I started another writing class this month, Fiction 2 with Gotham Writers Workshop. This experience is different than the one I had last semester. Last semester my teacher was a woman, older than me and a novelist/screenwriter. This session, my teacher is male, younger than me (I believe he’s 12) and a short story writer. The biggest difference is not the gender or the age: it is the writing discipline. Writing a short story versus a novel is the same, yet different.
Many of my classmates favor very ambiguous stories. They’re OK with limited, or no plot. They’re OK with vague descriptions. They’re OK with no dialogue. These are things the novel people never want to read/see. The biggest criticism I get when presenting my novel is the lack of description- I am dialogue heavy, and personally, I don’t care if the kitchen is all black and modern, or yellow and countryesque. But, readers of novels do. Readers of short stories don’t.
Should I become a short story writer?
No. I want to write a longer work.
So we have the first conundrum I face when working on my novel: how do I add description to my work?
Seriously. how do I add description to my work?
My problem appears to be in my first chapter. OK- I have problems in other chapters as well, but lets begin with the section I’m currently playing with. I need to introduce my setting, which is a kitchen, and my protagonist and her three best friends. (on a completely different note- I did learn in this current class that the protagonist and main character do not have to be the same- who knew???) This is a lot of information in the beginning of the book, and I am having difficulty maintaining my light, fun voice with the task of similes, metaphors, adverbs and adjectives. I like description to appear in little bits and pieces. People reading my book do not. They want a laundry list of how the room looks. How do I reconcile what the reader wants with how I want to present the story?
Is this the first basic problem with writing? Writing what you want versus writing what people want to read? Is this just a variation of chicken/egg?
So, I’ve added a prologue. I am introducing my protagonist separately. I’m laying out one of the “problems” before I even get to anything else. I’m establishing the tone and voice. I think I’m liking this better, but it is my first rewrite, so….
Which leads me to the following: my first draft is finished.
To explain, I have the first half of the novel fleshed out. The second half is just major arcs. I have to fill in the filler. Here’s the thing I realized- I want the filler to actually count, so I need to flesh out the filler better in the first half, so that it is more meaningful in the second half. What, you say. I didn’t understand this last sentence, how am I going to understand her novel? I wish I could explain my thought process a little better, but really, how much do you want to get into my brain?
But, I am pleased with the main points of the novel. I like my two characters- they are funny and smart and damaged, just like we all are. I only hope that these things are coming across on the page. I am enjoying the process though. I look forward to writing. That is huge for me, the fact that I look forward to writing. I even think about plot points and dialogue when I am doing other things- my little pink notebook is never far from my side.
In other writing news. I blogged at least 5 times a week this month. Yay. Had so much amazing feedback from comments and generated lots of new blog ideas. Thank you all for that- you keep me on my toes and keep me thinking. You are all an inspiration. My hope is that every now and then I inspire you.
I formed a writing group with two of the women from my first fiction class. This is the best thing I did. We meet every three weeks and really do a line by line critique of each others work. Even if I don’t like their suggestions, it’s making me look at my novel in a different way. I’m thinking of the overall theme more, because I see how individual word choice effects the general feel of a work.
My next task is to try to find an agent. Yeah. Good times. I don’t know how to even start this process, but my February goal is to start researching the “how”. You’ll get the report next month.
So there you have it: a summary of my writing for January. Tune in next month for the latest tale of my writing highs and lows.