writing a novel – results of a weekend workshop
This weekend, I participated in a weekend writing workshop organised by the University of New Brunswick’s College of Extended Learning as part of the Maritime Writers’ Workshop. I worked with 11 other writers, the workshop coordinator, and the group leader. We read one another’s work, making suggestions for revisions and generally learning about editing both prose and poetry. As I looked around our work table, there were water glasses, pens and pencils, i-pads and laptops, piles of paper, and notebooks for writing. I loved the beautiful journals some of the writers were using to record their thoughts.
Our leader was Joan Clark. Joan has published several novels and she read to us from her published work. I especially appreciated her reading from some of her work-in-progress. Her book The Victory of Geraldine Gull (1988) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. She has also written Swimming Towards the Light (1990) and Latitudes of Melt (2000), among others.
For my own work, I had some very encouraging comments. I think I most appreciated a comment from Roger Moore, a well-known poet and educator in Fredericton. He told me about the work of Wolfgang Kayser – his writing puts novels in three types: ’action’, ‘character’ and ‘place’. Roger thinks the focus of my novel is ’place’. He also said the creation of place was central to my story and, in the excerpt he read, I was doing this well. Since I consider all my work to be about place (hence the focus of my Blog), I was very happy about his comment.
Another writer told me that the story I was telling in my book seemed an allegory for the shifting loyalties of community. Since I set out to write a book where the community is like a character in its complexity, I was very encouraged by this observation.
Another well-know New Brunswick writer pointed out to me that while I write excellent, detailed descriptions of the out-of-doors, I tend to neglect other descriptions …. I appreciate that I need to provide some balance by providing more detailed descriptions of inside spaces and action.
Another knowledgeable writer at the workshop talked to me about the decision-making process toward a church’s deconsecration. These are details I will have to get right since I want to build credibility with my readers.
A couple of editorial comments stood out for me. I wish there was a ‘checker’ in the computer for locating words that are repeated in proximity to one another (for example, when I use the phrase ‘across the field’ in two adjacent lines). Also, in some cases, I should use shorter sentences to increase tension.
Overall, the weekend was hard work, but also a lot of fun. I now have material to use toward the fourth draft of my novel. Also, looking at the work of other writers shows me what to look for when editing my own writing.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll make some new revisions. Afterwards, I’ll put my manuscript away for three weeks. Then, on March 4, I’ll take a fresh look at my draft and see where I think the story-line and writing need more work.
I would recommend a similar workshop for anyone in the midst of writing a novel, especially if you want to see your own work from other points of view.
Have you ever attended a writers’ workshop and what was your experience?
Copyright Jane Tims 2013