About the time a writer gets comfortable with the tools in her favorite handbag, she gets the brilliant idea to go to a writer’s workshop. That’s when she discovers that those uber-special tools that had served her well aren’t the latest, the greatest, the bestest thing she could ever have. Not that they hadn’t been at one point. It’s just that, now they are just (*gasp*) the basics. Kind of like an old, comfy tee shirt that’s too good to throw away, and definitely the kind you can layer underneath a sweater or three. But not something you’d wear to a fancy-schmancy gala. . ..
Huh. Well, now, there’s a challenge. . ..
But I digress.
Last weekend, I had the deliciously good fortune to attend a workshop presented by Donald Maass, agent extraordinaire. As he spoke, the typical cloud-filled Pacific Northwest almost-Spring day protested. Clouds parted, and the sun broke through as if they, too, understood the wisdom in his words. Too bad we were holed up indoors without a window.
Not that it mattered. Donald’s presentation was fabulous. Stupendous. Stellar. And by the end of the day I was exhausted, but relieved with all the information spinning through my writer brain. My WIP and I also came to a mutual understanding. The poor thing needed work. Still. *Insert long-suffering sigh*
But the beauty of it all is that it should emerge better, stronger, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Ummm. . . sorry. . . kinda got carried away there. Anywho, Donald suggested ways to really strengthen a manuscript, to make it unforgettable, and these were some of the nuggets I took away:
1. For those books that spent multiple weeks (some for well over a year) on the New York Times bestseller list, the authors wrote them to their own rules, told their own stories, and told them beautifully.
2. Commercial fiction writers need to understand that beautiful writing is finding what’s personal in our own lives and then bringing it onto the pages we produce. This means baring our souls and writing what’s not always comfortable. If you feel the angst when you write the scenes, so will the readers.
3. From his observation over decades in this business, there’s not enough stuff happening in the middle of the manuscripts. He contends most are starved. They’re not nearly dramatic enough. And, he says, writers can’t go too far over-the-top.
4. Series writers should NEVER HOLD ANYTHING BACK. Don’t wait until book 4 to include the scenes that should really be early in book 1. Go for it, and trust that there will be even more story ideas with each book.
5. I is a writer. There will always be more for me to learn, more to do, to make my stories stronger, deeper, more emotionally satisfying. . .. Thank God. (Because that means my skills are improving, peeps!)
So as I rip this manuscript apart – again – I’m hopeful that some of what Donald encouraged us to do will bleed onto the page. I just hope I won’t need a transfusion when I’m done. . ..