Write, write, write; read, read, read…bleary-eyed and catching up on a few essays to be workshopped tomorrow. And so begins the week of the Summer Writers Conference.
What did I learn? Loads. Forthcoming.
But first, a quick tale of high highs and low lows.
I don’t know what it is about the human brain that can churn out what it thinks is a great tale, see it on the page and believe in its perfection only to be told by a group of trusted readers that x is wrong, y is wrong and z is wrong. How is it that we cannot see the errors and omissions of our own work? How is it that we can make such seemingly obvious flaws? Not sure. Don’t have answers.
But having workshopped Fertility again, after this second draft, I feel as though I am closer to a more publishable version. I just need to sit down with one person that I trust and work it out, almost line by line. Is that so hard to do. I feel as though there’s only so much I am capable of figuring out on my own, piecing together from student comments.
Oh, but I did love Jewel Parker Rhodes. She was vivacious, exciting to listen to, to watch, to experience. And she taught us a gazillion things: the difference between a melodrama and a tragedy (something I should have remembered from undergrad), how to take responsibility for your characters’ lives, actions and decisions, and that there are obvious “breaks” in tone as a story rises and descends. That a writer must giveth and taketh away. Keep the lid on things, so to speak. That what is not spoken is just as important as what is. And that most good novels are character driven. I can’t wait to read her book “Yellow Moon.”
Her feedback on Fertility was priceless- “You came so close,” “You almost pulled it off,” “It’s a fucking amazing story,” “But you need to tighten it up,” “You need to recognize that it has the potential to be a tragedy; instead you gave us a melodrama,” “The real tragedy is the untold backstory of her husband and what she’s losing,” “Expose it.” “The protagonist is so conscious about everything, and yet completely blind.” “That’s the irony.” “Everything’s there, you just need to know what to do with it.” “This story can be so much shorter,” “Cut it back, but bring forth the important stuff,” “Keep the lid on things.” And so on.
So, it will be my job to write out questions and try to get answers: So, there should be no confrontation in the supermarket then? At all? But what then?
Revision is a bitch. Back to the drawing board. And yet, it is during the act of revision that we learn of our limitations or our talent. I feel as though I am indeed stuck in the former, trying desperately to hurdle my way toward the latter.