Turmoil in Writing

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged, not because I haven’t been writing, but because I have; writing and learning. As my mother said, when you learn something about how to write, you write. Then you go back, reread (or review) what you’d learned and you’ll find that you have to rewrite and revise what you’d written to bring it up to standard. And as another author once said, “Then rinse and repeat”.  I couldn’t agree more.  Learning about how to write and putting it into flawless, unfailing practice are two quite different things.
Since I last wrote, I feel as if I have finally finished a year and a half long course on how to write by studying nearly every book I could get my hands on all of which were highly recommended to me.  Of course, the Writer’s Digest series of books is a must to read for the newbee fiction writer, but two books stand heads and hands above all the others when it comes to writing quality fiction.  Lisa Cron explains in the beginning of her book “Wired for Story” that story “is an internal journey, not an external one” and that “stories grab us only when they allow us to experience how it would feel to navigate the plot”.  In other words, if we as readers don’t feel it, it won’t be interesting to us.  Lisa takes the rest of the book to explain this intangible, ephemeral ‘something’ and how an author can bring it to the page. Valuable stuff.
The second book is by David Corbett, a New York Times author whose articles I have often enjoyed.  I did not know that he also wrote fiction.  His book entitled “The Art of Character” is by far the best book I have ever seen on developing and writing characters for the page, stage or screen.  It is so good that I gave a copy to my mother.  If ever a writer is itching to plumb the depths of their story and bring it alive, then this is the guidance to follow.
As far as my own writing is concerned, I finished chapter ten with a certain amount of relief that I had gotten so far.  27,000 words seemed like a lot to me. I revised chapter one perhaps 21 times and with great anticipation, excitement and a little trepidation, I attended my first Willesden Green Writers’ Group meeting hoping to get honest feedback. Being quite used to receiving constructive criticism throughout my life and feeling that my emotions about my writing would certainly be under control, I read chapter one to the group – well, at least as much as the allotted ten minutes would allow.
Ok, so somewhere hidden in the back of my mind I was hoping for praise and commendation and I’m sure that someone said something nice (after all, they are very nice people – this group of writers), but they weren’t going to let me off the hook.  If something wasn’t ’t right, it was their “job” to tell me.  And they did. This experienced group of writers and avid readers let me know the difficulties in my beginning, a dream sequence.  I heard what they said and I took it seriously.
Then I went home.  I walked home – in turmoil.  How could I possibly do what they said?  It would change the whole beginning of my story.  It would change the premise.  It would change the feel.  I couldn’t start the story after the dream sequence, it would make it a whole different story, but how could I retain my intentions without including this five page (double spaced) dream sequence. It took me an entire weekend of pouting and wondering what kind of writer I was to not have seen the flaws they’d pointed out.  I kept going over and over the dream sequence in my mind.  What was I to do?
Then it occurred to me, I had no idea how it should be written, but these writers sounded as if they knew how to write a dream sequence.  They must have learned it from somewhere.  So, I did what we all do these days; if you don’t know something, google it.
I was stunned to find a lot of information about writing dream sequences and certain generally acceptable principles – all of which I had broken.  A couple more days of ruminating and it finally occurred to me.  Instead of abandoning it all together, I rewrote the dream sequence in broken, poetry-style prose in italics making it look and feel mysterious and secretive which was exactly what I was trying to get at.  And I discovered something amazing – they were absolutely right! Five pages got knocked down to 87 words. Now it’s direct and to the point and then the action jump starts the story.  Much better, I hope.  At least I’ll find out at the next writers’ group meeting.  Wish me luck.

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