HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!!!
Today is my nation’s birthday and I’m spending it by reading some books and writing my manuscript. But before I do any of that, I thought that I should add on to my earlier post, The Illusive Process, by giving you some tips that I got recently.
So I stumbled onto a website called StartWriting.ca which offers a collection of writing workshops all run by David Bester.
First thing that came to mind was, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone’s last name was Bestest? Then it would sound like a Nicki Minaj song, “I’m Bestest”, but the second thing that came to mind was whether or not these workshops could help me with finding a process that worked for me. To cut this story short, I emailed Mr. Bester and he emailed me back saying that the workshop I wanted doesn’t start again until next year (NO!!!!!) but he did give me some tips as well as examples in how his workshops can help writers like me. So here is the edited version of the email he sent me.
My workshops use the AWA method, which is based on the premise that writing isn’t hard: the pressure we put on ourselves as writers makes it seem that way.You’ve managed to overcome this pressure in terms of short stories (awesome!) but now that you want to tackle longer pieces you’re running into a brick wall.This (in my opinion) is not because you’re doing something wrong, or because you haven’t found the right process. It’s because you’re feeling pressure that the novel should come out a certain way. Or you don’t want to feel like you’re wasting time. Or some other variation on feeling something that prevents you from just sitting down and bashing away at your notebook/keyboard of choice.I have three suggestions for you, and then a suggested exercise from my workshop.1) Don’t call it a novel.The act of writing is the same, whether the pieces are 5,000 words or 50,000 words. Why should one be easy and one be hard? Shouldn’t be any difference. So don’t call it a novel. Tell yourself you’re writing a series of connected short stories. You’ll have a boat load of edits to do when you finish your first draft regardless, so perhaps stitching these pieces together on the back-end will take away the pressure that you are creating A NOVEL and will open the door for you to get started.2) Write with other people.It sounds counter-intuitive I know. After all, the novelist must sit at his desk and pound away at a story for months and years, alone, them vs. the world, dedicated to the cause. Why waste time writing with other people?Well, for one thing it helps take away the pressure. It gives you energy. And when you get immediate feedback on your writing (even though it’s rough and usually terrible) you often learn useful things and get more of those “ah-ha” moments that get you through your work.3) Make it awful.You can write short pieces. You have a hard time writing / structuring longer ones. This is probably because you expect it to be good, or to make sense, or to convey all your themes.Well, take away those expectations. Make it awful, consciously. And just write it. Then you’ll have a terrible first draft of a novel that you can edit into a slightly less awful 2nd draft, and some of the themes and ideas will come together, and a few more revisions later you’ll have what you wanted.I try to address all the above in my workshops: group writing, removing pressure, adding inspiration, taking away the need for the 1st pass at a piece of writing to be good. And since I’m not running THE NOVEL workshop again until next year, let me share the first exercise I give to the group. E. L. Doctrow has a great quote about writing. Goes like this:“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”So take a pen and a notebook, go to a coffeeshop or a comfortable corner, and try this exercise.
Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a car during a foggy night. Imagine that the road ahead is your novel. What do you see in the headlights? What’s out of your view? What will it look like when you arrive at your destination?You must literally do this, because the act of writing might take you to places or insights you wouldn’t achieve by simply thinking it through.I hope the above helps, and that in the thoughts above I’ve also answered how my workshops could benefit you.Cheers,David