Saturday, October 22, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I enrolled in two online workshops that began this month. I don't think I'll be able to continue either. Spending workdays in front of the computer typing e-mails and interacting with Web sites isn't something I particularly enjoy, so more of it after work isn't something I look forward to doing. So far, I've made brief introductions to both classes and took stabs at a couple of assignments for one class.
Well, I'll take a deep breath and decide later today what to do.
In the meantime, the writing is going well. I've written every day this past week, except Friday, and am averaging 500 words per day. Taking time away from writing to read and reply to forum posts and complete online exercises for the workshops sounds like a bad idea.
Take another deep breath....
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Today's topic is Story, Structure, and Plot, or, I should say, the beginnings of my ruminations on these oft-discussed (by many) and little-understood (at least by me) terms. My starting point is the revealing work of Stephen Koch, The Modern Library Writers Workshop.
In chapter 3, "Structuring the Story," Koch states the following:
1. Plot and story naturally reinforce each other at every stage of their development, but the rule of thumb has to be that, generally speaking, just as intuition tends to precede calculation, so story precedes plot. YOU CANNOT "PLOT" A STORY THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW.
2. Plotting becomes possible when--and only when--this intuitive knowledge has emerged with enough clarity for you to identify details. Once that has happened, the two processes--feeling the story, followed by figuring the story--can start working together in a dynamic reciprocity from which the real shape of the story can emerge in an alternating shimmer of certainty and surprise.
3. So story precedes plot. Always. Story precedes plot even in "formula fiction"--although most people miss that fact, because in formula fiction, the story starts out as a given, a cliche so familiar that the writer knows it before she or he even begins.
My novel in progress is a mystery, more specifically, a police procedural, set in a small town, so my story and plot will likely cover the familiar formulas of this genre of crime fiction. But somehow I still cannot know the plot before the story, despite the familiarities of "formula fiction."
How can I write my novel to avoid the cliches of crime fiction? Is this even possible or advisable?
I will explore answers to these questions tomorrow, using Koch's further discussion of story, structure, and plot.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Christine Wiltz's foreword to the Pocket Star Books edition of James Lee Burke's novel, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, contains the following paragraph about a question a young woman asked Mr. Burke after he spoke at the 2002 Louisiana Book Festival:
Afterwards, a young woman in the audience asked if he ever mentored writers. Jim's answer should be printed and hung on the wall of every writer just starting out and of any writer who experiences doubt or block during his career. A writer, he said, makes a contract with himself that he's going to write, and only he can honor that contract by writing every day, honing his craft, and becoming the best writer he can be. A writer mentors himself.
This blog is part of my honoring the contract I make with myself that I'm going to write every day, honing my craft, and being the best writer I can be--mentoring myself.
Stay tuned throughout 2011 to read what I will writer here, notes about my novel in progress, rants about how hard it is to write and get published, insights into the art and craft of fiction gleaned from other writers, and much more.