Saturday, January 17, 2009

The more"Aha!'s" the better

Every writer loves those "aha!" moments--those unexpected, out of the blue moments of pure clarity when the way forward in your manuscript suddenly becomes perfectly, obviously, right-there-in-front-of-you-all-the-time clear.  Those are wonderful moments and we authors live for them, whether it be suddenly understanding exactly what a character must do or say in a given scene or something more strategic and structural, such as the need for the author to put a face on her protagonist's opposition.

Do aspiring authors get those moments? Sure.  How about more experienced, multi-published, professional authors?  Surely, authors such as those must be able to manufacture many of these moments--surely they can simply becon the Muse and she will sprint to do their bidding?

Maybe--or maybe not.

Not too many days ago, I returned to an arctic Chicagoland after presenting a Novelist's Boot Camp workshop to the Southwest Florida Romance Writers in sunny and warm (at least for part of the time) Ft. Myers, Florida. 

The group was great, the venue wonderful, and Florida's weather a welcome break from the sub-zero chill of the Windy City.  Among the attendees were two great, well-established authors--Linnea Sinclair who writes wonderful SF adventures infused with romance, and Tina Wainscott, who has a string of successful, fascinating romantic suspense novels (and some new stuff coming under a new pen name, as well). Also present was the up-and-coming author Stacy Klemstein. Keep an eye on this one, especially in the Young Adult market.

We--yours truly as the presenter and all the attendees--all worked hard for the entire day.  The Novelist's Boot Camp workshops are interactive and, unlike many other writing workshops, require that attendees use what they've learned to make their own work better, and do so on the spot.

It was from this hard work that the "Aha!'s" came--first from one writer, then another. Some simply raised their heads with that awe-struck "I see--I get it" look, others were louder and bounced around in their seats. Others tore pages out of their notebooks and began scribbling furiously.  Body language changed. 

I've seen this before in other Novelist's Boot Camp workshops and it's always rewarding to me.

The insight I'll share here is the obvious one, but in an art such as crafting book-length works of fiction, it's an insight we often forget.  Success, progress, creative quantum leaps--they all come from the work of writing and the work of not just learning how to write better, but of writing your own work better.  To use a metaphor from the world of athletics, coaching is important, but it's putting that coaching into practice that actually improves performance.

That's true not only for aspiring authors but for those who are on their umpteenth manuscript.


1 comment:

Stacey said...

Hi Todd!
It was an awesome workshop! I'd been stuck on my book, but the day after the workshop, I sat by Linnea's pool (okay, so that might have helped with the inspiration too) and cranked out notecards for the next few chapters! I was so excited to be making progress again!!!

You presented so many useful techniques and ideas--I'm recommending Boot Camp to everyone!

Thank you so much!

:) Stacey Klemstein/Stacey Kade