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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Keeping at it - IWSG November, 2013

This is my November post for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group, where writers help writers.  For more posts, click here.

Only two weeks until my Grub Street workshop ends and I’m pondering how I'll feel the first Monday I don’t have class.  I’ve learned so much via these two courses, the most important of which is without ongoing, objective feedback, I slip into ugly habits.  I deluded myself, thinking if I read, read, read about the craft, I’d figure things out.  But now I know reading must be combined with regular, unbiased criticism.  Don’t get me wrong.  I've had critique partners, and before these workshops, I believed I acted upon their feedback relating to my shortcomings.  But when challenged to read five pages of my work in front of classmates as well as a direct and astute teacher/novelist, criticism takes on a more tangible quality. 

I am so not there, yet.  

Still, most times I leave class inspired.  Energized.  Thinking, I get it.  I can’t wait to try to work the suggestions into my story.  Did you notice the modifier?  Try?

It is so hard to do it right.

I bumped into a woman from my former writing group the other day.  She asked how the Grub Street workshop was going and I answered something like, “Ninety-five percent of the time, I leave class amazed at what I’ve learned.  Five percent of the time I leave thinking, God, I‘ll never to be able to do this.”

But after each session I drive home with this renewed commitment to sit down and edit the life into what I’m writing. To ratchet up the conflict. To pare down my description to one stellar phrase.  To consider pacing.  To make the dialogue more realistic.  To stop stage-directing my characters all over the story, to use all of my senses, and to place back story in increments, only where it belongs. 

I navigate the two-lane highway toward my house contemplating this:   

Every single word choice, sentence, paragraph, scene and chapter must move the story forward.  

Knowing that?

I try harder.


Charity Bradford said...

This sounds like a wonderful class. It IS so hard to do all these little things that make our writing better. I'm not there yet either, but I want to be. That's why you and I will make it. We want it and we're willing to learn and keep trying.

Good luck and happy writing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Just focus on that ninety-five percent! And keep writing. You'll get it.

Diane Burton said...

How great that your class has motivated you. I used to think Yoda had it right--do or do not; there is no try. Now I think we just have to do our best. Hang in there.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love the idea of editing the life INTO our writing. I often find that, if I'm not careful, I can revise the heart and soul right out of my stories.

Bish Denham said...

Trying harder is really all any of us can do. Sounds like it wonderful class.

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

Every single word choice, sentence, paragraph, scene and chapter must move the story forward.

Knowing that?

I try harder.
OMG!!! This made my day!!
Keep going!
As Alex said Keep going on with that just 95% keeping in mind
Good Wishes

J.B. Chicoine said...

I've always admired your prose, and your eagerness to improve. In fact, you have helped me improve my writing! You most certainly CAN do this!

Robin said...

It is SO many things to think about all of the time. I know that I tend to be overly descriptive, too. I plan on really working on that in the editing. One stellar phrase instead of five meh ones.

Robin said...

I meant to tell you that I mentioned you in my Oh How I Miss You post...

Liz Blocker said...

Great, great post. Accepting criticism is HARD, really hard. But so amazing that you're doing it! I think the 95/5 ratio is pretty good, actually. Stay with it!

This is my second reminder this week to sign up for a Grub Street class. I need to do it!

Anne Gallagher said...

Moving the story forward, baby, that's what it's all about.