Friday, February 3, 2012

Coming into my own as a writer

Today is a writing day for me. It's also laundry day, and housecleaning day, and order-from-the-seed-catalogue day. So will I get any writing done at all, you ask? Well, chances are, all those other things will fall by the wayside once I get going on my present writing project. So I'll moodle a little here, order those seeds, hang out some sheets, and throw another load into the washing machine before I dare to open my novel's file.

I've been working on my manuscript for almost ten years (busier being a mom most days), and in the last few weeks, have realized that if I'm going to get a finished book out there where other people can read it, I might need the help of other writers. And if I'm going to talk to other writers, I need to get my head around the fact that I'm really a writer, too. I mean, up till now, the only people who have read my stuff are family and friends, mostly, and they tell me my work is good... but being a writer outside of my family and friends' minds is something else altogether.

So last Sunday, I took an important step in the process of seeing myself as a writer... I attended a "Writers' Corner" event at the main branch of our public library. And I met Marina Endicott, a local author who has written 5 novels, one of which, called Good to a Fault, won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Canada/Caribbean region. I'll admit I was feeling a little shy about meeting a successful writer and gathering with a group of strangers to "talk about your writing in a friendly and supportive atmosphere," but there wasn't a lot of time for that anyway in the hour we were together.

What was really useful was what Marina had to say during her presentation. She was speaking about some tips and tricks she uses for developing character in her novels. The longer she spoke, the more I thought, I understand this woman, and if she knew me, she would understand me because we are both grappling with the same issues as we craft our stories. So when it came time to talk with her after the session ended, I was over my shyness, and our conversation was most helpful. After speaking with Marina, I also met Jocelyn Brown, Edmonton Public Library's Writer in Residence, a warm and friendly person who seems most eager to help. So she and I have set up an appointment to talk about my present project... and for the past week or so, I have been moodling in my mind about what I need to do to finish my novel once and for all.

It's sort of funny... all along I've been telling myself and others that my manuscript has too many words. Friends have made several suggestions about what I might do to cut it down to size... but it took Marina's comments to push me to action. I approached her about how a writer knows when a character is superfluous to a story, and she told me, "I overwrite all the time. Cutting is hard, but it has to be done. Why not save your extra characters for your next book?"

And that was all it took. If a successful novelist like Marina had to cut out characters, then I guess I can, too. It's painful to say goodbye to some of them, whom I've known and loved like real people since they came out of my keyboard, but Marina was right. It has to be done. I'm not sure I will ever write a "next book," but I may share my extra characters in other ways somewhere down the road.

I've been shy about connecting with other writers, and now I think that's probably been a mistake on my part. So if you're like me, and you're hesitant, take yourself to a Writer's Corner or whatever kind of literary meeting you can find. It can't hurt. It's helped me to start coming into my own.

Okay, enough moodling. Laundry out on the line? Check. Load in the washer? Check. House cleaned a little? Check. Seed catalogue order done? I think that can wait a few more days can't it? Today is a writing day for me, after all.

1 comment:

  1. I felt that way about my spelling when a friend admitted she relies heavily on her editor. I thought, wow she's a published author and bad spelling didn't stop her.

    Our library has a lot of great programs, don't they?


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