by Jill McCroskey Coupe
Most writers seeking feedback on their work learn to pay attention to advice that seems useful and ignore the rest. We’re individuals, after all. Each approaches writing in her own unique way.
And we know good advice when we hear it. Years ago, one of my fellow MFA students was addressing another student in our workshop. “It’s all there,” she said. “Just keep digging.”
By “it,” I’ve come to realize, she meant the solution to a problem. How the story will end, for example. Why and how a character decides to act (or is afraid to). Whether or not a new scene is needed, or a new character. How to tie everything together.
As for advice of the unhelpful sort, I have been told, on multiple occasions, to slow down. But you have no idea how slowly I write now, I always felt like saying. There are writers who can complete the first draft of a novel in a month; I am not one of them.
Was I perhaps being too defensive? Should I have at least asked these folks what they meant?
Maybe it’s better to have figured it out (I think) on my own. Slow down, they were telling me. Keep digging. Dig deeper.
I’ve learned that when I’m unsure of what to write next, it often helps to go for a walk. Lie down on my back in a dark room. Swim laps.
What’s happening here? Am I tapping into my subconscious?
Last fall I attended a one-hour Master Class taught by Jennifer Egan at Goucher College, not far from where I live in Baltimore. She spoke, eloquently, about how she worked on bringing structure to A Visit from the Goon Squad.
I was eager to attend because I’m working on a series of linked stories, with Egan’s book and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge as my models.
In her class, Jennifer Egan stressed the importance of waiting “instinctively” for a solution. She suggested that we try to free up our instincts, warning that not all instincts are the right ones. She advised letting the material stumble forward and find its own form. She compared a writer’s ideas to islands protruding from a submerged land mass. From this hidden expanse (the subconscious?), the author must extract form and order.
Her excellent advice concerning structure is also in the notes I took that afternoon. But what had me smiling on my drive home was my new mantra.
It’s all there. Slow down. Wait instinctively.
* * *
A former librarian at Johns Hopkins University, Jill McCroskey Coupe has an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College. She grew up in Knoxville and now lives in Baltimore. Visit her online at https://jillmcoupe.wordpress.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/jillmccroskeycoupe.
Would you like to participate in Friday “Speak Out!“? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
(C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com
Never Stale! The Muffin provides daily writing tips, inspiration, and news from the bakers of WOW! Women On Writing.
The Fox News Prostitutes
Insane Bond, Stock, Real Estate Markets - Greg Hunter, Mike Maloney Video
Jason A Blows Your Mind: WTH Is Going On? This Is so Not Normal Yet it's Happening Nationwide! WTH (Mature Video) Jason A Mr Doom
Hold On! State of Emergency, Evacuations: Massive, Massive & Serious Storm Update Three Tornadoes on the Loose (Updated Massive Storm Video)
The Final Word on Alex Jones
Terrifying Warning for Americans
Operation Gotham Shield Update and the "Media Blackout" (Video)
Here's a Very Difficult Video to Watch - But Watch You Must - The Liberal Cancer of America
Serious Combat Readiness: Russia Puts Air Defense on High Alert (Video)
The Relentless Push Towards War: This Time with North Korea. Why?
Why Does Jared Kushner Look Like He Is Getting Ready to Play the Role of the Biblical Antichrist?
Staged ISIS Bombing Video. If This Doesn't Wake You Up, Nothing Will.
Major Leak at Oroville Damn Detected
Russian Military Ship Sinks After Collision
Huge Superstorm Forms Over US. Geoengineering?
Hackers Exploited Word Flaw for Months While Microsoft Investigated
Freemasons Won’t Tell You That They Worship Lucifer As The ‘Light Bearer Of The World’
Pastor Steve Cioccolanti Explains Sheol [Hell] and Seoul from the Israeli Bible
Willie Nelson Halts Concert in Texas – Country Legend was ‘Disoriented’
Israel Bombs Road To Damascus..Airport
'Shocking Footage' of Something You Have to See! (2017-2018) Jason A.
British Police Making Terror Arrests on ‘Near Daily Basis’ as Expert Estimates 10,000 UK Jihadis
Alien (1979) – The Deeper Meaning You Missed – Jay Dyer
U.S. Bumblebee Gets Federal Protection … Finally
The Bullpen Report: Why Cishek Could Be Worth Stashing, Eyeing J. Wilson & More
9 Health Benefits of Walking Barefoot and Connecting With the Earth
EPA and Energy Star Teamed to Ban Real Energy Saving Technology
American Politics Reflects Communist Rivalries
Cop Blocker Arrested for Crossing Street at DUI Checkpoint in Manchester (Video)
The Spiritual Lover of the Inner Silence