The Cheese Never Stands Alone
Here’s the thing, the past several weeks have been busy. I was/will be teaching at summer conferences, not to mention attending to my own writing schedule. I just got back from the Montrose Christian Writers Conference where I taught my ever-growing-in-popularity-it-seems fiction clinic. This time around I had 16 first time novelists and one interloper. And I must say, it was one of my best clinics so far. I absolutely love doing this. These small groups, these communities of writers and lovers of words become family if even for a just a few short but intense days. That’s them in the picture. I love them.
What’s fun is the variety of manuscripts I get to read. Everything from a children’s books set in a Dystopian Society to Women’s Literature to Fantasy. Sure, all the books need work. But hey, whenever I read my own books published years ago, I wince and wish Superman could fly backwards around the globe and reverse time. But no, there comes a time with every manuscript when you have to stop adding and subtracting words. But sometimes it takes a village to raise a book. To make it publishable—that’s the thing, that’s the big thing and probably the subject of another post down the road.
I especially enjoy watching the light bulbs go off inside the workshopees minds when something I say about Point of View or Dialog or what have you sinks in and they get it. I enjoy watching the participants get to know each other and trust each other and learn from each other even when I’m not around. It’s community.
My approach is simple—talk about novels. Talk about growing an organic story that builds and develops and thrives starting with premise and pressing through to character, structure, setting etc. We talk about how one aspect of the novel naturally grows out of the other. The cheese never stands alone in a novel. If it did, the dream, as John Gardner calls it, will end.
I’m in the process of reading 12 more manuscripts for the Greater Philadelphia Conference next week. I already know it’s going to be great.