Monday, October 22, 2007

documenting change: five.

First, there is the weather. It is a windy, wintery gray and amazing day in Baton Rouge.

On being and becoming a writer.

A lot of elements are at play right now. Freelancing. I had two articles come out in October in a local publication. One of them reflects very well the kind of “voice” I can see myself using (with some adjustments/tweaks) for freelance work related to traveling, food, art. I have another article out next month, a story about a local food photographer.

I’m learning through this experience – about working with an editor, revisions, fact checking, working with a deadline (I don’t think I could EVER write for a daily.). It’s exciting to see my name in print, which gives me a mere inkling of what it will feel like to see my name next to a work of fiction in print. But, I know with certainty that this is not my medium of choice.
I’m not a feature writer at heart.

I think in addition to fiction, that I could develop my essay writing skills and try to find venues for essay-like features. –I guess this blog is a way of practicing that (as well as being self-directed therapy). Really, the food article (one of the October freelance pieces) was essayish (It was about getting a cooking lesson from my aunt).

I look back sometimes and want to rip entries out of this blog, but I’m forcing myself to keep everything up for now. I’ll edit the blog down to include only my strongest archives when a year has passed. Or maybe six months?

As for the fiction writing, remember my story – the one that I was certain had an ending given over to me by Flannery O’Conner and O’Henry? Well, I started working with a writing group this month. There are three of us now (all fiction writers, though one has just adapted a short story into a screenplay), and hopefully a screenwriter will join us next time. They read my story (which was nerve-wracking to give over to two near strangers who are published), and both felt blown away by the ending, but not in a good way. They thought it was, as one said, “Cruel.” They felt that I’d given the ending over to a minor character in the story, whereas I’d built it up to be an ending that should’ve belonged to the major character – the hero of the story. And I had been so proud of that ending!

Other things they shared. Both liked my writing. One said, “I saw it was 30 pages, and the first thing I do when I see a story that length is approach it from the standpoint of ‘Where will I make cuts?’ but the writing is good, and I couldn’t find anything to cut.” Funny, because helping me cut it down is exactly what I was hoping for. (He did actually find two parts to cut, and they were parts I'd toyed with cutting - so that was nice - to have the same instinct.)

That comment about nothing to cut led to this one – something I had hoped not to hear – “Are you sure this shouldn’t be a novel? It seems like it could be even longer, the characters more developed.” ARG. That’s just not what you want to hear. But I’ll brag too. They both said plain as day that any grad school would be crazy not to take me, that my writing is strong and I’ve got some killer sentences and scenes - which of course ARE things I want to hear (!).

I’ve had a few days to sit on all of this. It felt really good to do that little critique session – to hear from people who are used to reading fiction for how to improve it, and to hear from people who don’t know me/care about me. It felt, not to seem too silly, but it felt downright exciting for me. I also think that what I’m going to do is work toward making that story really work as a story, but if I get into grad school, maybe I’ll use it to develop a novel out of. I had actually already cut out a good deal of material before I sent it to them to read. I’m glad that next time we’ll be discussing one of their stories. I’m looking forward to practicing my own editing/critical skills with fiction.

Other things I’m working on related to writing – well, there is only one, and that is grad school. I am studying for the GRE, which I take on November 14th. I will be completely thrilled when that is over. I am not the best test taker. I’ll also be thrilled when all of the applications are turned in -February 15th. [And I'll be REALLY glad when I get in somewhere and they tell me they want to give me a full stipend. I gotta hope!...]

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