Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Highlights Workshop: Day 2

(Sorry for the day-late post.  I wrote this yesterday, but internet was being finicky and wouldn't post.)

Today was our second day at the lovely Highlights Workshop.  I forgot to post a pic of our cabins yesterday.  Here they are like little ducklings all in a row.

The big focus of today was our one-on-one critiques.  I met with Laura Ruby for my critique this morning and we had quite an in-depth chat about my book.  If you are a writer, you know that critiques can be both wonderful and frustrating, inspiring and discouraging all at the same time.  This was not my first critique/feedback and over the past year or so I have been dipping my toes into the realm of manuscript submission.  I've taken the feedback from those submissions and revised my manuscript accordingly.  Ironically, most of Laura's suggestions involved things that used to be in my novel which I had either revised or taken out entirely.  Exasperating?  You bet, but it's something writers experience all the time.  So with all that conflicting advice, what's a writer to do?

Well, when the going gets tough, the tough compromise!  Laura and I evaluated her editorial notes and came up with some revision game plans.  Nothing terrifying involving chucking the whole thing out the window, but rather tweaking this, deepening that, shortening here and adding there.  If you want to be a writer, you definitely need to be flexible and willing to revise A LOT!  (Five times, fifty times, or even a bagillion times--whatever it takes to make it right.)  Revisions don't petrify me so much anymore and I'm excited to get back on the horse (no pun intended) and edit my novel some more!

After an afternoon of editing, we met for our first workshop discussion.  Our assigned reading for this week was a book called The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley  It is a story of self-discovery about a cellar-dwelling girl who keeps the nasty Folk monsters at bay while learning she is actually a Sealmaiden (i.e. she can literally turn into a seal.)  This turned out to be one of those books where there were a lot of things I did and didn't like.  We discussed the pros and cons of the book in our group chat, focusing on a few topics such as:

-The fine-line between Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.  This book walks that thin line, with a character who matures emotionally from a childish teen to a mature young lady but is physically in the grey-area age of 15.  (15 is often considered "no man's land," too old for MG but too young for YA.)

-The power of tight writing.  This book is only 162 pages--very short.  Remarkably, it's packed with depth and themes conveyed with succinct sentences and spot-on emotions.  (Wish I could do that!)

-The circular nature of good writing.  You know it when you see it--where points, themes, etc. in the beginning come full circle and fit back into the ending.  This book exemplified it nicely.  (Holes is a great example of this, too.)

-The importance of "promise" in a book.  This is usually something (perhaps a theme, foreshadowing, etc.) set up in the beginning which therefore sets your expectations for the book.  (Think, for example, Harry Potter.  The first chapter makes you expect a story full of emotion, whimsy and magic.  If the rest of the book wasn't magical, you would have been sorely disappointed.)  For me and a few others, The Folk Keeper broke it's promise (a bad thing) while for others, the book fulfilled its promise (a good thing).  To a certain extent, promises are open to individual interpretation and fulfillment, but overall readers should feel satisfied when they reach the end.  Definitely something to pay attention to in your own writing.

So that was our workshop today!  Our meals of the day practically popped out of a Brian Jacques novel: breakfast of oatmeal with warm apricot compote; lunch of lettuce wrap sandwiches; bruschetta and radish-relish dip for workshop snacks (surprisingly delicious); and a dinner of shepherd's pie with "bluebarb" crisp for dessert.  I can tell my tummy is going to be very happy this week. :)

Time to get back to revising!

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