Friday, August 16, 2013

Are you a Goofus or a Gallant?

The conference I attended in the Pocono’s in eastern Pennsylvania, okay I’ll say it: Highlights Foundation, the Whole Novel Workshop. When dealing with an icon it is hard to get people to revision—or see it differently.

Highlights. Do you see Goofus and Gallant? Picture yourself in a doctor’s office? The dentist! Or perhaps hidden pictures!

It’s hard, isn’t it? (I could usually find all BUT ONE item in the hidden pictures!)

In fact I was reluctant to tell people where I was going, because immediately my friends went to the icon. As well as assumptions. It’s kid stuff (code for easy). Simplistic. Didactic. Educational (code for boring).

I’ve been to MANY writer’s conferences and each has its own flavor. Most, though, have been for writers of general literature (code for adults—except not XXX). Language is riddled with code. Language is code.

We have to work hard to get around stereotypes, prejudices, clichés. This applies to both our attitude and our writing.

Yet never have I been to a conference/workshop where after the general critique has the instructor/moderator asked for a revision plan. After knocking me off balance, blowing the picture I had in my head of my novel, I was being forced to see it differently. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought after the initial comments that it was unsalvageable. I wanted to throw it against the wall, click delete, send it through the shredder.

I had to find the hidden pictures, the main character’s motivation, the overarching theme, follow the arc, identify the climax. Write some new scenes, get rid of the ones that didn’t work or slowed down the pace. Provide connective tissue, beef up the muscular structure.

At other workshops I’ve received comments, critique, tips on craft, made some great friends, and ate some great food. But never has there been an emphasis on how was I going to FIX it. This conference really cared that we would all follow-thru. Believed our stories were worth telling. Redeemable.

I’m energized. Stoked. And back to work.


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