Fess up Challenge Wrap Up

As a blogger, have you ever found yourself blogging about a subject that might not have a particular resolution, or a problem that somehow solves itself, and later realize you never completed the narrative for your audience? I do this ALL.THE.TIME. So, a couple of things – first of all, S. passed the bar exam! Thank you all so much for your support and thoughts. We are very happy here in the everythinginbetween household – I am one proud wife. That said, I don’t really see a whole blog post dedicated to this subject. Secondly, we have in fact purchased a house – our closing date is December 8. I anticipate more – much more- about this house in the coming days and weeks but until it is actually ours, keys in hand, I don’t know if I’ll blog too much about it. Oh! If you are on facebook my profile picture is the new home, fyi.

Now for wrapping up the writing challenge! I think this turned out to be (a.) a cool way to begin re-engaging with our writing and (b.) an interesting discussion on process. The lovely Charlotte shared three graphs from her novel, stating ” I don’t know if I’m a huge egotist, but I’ve struggled to find a paragraph that I really don’t like. Instead I’ve found three in a row that I believe start well and then get weaker. Take a look, and I’ll discuss afterwards” – I don’t think struggling to find a graph you dislike is egoism at all. If it is, I’m an egoist as well. Certainly, I know certain parts of my novel will need to be revised, or even eliminated altogether, but I didn’t find myself HATING what I had created. On her process, Charlotte says:

All I really remember, is that the first paragraphs came easily and that I wrote about ten versions of the third one. Writing about alienation, about being exiled, about the strangeness of another land, came easily to me. The part I found difficult was getting to the core of what is wrong with this family. Perhaps I don’t need to achieve that in one paragraph. Light-bulb! Perhaps all I need to do is put Sanet on that sofa for a couple of sentences and show that, even when she is trying to fit in, she doesn’t, that even while sitting on the sofa with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, she is in another country.

I think I agree here after examining my own experience…the parts of the novel I like the most are the ones that come most easily. I really wonder, though, whether this will remain true upon revision! Laura, whom I’ve actually had the privilege of belonging to a writers’ group with when I lived in Michigan, shared a graph from her novel she says she both likes and dislikes:

The process: this memory just kind of fell out of me when I had Danny in a mall, seeing Lexi again when they haven’t been speaking for years. He notes that she obviously managed to grow up without him – and this was the memory that came to mind.

I like it because I think it conveys the closeness of their friendship as children. I like it because (I think) it feels kind of intense, because it’s one of those traumatizing memories that stick in your brain and you never forget.

I don’t like it because it’s a flashback and I don’t quite know where to work it in. I’m trying to work it in as soon as I can, because when Danny is talking about this girl who ditched him when they were eleven, I want the reader to feel how close they were, and why it matters to him so much. But I’m also fighting with establishing the scene first, before going into flashback. Tricky, tricky. I’m also wondering if the pronouns are clear enough for the two different females in the scene, because in some places, I can see where they wouldn’t be?

Again, note the reason she is happy with the work…it came easily, it fell together. I almost think there is the equivalent of a runner’s high for writers…that ZONE where you KNOW you are writing well. It doesn’t occur often but when it does occur…man, it makes it all worth it!

New mom and reader/writer extraordinaire Smithereens talks about part of the process near and dear to my heart – COFFEE:

Okay, let’s perhaps talk about the process first, and you’ll understand why it’s difficult for me to do a simple copy-paste. I had the situation in my mind a few months ago and started with just one paragraph, but it’s only 2 weeks ago that I’ve expanded this idea into something longer (now about 1,700 words long). I was in my favorite Starbucks with a Grande Latte (Courtney asked about process, right? It’s no digression: coffee IS part of the process, my friend) and I had some sort of word diarrhea: it poured out of my brain without form nor order, I just let go and wrote until my battery died out (don’t be afraid, it’s an old computer, it just means 90 minutes!). Smithereens writes much more freely than I do – and I so admire that quality in her! She has the ability to rid herself of the usual writer hang ups and just GET THE WORDS ON THE PAGE. Which is, you know, first and foremost what we ALL should be doing!

Finally (and please, if I’ve missed you let me know here and I will edit an update) the amazing LitLove participated as well, sharing with us some of her nonfiction work with us. I no longer write for academic purposes, but her process was just as enlightening as you would expect it to be. On the graph she struggled with, Litlove says:

As I wrote this, I was turning the texts around and around, trying to see what was absent from them, what prevented me from reading them like a critic, which is to say I was like someone looking down the back of the sofa for all the old coins and pencils and broken chips of sweets that have fallen down there and can be used to reconstitute the hidden life of its occupants. So, like a detective I’ve put the evidence down on the table, but at the moment it just lies there, not really showing its enticing side. But a few neutral, going nowhere sentences that slow down the accumulation of thoughts will help a lot and give the reader space to think in tandem with me. Oh, and some of those sentences are too long – it’s a perpetual failing of mine.

I’ve never read a sentence of Litlove’s that I don’t completely admire, but perhaps that’s just me. That said, I like what she says about allowing the reader of her work to work in tandem with her – I think one of the reasons I never fully engaged with theory in graduate school is because I rarely felt like any sort of team effort was happening.

This was fun! I think I will try another one in a few weeks…maybe first line Friday? Or share the very most recent piece you’ve written? Share one paragraph you just KNOW was influenced by what you were reading at the time? Hmm. We shall see.

It’s 6:25 in the morning, which means I have forty-five minutes of writing time left for the day. Time to turn to the novel. The goal is to finish Chapter Eleven and plot out the moves for Chapter Twelve so I can go out of town with S. for an autumn-color tour without the Guilt of Not-Writing next weekend.

Currently Listening: patrick sweany, C’Mon, C’Mere

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3 Responses to Fess up Challenge Wrap Up

  1. Litlove says:

    Courtney you really are a darling. It was very interesting to read everybody’s experiences together like this. What it seems to show is that we do all KNOW when things are going well, and that frame of mind, a feeling zone and letting go are perhaps some of the most important elements of creativity?

  2. laura says:

    Thanks Courtney! That was a lot of fun and very enlightening 🙂

  3. smithereens says:

    The round-up was so interesting, thank you! I owe Starbucks a lot of pages, but I owe you too for this great experiment! Btw, congrats for the bar exam and the new home, looks like things are getting serious 😉 !

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