I met with a former professor a few weeks ago, telling her I wanted to pick her brain on writing and publishing but secretly hoping some of her brilliance would rub off on me and inspire me to write an incredible best-selling novel or memoir. I ended up going away with my publication process knowledge reaffirmed (search for lit mags and journals, write a short cover letter, include a SASE, include your manuscript, expect rejection), a realization that I am unfamiliar with the concept of economy of language, and a name to contact about a writer’s group.
I met with the writer’s group today. It was a slightly varied group, our ages ranging from 24 to what I assume was 50s. I was the only female to show up today. Apparently one was hungover, the other three had other obligations. We discussed two first chapters – one a sci-fi and the other a sort of coming of age story that reminded me a lot of David Rhodes. While I had a difficult time critiquing the sci-fi since it’s a genre I literally never read, I realize it’s probably a good exercise for me to read and think about.
It was exciting to talk with other writers, to know that there are people slaving away at computers (one used a typewriter, claiming it was too easy to highlight and delete passages he’d miss later on), and that I am welcome to join them. It was surprisingly refreshing to be confronted with fiction again. I’ve spent the last year so intent on writing memoir that fiction has become this sort of looming figure in the back of my head. I told myself to avoid it because I felt so passionately about writing my own stories. In the past, a person or a phrase would stick in my head and I’d think to include it in a short story. It’s been years since I’ve met a new person in my head. But talking with these guys reminded me of all the possibilities of fiction.
There’s a definite comfort in writing memoir: things happen to you. Reflect. It’s as simple as that. With fiction, you have the responsibility to create realistic and likable characters, worlds need to feel real, the plot needs to feel immediate and make sense, pacing needs to feel just right, the language succinct, all while maintaining an honest true-to-you voice.
It’s a lot to take on, but that’s exciting to know that I’m able to do that. I’ve done it in the past, and now that I’ve gone through and discussed books and stories and theories for hours upon hours, I know what makes something successful.
So I’m planning on taking the time tomorrow to sit and write fiction. I have a scenario, characters, a conflict, and a bit of dialogue. With any luck, I’ll be able to get a first draft out.