American film producer, director, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan said “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” He got it so right, and that includes weekends too. Find more of his brainy, fun quotes here.
I’ve been feeling this lately, with my debut novel coming out, A HUMAN ELEMENT. My first book isn’t even out yet and there is more to do. Write a new book, edit a book just finished, promote a book coming out, learn more on the craft, do social media, write guest posts, do readings, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t recall what my weekends were like before I signed a book contract. It’s a blur of nothingness. Now it’s about writerly things. For example, this past Saturday I attended the monthly meeting of The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, of which I’m a member. I was asked to be the Spotlight Member and had fun (while not being nervous!) reading from A HUMAN ELEMENT.
I also added to my writer’s toolbox by taking a workshop on Poetry for the Prose Writer by Ben Heins. Highly recommended! It also renewed my interest in the poetry form and got my brain spinning on how I can incorporate poetry techniques in my writing.
Using Poetry in Prose:
Economy of language: Is every word necessary? Can I replace a group of words with one word?(we prose writers tend to overwrite!)
Unique and engaging imagery: Is my description vivid? Have I avoided cliches? Have I followed an introduced metaphor throughout the work?
Attention to ryhthm: Have I read every sentence aloud? (yes, read that whole damn book aloud!) Is the pacing right for the subject matter?Sonic Resononace: Have you created music in the words using alliteration, repeated consonant, and assonance? And have you used something to break up the music when needed?
Clarity: Do all of my details add up to one, coherent story? Would a stranger understand all I’ve written?
Order of Detail: Am I building on the momentum of the details or slowing down? Do all of my details build up for maximum impact?
Then back down the road to attend a Craftwriting pharmacy-no-rx.net/amoxicillin_generic.html Workshop led by friend and (poetic) prose writer, Kathryn Craft, who recently signed with the Donald Maass Agency and is in the exciting midst of getting her book ready to market with her agent. I learned about subtext. A difficult form to craft well.
What is subtext?
Subtext is the unspoken thing that a passage of dialogue is really about. That man and woman in the diner may be all “pass the salt, please” and “thank you,” while she’s really damning him for his salt intake and the likelihood that he’ll leave her a widow. Kathryn had us relate it to Ernest Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants,” which is about abortion without ever mentioning it.
What are some sources of subtext?
Backstory or character motivation
Sexual attraction or power play
Body language and movements
POV of character’s internal state
Aspect of human-made environment
Kathryn also held another great workshop I attended on writing simultaneous action. You can catch what’s that about here, by my fellow classmate, Kerry Gans.
A working Saturday, right? It’s important to keep that writer toolbox filled with new techniques as you grow as a writer, but it’s also important to have balance. I wanted to attend the monthly Writers Coffeehouse on Sunday from noon to 4:30, a fantastic networking session for all levels of writers on the craft and business of writing plus a tech talk workshop afterwards. It’s led by the Philadelphia Liars Club and this event (and their Yahoo Group above) is open to all and a great place to learn and meet other writers.
But back to that balance thing. I knew I needed to devote weekend time to my son and husband. So while I did spend time finishing and sending off blog posts for A HUMAN ELEMENT blog tour, I also helped my son with his science fair project (how things glow in the dark. Cool!).
My wonderful husband, Mike, has adapted sweetly to my new career path. He is the greatest provider of alone time there is! Are you keeping your writer tool box filled? And how? And if you are, I hope you have a wonderful provider of alone time too!
Great post! Your workshops sound like my AFA courses! The poetry tips are great–I’ve been learning a lot about this as well in school with my poetry classes and plan on incorporating actual poetry in my new WIP. I am learning to love many different forms of writing and, like you said, it’s important to keep all in our toolbox! I can’t wait to get to one of Kathryn’s Saturday workshops–great use of a weekend if you ask me!
Thanks for sharing Jess. Yes, I thinks its so important to have an open mind to all forms of writing – you never know what you can apply to your own! I cant make Kathryn’s workshops until after The Write Stuff Conf. but hope to see you there!
Catherine Stine says
What’s a writer to do? There are so many things to keep up with! Great post, sounds like you’re doing some smart things to add tools to your toolbox.
Catherine, thanks. Yes, so many things to keep up with…while the new ones pop up constantly too!
Kathryn Craft says
Hi Donna, Thanks for the mention! What can I say, I get inordinately excited about writing craft and structure, and figuring out how stories hold so much power. It’s funny—all those years of wanting an agent and now I realize it’s a good thing I kept acquiring skills all that time! When your agent says “This is flat—fix it,” she isn’t necessarily going to tell you how, or wait around while you go learn!
Kathryn, yes…all those years you were perfecting and striving – and towards exactly what you wanted -and now have achieved! As we go along we dont realize all we pick up and learn, seems mammoth if we look at it all at once. And arent you glad you now know how to “fix it!” without help!