Monday, November 9, 2009

Making it Work

I am secretly (maybe not so secretly) addicted to Project Runway. Sometimes, watching the show, I've thought, what if there was such a contest for writers? Would I get to the writers' equivalent of fashion week if required to produce a well constructed, cleverly plotted tale in a genre outside my comfort zone?

Last weekend, I attended Weekend on the Water, a three day writing retreat hosted by the Western Washington SCBWI region. During the course of "Going Deeper" into plot, character, setting and voice, we attendees did a lot of writing exercises. In one, we wrote a description of a gothic cemetery, then were asked to re-write that description, adding a teenage girl who had just been asked on her dream date.

It was as if Ruta Rimas morphed into Heidi Klum, asking me to make a red-carpet ballgown from plastic grocery sacks.

But the point of that exercise, and everything else presented by Ruta, assistant editor with Balzar+Bray/HarperCollins, and Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, was to explore our writing more deeply. How well do we know our characters? How does setting affect their behavior? Does the voice we've chosen bring the reader close enough to the story?

The two extraordinary editors presented for a total of five and a half hours each during the weekend, as well as providing first page intensives for everyone. And retreat organizers Joni Sensel, Laurie Thompson and Jolie Stekly did an outstanding job keeping us on time and comfortable. I left with a new feeling of energy for revising my novel, and deeper insights into the creative process.

--cross-posted from Under the Covers

1 comment:

Mary said...

you bring up a great question. It's always easier to stay in our comfort zone. I'm not sure I could plot a "clever" tale in any genre, let alone in a week.