Posts Tagged Penmonkey

Post-MFA reflections

It feels odd, writing this now – as opposed to when I actually graduated back in January. The thing is, this is the first June since 2012 (when I started) that I’ve not had to make the trip for school. I won’t have to make that trip again – I can, and likely will (there is a separate Workshop that runs concurrent with the June Residencies that I might try to present at), but that’s the fun part. That would be as a professional gig, under different obligations than as a student.

To say there is a unexpected, heightened, sense of withdrawal right now would not be incorrect.

It’s a feeling that I’ve not had from any of my other programs. It’s the connection based on the power of stories – of exploring them, creating them and helping to make them better – shared by people with similar visions. Residencies were heady experiences, once the initial shell-shock of the first few days wore off.

Add to that that the guest speaker for this Res is Chuck Wendig, an author I have been following for the last few years. He’s actually someone that has a fairly good following within the program, at least among the Spec Fic writers.

In that vein, a few bits of Wendig-ian advice, appropriate to this initial post-MFA period that I’m going through – and a reminder to those just starting:

And oldie but goodie that I’ve shared before:

A Writer’s Prayer:

Speaking to the process:

And finally, where Neil Gaiman says, “Make good art,” Wendig offers a more blatant battle cry for the trenches:

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More Penmonkey…

I’ve shared Penmonky wisdom before… for those just tuning in, hop over the Chuck Wendig’s site to drink from the source. This is no different, some things that I’ve heard before but it’s only recently starting to sink in.

Lesson for life:  You must be ready to receive the information and advice from others before you actually hear it.

As in life, so with writing… at least in my case. I am an info junkie – if you’re familiar with the “True Colors” test, I ping Green (with a score of 17). That suggests I’m analytical (sometimes to a fault). In jobs, it means I look for systems to build a process, then look for ways to improve that process.  With regards to writing, however, it means I have read a lot of reference or “How To” books looking for a system. An elusive quest, pure myth quest, since each project grows differently, and a general process can only grow from doing the work. But even knowing that doesn’t stop me from still looking.

One of the areas I enjoy looking into are other writer’s approaches. On the one hand, it gives a wide array of options to experiment with while still figuring out what works for me. On the other hand, seeing how so many different writers do things helps to destroy the myth of “you must do things this way if you want to be a writer” (the reverse of this is validation – that approach you’re considering? Yes, probably a very viable one.)   (Only exception, “To be a writer, you must write.” Can’t really get around that one.)

Which gets me here, and this is turning out to be a little more than the straight Penmonkey post I started out writing… Hmm…

What started this post was Wendig’s entry here: I’m at the point where I am working on a project, novel length, and must finish* (the sooner the better). Recently converting to the “Plotter/Outliner” ethic, I’m still trying to figure out how deep of an outline – how thorough in my advanced, pre-writing plotting – I want to go. In his post, Wendig mentions part of his process as:

I figure out my major story turns, broken out into acts.

Then I start jotting down plot beats — this happens, then this happen, then that, then this. Maria dies. The unicorn ascends to the Aluminum Throne. John steals the Camero. The end. How many of these beats I outline isn’t preset; I just keep going until the thing is done. The beats are generally large and sequence-shaped rather than small and scene-flavored. The key thing is to make sure I hit all my tentpoles — meaning, those plot events that are needed for the story to stand up and not collapse upon itself.

I think this is kind of where I’ve finally stumbled, at least for now, for this project.

Something else he mentions: “I often outline a number of novels far ahead of the writing” is something I’ve been struggling with as well. Lot’s of things I want to develop/write, and I know outlining (way) in advance will help with jumping to the next project after finishing one. So, validation for me that I can thwack the inner critic with.

The rest of the post is good stuff as well, but I’m just not there yet. Not quite in the right mental position for it to make my mental writing-centric tuning fork hum.

*Requirement for the MFA… consider it the uber-deadline, where I personally would like to have a draft done long before getting anywhere near having to defend it.

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