More travel this past week: I attended a writers’ retreat at a conference center called Montreat, near Asheville, North Carolina. Beautiful hills, trees, tinkling streams, and many lovely buildings for meeting places.
We were a group of twelve female writers from several states, all gathered to push our fiction writing to its next logical step regardless of our backgrounds—architect, urban planner, massage therapist, champion weight lifter, teacher, mechanical engineer, etc. Since I was the least experienced (no experience at all with novels), I won the prize for cutting the most characters and the most text from my original manuscript. Perhaps as much as 90%. However, I do have a concrete plan for moving forward with what remains.
Stephen Roxburgh, editor and publisher of his own company known as namelos, his wife, Carolyn Coman, and their long-time editor, Joy Neaves, guided us through the dark tunnels of discovery and radical rewrites. Each of us met with all three editors at least once a day and hunkered down with our computers in between times. It was a most productive event.
A couple of things to share: We were encouraged to determine the types of plots we had created. Were they Plot of Action—one thing happening after another, no changes within the main character between the beginning and the end? Examples of this type of plot are James Bond stories and Indiana Jones stories. One action followed by a more intense action, etc. until the whole thing blows up and Bond or Jones emerges as the hero, whole, intact, and unchanged. Or were our stories a second type--Plot of Character--where the point of the story is the change in the main character’s thought process or maturity level or degree of awareness and understanding? These would be typical “coming of age” stories that young adults read. Most of us were writing Plot of Character stories. Our protagonists made discoveries that grew them, increased their knowledge base, or invited a higher level of emotional and intellectual functioning.
Now the work begins. I’m attempting to convert a manuscript that read like descriptive nonfiction into a “show, don’t tell” story. As Stephen described my dilemma, “Your nonfiction writing muscle is developed. Go forth and work on your fiction muscle.”
The process is like tying my right hand behind my back and learning to use my weak, teeny tiny left hand muscle only. I’m determined to give it my best. I’m motivated to tell this story (the one about Duffy). And I have a specific plan of action. The fun has begun. Only sometimes, it’s not fun!