Friday, June 08, 2007

Making a Literary Life Friday: Raising the Bar

A few months back, we in our writers group agreed to raise the expectations we set for each other. Having established trust, we knew we were in a place where honest and very comprehensive feedback would push us to the next level. This decision has movitated each of us to double check our prose, re-think a character's motivation. In short, raise the bar for our own writing.

Passages from favorite writers...I couldn't live without them. Reading a polished paragraph from Michael Lowenthal's Charity Girl, or a few words from Jerry Spinelli's Star Girl, is what I need to jumpstart my writing. I need that prose switch to be turned from idle to on.

This Friday, Amy won't be posting herself, but she reminds us about the Debs party at Grub Street Writers this evening (see below).

That one can not only deplete but misplace one's precious jar of energy made total sense to me this week. (Thank you, Lynne!) I noticed yesterday that not only have I been running on fumes of frantic energy, but everyone around me seems to be as well. Somehow that was what I needed to pull back. First things first. Smile at the children. Prepare a good dinner. Curl up in the wide leather chair with one of the many Roald Dahl books that seem to be magnetically attracted to my coffee table from two school libraries and the town library as well. Remember Matilda? Work on the fiction even if it's only for a half hour before Everything Else begins, and sneak in another half hour here, another hour there. I have not slowed, but that mysterious energy source seems more substantial as I repeat these steps. And you?

I raised the bar on revisions to my novel, and even I'm impressed. My characters had sooooo much more to say. My tip of the week is not to close off conversations with them too early in the process. The richness in my story was found when I waited and listened patiently.

Literary Events:
If traffic isn't an issue, then mark your calendars because the Debs are coming to Boston! Friday, June 8th at Grub Street world headquarters we'll toast Jennifer McMahon, Tish Cohen, and Patry Francis while they read from their debut novels. This event will also feature a fun contest: each author will pick one name from a hat, and the winner will receive a free consultation with the author on their query letter and first manuscript page. RSVP: 617.695.0075 or


Anonymous said...

Hannah and Lynne,
You couldn't have posted this at a better time for me.
The energy crisis has hit me hard. I have been working non stop for weeks on the draft of my WIP. And now I feel as if I have run out of fuel.
Yesterday I decided to halt new writing. Instead I started a revision process from my first chapter.
Now I feel, even worse. I couldn't function; or at least in a sensible manner. My own words that I enjoyed writing, felt hollow.
Advice needed.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Everyone probably refuels in different ways, so don't know if this is right for you. When I am depleted, I don't like what I write or revise. Hallie Ephron once said that after one completes a draft, it is best to let it sit for weeks (plural!) and then go back to analyze it for big issues and small issues. I find this holds true even along the way. When I get to that low point, I take a break. I put the piece aside for a few days, at least; then I read. What don't I like about what is going on? What Guardian Angel books by great writers did that well? You won't copy, but you'll get ideas on craft. Or read favorite reference books; ours are listed bottom right. With those same precious hours you would write, sit with a small pile of books designed to help you slow down, think, focus on the craft of it. Close your eyes. Make tea, let all the ideas start to whirl and then, who knows? You'll be pulling a sock out of the dryer, and whammo! Very best of luck!


Therese said...

I'm low on fuel myself, after an intense couple of writing weeks!

A beach trip looms on the evening horizon, though, so I hope to return to my desk renewed on Monday.

Sorry I'll miss the multi-deb reading. Hope it's as fun as it promises to be!

Larramie said...

Enjoy the Debs in person, I'll be there in spirit!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the advice Hannah,

I am going to finish some books, that I had left in the lurch; while my writing was zooming.
And I'll probably make some new posts to my blog over the next few days.