I Is A Writer

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. . ..

Off to spend the day with my writing peeps!
Off to spend the day with my writing peeps!

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.

RCRW Chapter mate Gina Fluharty rockin' the red shoes!
RCRW Chapter mate Gina Fluharty rockin’ the red shoes!

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.

Me and The Donald!
Me and The Donald!

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. . ..

Happy writing,

-Melia

19 Comments »

  1. My dream is to be a writer. I mean of course, in my heart since I had my first chapter book read out loud to me in second grade, I began to understand what an author was and decided that I would be one. So in my heart, since I wrote my first little story, I too have been a writer….
    I knew that is what I wanted to be.
    In-between, life has happened. I have been educated in different areas and have strayed away from my dream and worked in different capacaties. Hence; my job now. As my daughter sings: “Working hard for the money, so hard for it hone” lol. But truly, I have always written. My mom was a children’s artist when I was growing up. I learned early in life that I could draw. I had an art business for several years and incorporated poetry into it, Illustrating and writing my own greeting card line. But as for really writing. I feel that I have not been true to myself.
    I have had many books inside of me and started a few.
    For the last three years, I have been working on one that I feel is going to finally happen. Though I KNOW I need to attend many Writer’s Workshops.
    I love the way that YOU likened our comfortable writing style to an old comfee tee shirt, too good to throw away! I so GET what you mean!
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I love your writing style! I feel as we got to ride along in your shirt pocket with you!
    I have bookmarked this and intend to go back and re-read this one a few times! Thank you!

  2. Loved your blog, and that you enjoyed the workshop and take-away’s! I know it’s a bit frustrating to realize the WIP needs more work, but just think how much more you’ll love it (and the readers, too), when you apply, revise, and see it published! Go for it Melia. It will be outstanding. 🙂 ~ Viola

  3. Diane, thank you for your kindness. I am so humbled you’ve bookmarked this post. Seriously.

    I once had a FaceBook “friend” comment that you know you’re a writer when someone pays you for your work. While that goes without saying, I don’t agree that’s the only way to define a writer. The way I see it, if you’re committing words to the page, you’re a writer. Especially if the words burn so deep you can’t NOT write. So, yeah, get that book done! 🙂

    And if you get a chance, there are a lot of online workshops you can participate in. I just finished one with Savvy Authors – it was fabulous!

    Happy writing,
    Melia

  4. Awww, thanks Viola! It was a truly awesome experience for me – just what I needed to hear. Timing’s everything, huh? As for having it published, it sure would be great to see it out in the world. But only when it’s ready. 🙂

    Happy writing,
    Melia

  5. I would like to have some lessons too I can need it, you never are to old to learn right ? And that were some very interesting lessons, have a lovely Sunday Melia !

  6. No bleeding on the keyboard Melia. Writing is fun! The workshop was great, empowering. We already possess the tools we need to write great stories. We just need to dig deeper. Have at it!

  7. Just when I think I have a handle on this writing thing, someone offers another insight – another way of looking at what I am doing. I couldn’t write fast enough to capture all the things Donald Maass was saying, couldn’t take my attention away for even a minute because there might be something else I needed to know 🙂 The best thing though, was I had a sudden epiphany about a sticky plot point in my current WIP. The clouds parted and low and behold I now understood who the villain was in my story. A great day! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm in another great blog post. Write on….