree with any point?
I’m baaaack from my week in Utah at David Farland’s Professional Writers’ Workshop. Dave is an award-winning, bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction and a great writing teacher.
So, what did I learn during this time? Read on for a sampler of the many many topics Dave covered in this comprehensive workshop…
On the writing side, we learned how to
And on the business side, Dave talked about
It was not all a data-dump, however. Every day, Dave assigned us a writing exercise with a particular focus–say, descriptive writing. After slaving over the assignment in the evenings, we read aloud our scenes the next day and got critiques from everyone. I’ve always hated reading aloud anything I’ve written–it sounds so stupid to my ears–but this was the best way to overcome my fear of public readings. By the end of the week, I was hardly bothered by the Pit of Doom that opened up in my stomach every time it was my turn to read. Dave also had one-on-one sessions with each attendee to answer specific questions (how cool is that!).
The other great thing about the workshop (for me) was the face-time with a diverse group of writers. In our group of seven, we had a professional musician, a copywriter, a lawyer, a bookseller, another stay-at-home mom (like me! yay!), and a guy who really wants to win Writers of the Future (I’m sure he has a job, but I don’t remember what it is). I was impressed by the quality of their writing and the insight displayed in their critiques. I haven’t done much critiquing of anyone else’s work besides Jo’s since I gave up the OWW, so I was a bit rusty. It was another good get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone experience.
(Flipping through my notes here) Amongst all the nuggets of gold, these ones shone the brightest to me:
1. “Writing style can kill your book”. That’s a big one for me, since I do adore a well-turned phrase or a smooth metaphor. I never begrudge other authors their sales, their fans, their plots, or their characters, but let them use a beautiful sentence or evocative phrase that I wish I had come up with and I am muttering darkly (and enviously) under my breath. So, my takeaway is: write well, but focus on STORY, not style.
2. “Failure of imagination is the biggest failing of any story.” Then Dave proceeded to show us how we’d failed to imagine bigger and better when critiquing the first 20 pages and outlines of our novels in progress. His comments and questions opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities I’d never considered. It felt like fireworks going off in my head. Awesome.
3. Resonance is a good thing. ‘Nuf side. My literary side (see point #1) has a horror of being seen as cliched or derivative. Now it’s been put in its place quite firmly.
So, yes! Going to the workshop was worth every penny and I’m grateful to D. for not allowing me to back out of it when I got spooked by the prices of airline tickets and hotel stays (I have a teeny weeny problem with spending money on myself).
Now I’m home and ready to put all my new-found knowledge to work. How have you been?
I’m on a blogging break this week, but guest bloggers have stepped up to fill the gap. First up is Liana Mir, talking to us about her experience moving from writing flash fiction to longer stories. Welcome, Liana!
I cut my teeth on flash fiction, though from the time I was a child, I was in love with the full-length novel. Somewhere in between my childhood and adulthood, I absorbed the adage, “Make every word count.” I’m here to tell you that those words are false—except when they’re not.
Writing flash fiction is writing to the bone. Literally every word needs to pull its own weight. At three hundred words or less, the average reader will read and pay attention to every word, and even a single wrong vocabulary choice can kill an otherwise good story.
A short story requires a little meat on those bones, a few ligaments and tendons to bind everything together and keep it walking in the right direction. At a certain point, transitions and grounding phrases become necessary. Tying phrases together with “needless” conjunctions and prepositions makes for easier reading. You have more room to pay attention to style.
Novellas have flesh. They hold the shape of a novel with only the necessary meat to fill out all the crevices. They may even have the skin and hair and eyelashes and all the pretty details. At this point, repetition and yes, that horribly maligned friend of writers, redundancy, become powerful tools to aid a reader who would otherwise lose track of the details. This is a length where it is easy to beat a revelation or theme over the reader’s head, but if you only state a thing once, it registers as invisible.
Divergent by Veronica Roth is an amazing young adult novel. The protagonist’s mother’s name is Natalie and her father’s is Andrew. These names are stated only once in the entire book. Nobody I know, including myself, had any idea of what their names were without either looking them or being told.
Repetition is a good thing.
Novels, now, these are the full-blown deal. They wear clothes. Your average reader—who is not suffering from such word-related psychological condition—does not, and does not want to, read every word. If every single word earns its place in a given sentence, on a given page, or worst of all, in a given book, then the reader has to work very, very hard to not miss anything. Note: many bestsellers are accused of bad writing because they make the reading easy.
After writing flash fictions, especially drabbles of exactly one hundred words, for a few years, I found that a common complaint cropped up about most of my work. It was hard to read. People had to go back and reread to get the point. Readers would love my writing but have no idea what was going on. This was more than a little disturbing and came solidly back to my habit of writing only the bones: omitting transitional words and phrases that were supposedly “unnecessary,” cutting out descriptions, showing with too few repetitions, or failing to make a point by telling, in addition to showing.
Bones can sing. Bones can dance. Unless you’re writing flash fiction, though, you want some flesh.
Bio: Liana Mir reads, writes, and wrangles the muses from her mundane home in the Colorado Rockies and, occasionally, from the other side of the Barrier.
It’s Sunday night. The weekend’s been cold and dreary. Two of my kidlets came down with fever. I’ve been sleeping badly (I don’t deal well with nighttime interruptions). And here I am, cudgeling my brain, trying to come up with an upbeat and uplifting blog post for Wednesday.
Well, I can’t do upbeat, so you might have to settle for thoughtful, with–hopefully–a dash of uplifting.
So, I’m going to write about something that I’ve mulled over a lot in the last few months. It’s the realization that most of what I do–the valuable work of my life (raising children, homeschooling, forging relationships, writing)–take a long long time to bear fruit.
This is completely at odds with the have-it-now messages I’m bombarded with. Technology has made it so much easier to get what I want, when I want it. I finished a book and want the sequel right now? I can download it to my e-reader at any time of day or night. Book not available in digital format? Amazon Prime will have it on my doorstep in two days. I need to quickly put together a unit study, find math drills for the older two kidlets, connect-the-dot worksheets for the Baron, or research a topic? Connect with friends halfway across the world? Find a recipe for tiramisu? Kill time with a fun game? Well, isn’t that why we have wireless high-speed Internet, computers and iDevices?
As a consumer, getting what I want now or soon has been great. But as a creator, as a parent, I need to get out of the want-results-now mindset. I need to accept that every skill has a learning curve, that every craft requires time, patience, nurturing. That parenting three decidedly individual people isn’t as easy or quick as “just add water and mix!” That I can’t spend several weeks reading articles on the craft and art of writing and then bang out the Perfect Novel.
Making peace with this sort of delayed gratification has taught me to celebrate the processes of what I do, as well as the results. It’s not just about the fact that a child learned a skill or internalized a character trait, but the failures and the time and the growth it took him to get there. It’s not just that there’s a finished story on my hard drive, but it’s also about the excitement of the first idea, the fervor of planning, the fallow periods and the angst and the magic when it all came together.
I’m in this–this creating and parenting and learning along with my children–for the long haul. I may as well enjoy the journey.
How about you? How do you enjoy the journey?