Monday, June 9, 2008

Novel Boot Camp

What a weekend! Saturday and Sunday I spent four hours in a fine workshop about novel writing, led by Bill Henderson, author of Augusta Locke and others. You've probably seen arguments on line and in print about whether or not writing can be taught. I plump down solidly on the + side. (No, not my clothing size, though that's close.) I've been through grad school and learned enroute to an MFA that I could learn much about writing poetry. No one hurt my soul or my skills. I didn't always agree with the instructors, but I learned from them. I don't think I came out of Vermont College writing "like everyone else." I did not sign on to any one school of poetry, did not see the more practiced folks as gurus, didn't grovel to particular publishers. Agents, of course, are extraneous to most of the poetry set. I may yet learn to grovel over the fiction.

Now, with the guidance of Melanie Tem in my fiction writing group, I've learned a thing or twelve about short stories, and with Bill's easy-going approach to the monumental work of novel writing I'm learning again. He has a way of looking for organization without locking oneself into a formula or a tight suit of words. About every third sentence from him is essentially "of course, this may all change as you go along." Keeping that in mind, it feels safe to plan ahead, to try to anticipate where the story might end. Just to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak. The story I'm working on has bedeviled me for years, because it has been totally out of control. With a nudge here and there, I can see a magical realism novel with a focus. It's like riding a spirited but well trained horse, as opposed to a hare-brained, half-broke nut job of a cayoose. I just may get a good ride and end up in a beautiful but safe place. I'll let you know how it goes. KD


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you liked the workshop. Look forward to reading some of the output. LM

Karen Douglass said...

Not a problem! I'm enthused about this one. You may remember the Kate Spade purse idea? That's it.