I have attended various wonderful Writer’s Workshops over the years, delivered by authors who talked about their writing, shared some tips and tools, and encouraged people to develop their skills and share their stories. Sadly though, two or three weeks after the event I would find myself once again slumped against the keyboard, weakly tapping the keys and trying to remember what it was the author had said about metaphor… or character arc… or plot points… searching in vain for the sheets they had given out, trying to remember if I was supposed to write without plotting, or plot without writing, or plot and write simultaneously or just pour a glass of wine and go back to dreaming about being a writer, which is something I’m quite good at.
Most of those Workshops were built around the development of a skill… creating metaphor, show don’t tell, writing engaging dialogue… and while these are all vital skills in the writer’s tool box, the reason I mostly forgot what we had practiced at the workshop was because those particular skills didn’t directly apply to the struggles I was facing with my Work-in-Progress at the time. Knowing how to build a metaphor wasn’t helping me get my character out of the parked car I’d written him into, because for some reason there was parrot on the old lady’s shoulder and someone had to get shot because I wrote up a gun in chapter three. Understanding character arc wasn’t helping me walk away from the unfolded laundry and my ipad crossword app and sit my own arc in the chair and write.
I wanted to attend a Workshop that would offer me helpful ways to write myself out of the holes I seemed to constantly write myself into. I wanted suggestions about how to write that pivotal scene where the guy recognizes the depth of his loss, or to create ways to make my writing viscerally real, without being disowned by my family. I wanted help placing myself in the scene to write it like it’s actually, believably happening and not just some lame fabrication of my overworked imagination. I felt that these problems were more immediate than the challenges of writing good metaphor, or following the steps of the Hero’s Journey like a blueprint for success. Someone famous once said that you should write the book you want to read, so I decided to design the workshop I wanted to attend.
But this ain’t no workshop!
The word “workshop” conjures up images of burly workmen putting all the right pieces in place and banging on them long enough to make a final product.
(Burly workman. Yum. You’re welcome!)
I’m quite fond of burly workmen, but it takes more than elbow grease and the right tools, held together with rivets and tie wrap, to build a novel. Writing is not a workshop.
This… is a Fling! Drum roll, please.
I want you to have …a Fling… with Writing that will stick with you, like that time in high school when the hot guy danced with you and you can still smell his cologne if you think about it really hard. Or the time you puked up tequila for half a day after an ill-advised beer-pong challenge took a turn for the worse and now a whiff of Patrón makes you wince. I want to leave you with something you can reach back to and dig out the pieces and apply them to your writing, no matter how stumped, frustrated or hung over you are.
In designing this… Fling, I brainstormed what my own personal problems were with my writing, hoping that I was not shivering alone in the bleak and lonely landscape of the fiction writer’s desert where there are sentences, sentences everywhere and a not a word on my page. Or something like that.
(My Work-in-Progress is quite often a Work-in-Procrastination. Or sometimes even a Worrisome-Incomplete-Painintheass.)
I narrowed it down to two core components.
Motivation, and STDs.
Yes, STDs. We all have ‘em, we just don’t like to talk about ‘em.
Specific Technical Difficulties. Nasty little contagions that make for crusty writing and sticky prose. I’m talking about bad grammar, weak plot lines, bland description, repetitive narrative, lack of imagery… the list goes on. We’ve all been there, but hopefully we’ve scrubbed off our writing and are able to rise above the scourge of Specific Technical Difficulties which make our friends cringe every time we hand them a new manuscript to read.
In my experience, my Specific Technical Difficulties are directly tied to the other branch of my writerly problem, which is motivation. If I am motivated, running hot, writing drunk (as Hemingway suggests), my STDs fade into the background and I stop staggering over sentence construction and the three pillars of good storytelling and building metaphor and bla, bla, bla…and I get the words on the page.
It’s the Circle of Life, man. If your writing is weak, your motivation sags, if your motivation sags, your writing gets weaker, if your writing gets weaker… suddenly you’re folding laundry and cleaning out the pantry and plucking your eyebrows, anything other than sitting at that hateful keyboard feeling useless.
Bottomless sadness ensues.
My hope is that by compiling some of my own experiences with teaching and writing in one little book, and by sharing a day of lighthearted writing, you will find something useful, handy, inspirational or at least mildly entertaining to help move your writing forward.
We’ll start with a few challenging writing ideas that spark the fire, followed by a few idea-generators that will help you write yourself out of that sticky hole you typed up five pages ago and can’t spell your way out of now. And I’ll share some quotes and resources I have found particularly helpful on my journey as a writer.
And there will be rules! Limited sharing time. No talking during lunch (but you can write!). Limited forced writing time. If you are here, it’s because you love to play with words, you hope to publish something, and you get inspired by talking about the craft you love.
I hate wasting time. I don’t want to waste yours. I want you to be exhausted when this day is over, on the verge of tears from the writerly abuse, wishing you’d chosen ornamental horticulture as a hobby instead of writing… and I want you to go home and feeling excited to write.
And you get to keep this funky little book, so you won’t forget what we did.
It’s gonna be great! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
So… Write. Now.
Oh… and my credentials? I’ve been an English Language Arts teacher for over ten years, I’ve written three novels, and I have a wiener dog. The wiener seals the deal!
(And oh… why “Write with your toes”? Because if that’s all you had… your toes to write with… you would value every word, you would celebrate every sentence, you would pour your whole self into your writing because it would be such a miraculous effort. It should be like that EVERY time. From your sole.)