Saturday, January 21, 2012

Response #3: Linking

The topic this week is Linking.

Have read:  Connell’s short story “Etiquette Lessons,” and "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge," Henley’s Other Heartbreaks (3 linked stories), Maass Workbook exercises 15-17.

This week, the prompt is on our Private Blog. 

Please go there to answer the prompt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Response #2: Your Writing Regimen and Process

Due Tuesday 1/18 1/17! before 2 PM. You don't need to answer all these questions. They are merely prompts to get you thinking. 250-750 words. 

I used a naked picture to get your attention. Not because I think you should write naked.

When do you write? What time of day (first thing in the morning or at the end of the day?), what days of the week (weekends only or weekends never?), what time of the year (during school but not during summer or vice versa?) How do you write? Pen and paper or word processor? Do you write with the internet on or off? With music? In a room with other people in it, or by yourself? Do you have a writing space that is all yours? Do you HAVE to be in that space to write, or can you get writing done in other places if need be? Describe the way that a particular piece of yours got written--the overall arc from beginning to "end," and also what a typical writing session consisted of. How do you feel before you write, while you're writing, after you write? Are there certain things that need to be in place or in order before you can write? Do you need an assignment in order to write? How do the people in your life feel about your writing? Are they supportive? If you write on a computer, can they tell the difference between when you are writing and when you are doing other things on your computer? Can you tell the difference between when you are writing and when you are doing other things on your computer? (Try writing on a few times--it keeps track of how many times you become distracted and stop typing.) What kinds of things do you become distracted by? I smoked for 20 years, and when I got to a good stopping place in my writing or needed a break, I left the desk, smoked a cigarette, and came back. Now, my smoke break is the internet, except that the internet is never finished. What do you imagine is the writing process of a productive writer? One thing I hear a lot from students is this: "I'd like to devote more time to my writing, but I have a job and all these other classes." Well, that pretty much describes my life and the life of every writer I know. All but a few writers have day jobs. So the question becomes: how do you learn how to fit writing into an otherwise busy life? That is perhaps the most important thing you will learn this semester. As you think about drafting a novel, what do you imagine needs to change about your writing process and what needs to stay the same? What are your goals? List the concrete changes you plan to make, the "to-do" list for yourself regarding when you will write, how you will make the time, how you will keep yourself on track toward your weekly and overall goal. 

Here's what my students last year had to say about this subject.  

Here's my list of goals:
  • Start using again. I was on a 70 day streak when one day I inexplicably forgot, and I haven't returned to it. I'm using it right now to type up this prompt for Process Blog #1. 
  • I write best first thing in the morning, before my brain gets tired. Must go to bed earlier and get up earlier so that I can sneak in some writing time before the busy part of my day begins. 
  • When I've written, I will share my 750words session on FB and create a post for Twitter using #amnoveling. This will make me feel accountable to the group. This aspect of sharing my progress--honestly--makes me feel a little uncomfortable, like I'm bragging, but I need to get over that. If feeling accountable helps me get the words written, and if it spurs other people to attend to their writing, good. If it makes someone feel guilty, that's not my problem. 
  • No internet allowed until I have written. If I start checking my email and reading FB and blogs, etc. first thing in the morning, the next thing you know, it's lunchtime. The internet isn't like a cigarette break or a newspaper break. It is a Borg, a hive mind, a rabbit hole you fall into. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Response #1: Favorite Novels

Due before our first class meeting (section 003 meets on Monday night at 6:30 PM, section 002 meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 PM, both in 292 RB.)

What are your five favorite novels of all time? No more than five. No less that five. Five. Genre doesn't matter. How old you were when you read them doesn't matter. But they must be "novels" in whatever way you define that term. Find them and stack them up in front of you. Make a list of all the things they have in common. Not why they are different. What they have in common. 

  • How were they written? How were they structured?
  • What about the lead characters captured you?
  • What were the lead characters trying to get or get away from? 
  • When and how did the novels kick into high gear? Or did they?
  • What was the main opposition to the Lead's objective?
  • How did the ending make you feel? Why did it work?
  • What else appealed to you? The setting? Theme? The "realness" of it? The lack of realness? 
  • What kind of reading experience did these books provide?  
Reply below! I'm looking for 250+ words. 

How do you start a novel? Look for pleats.

I'm busy working on the syllabus for my novel writing classes this semester. The first unit is on beginnings, getting started, finding the material for a novel. Why don't we talk about this more?

Sarah Salway offers a lot of answers to the question, 'How do you start a novel?' 

Since so many students have written stories, I'm going to do an exercise in which we take a short story and do as Julianna Baggott suggests here, "open up the pleats."

If you've got stories or one story that resonates with you and readers, you can take that story and look for pleats -- ways to open it up. There are natural constraints on stories -- size of the cast of characters, point of view (one incident -- four points of view? maybe a novel), time, geography, insight, back story. If you open one of these elements in a story, you might have a novel. 

I'm going to use a very short story--well, it's actually a poem. Robert Hass' "A Story About the Body."  The story is an incredible example of compression; what happens when you open up the potential pleats? Dramatize the days in which the composer and painter get to know each other and become attracted to one another? Incorporate the composer's backstory? Include the Japanese painter's point of view? What about her backstory? What if she lost her husband because he couldn't cope with her mastectomy? And she came to the artist's colony to recover, only to be rejected again by a young composer who rejects her? And is the bowl the end of the story? What if it's the hook, the last thing that happens in chapter 1? What could happen next?