Thursday, October 24, 2013

Digging Deep...Real Deep

Cartoon Girl Writing and Thinking

It's been almost a month since I attended Donald Maass's Break Out Novel Workshop and I'm still reeling over all the things I learned (and I suspect I'll be reeling for quite some time). If you're looking for a workshop that will blow your socks off and challenge you to achieve your best, this is it.  

While I learned numerous tools and tips of the trade, I think by far the most important, and at the same time, most difficult is to make my work personal.  What does that mean?  Everyone can write a story, something with a plot and developed characters.  What makes a good story, a great story is not just the twists and turns or hitting the mark in the genre of the second.  It's what the story reveals about the author.  

There's the hero's journey, and then there's your journey, and a truly great book must have both. How does the story you're writing reflect what you believe, your experiences and what you want to say?  Why are you writing your manuscript in the first place?
Open book showing landscape with castle and road
Now I know what you're thinking.  "I'm writing a story about a fantastic new world in 2075, how the heck is that about me?" Now my story wasn't about a futuristic universe, but the way I stared blankly at Mr. Maass during our one-on-one pretty much said the same thing. 

This is where the fun part begins.  Is your protagonist a girl, a boy, an alien?  What type of family do they have.  What do they want?  Now think of your family.  Who are they, what are they like?  How do they make you feel?  What do you want?  Now is there an experience with your family that brings up strong emotions?  Can you look at your manuscript and see a point in time where your protagonist might feel the same way?  Now write those pages with your feelings.  It's not a simple activity and you may even fight against the process, but hey, no one said writing was easy, right?  If you keep at it, you'll discover things about your character that you never knew, and perhaps a few things about yourself along the way (it's way cheaper than therapy!). 

There are a lot of exercises that you can do to bring "u" out in your manuscript.  For more amazing tidbits and great writing advice, check out Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and Writing 21st Century Fiction. I promise, you won't regret it!

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