“The only way to bring your novel to the final level is to address what worries you the most about it.”
So said workshop instructor Fred Leebron after having us answer, to ourselves, three questions he posed:
What excites you most about your novel?
What worries you most about your novel?
What do you want to accomplish in your novel?
The answers to those questions should all be the same, and that’s where you have to focus during the revision process. For me, the answer to all three was “It’s a radical departure from what I usually write.”
And this is just one example of a constant three hours of mental exercises about the novel excerpts we submitted for the workshop. It was a grueling yet very enlightening afternoon, preceded by Pinckney Benedict’s morning craft lecture “From Page to Screen.”
Benedict explained that when you attempt to bring a work to the screen, you can be successful only through “the power of collaboration.” He described the collaboration not only between him and the filmmaker but between them and the small town where they shot the very (very) low-budget movie version of one of Benedict’s most anthologized short stories, “Miracle Boy.”
Much of the collaboration Benedict acknowledges is accidental but because he and the filmmaker had a strong professional and personal relationship before the project, there was automatic trust. Benedict knew his friend would do his story justice.
We got to view the seventeen-minute film, which richly brought to life the short story I was very familiar with. “Thinking cinematically,” Benedict said, “helps you write how things look.”
Probably his best advice of the craft lecture was, “While you write, indulge the fantasy that your writing will win a Pulitzer or will become a movie. Why not? You can always dream.”
Leebron’s craft discussion on the first day of the workshop was intense and packed with information–he accompanied his presentation with a thirty-two page handout. It was complex yet simple in content. It’s all stuff I’ve heard before in various writing classes and workshops; yet, it was far more coherent and better explained than I’ve ever experienced. Conflict, for example, is far more complicated than we think and yet expressed in such simple terminology.
Leebron moved on to narrative arcs (using the example of The Great Gatsby), how to write movement in your work, how to make your work resonate, and more. It was a ten-pages-of-notes day. Great stuff.
Tomorrow is the first of the critiques, and I’m up second, purely by coincidence of having a last name that begins with D and close to the top of the alphabet. The craft lecture for tomorrow is by poet Thorpe Moeckel, and his topic is “Food and Drink in Poetry: The Techniques, Trappings, and Themes.”
In the evening is the time set aside for student readings, and I signed up and will read my short story, “Marakata,” which recently took third place in a contest.
Another busy day to look forward to.