Hey . . . remember when I talked about going to Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Workshop? Well, I did it!
I did it last weekend and I’ve been home for a few days now, trying to breathe in and out without gagging on the amount of work I have in front of me!
The workshop was great. Great with a capital G. No . . . it was great with ALL CAPS. Not only did I learn that I have a “bit” (breathe in . . . breathe out) more work cut out for me, but I learned how to tell specifically where to focus that work.
From the get-go we were teamed up with the three writers whose manuscripts we’d already read and we spent the weekend alternating between our own manuscript and providing feedback on the others. Sort of like a critique group on steroids.
The first thing we tackled was a chapter-by-chapter inventory of our own manuscript, summarizing each chapter into a single sentence, marking whether the chapter had conflict and then condensing its key emotion. Certain things jump out when you do this. Like whether you have chapters that have no emotion whatsoever! And gee . . . if your characters are ho-humming it, might your readers feel the same way?
The biggest bang for my buck was the work we did with our shrunken manuscripts. The idea here is to have a visual representation of your entire book. When we write, we’re down in the details–or at least I am. But Darcy gave us a way to see our book from a higher level. We were asked to bring a copy of our manuscript printed in a font small enough so our entire book could fit on 30 pages (or thereabouts). Then, using our wee-bitty manuscripts, she taught us tools to analyse them from a bird’s eye view. We used colored highlighters to mark things up according to narrative arc, plot, emotional arc, dialogue and scene structure.
Since we didn’t have time to do all eight steps to all twenty-four manuscripts, Darcy had us each work on one and then share with the larger group, spreading our manuscripts across the floor and looking for patterns.
My homework was to highlighting actual “scenes” in two consecutive chapters and when I presented it to the larger group, it was pretty clear where the action stopped and the narrative fluff kicked in.
Having seen the value of just one exercise on just two chapters, I’m home now working through the rest of my shrunken manuscript. I’ve employed my full pallet of colored highlighters. My poor manuscript is starting to look like a rainbow threw up all over it.
Aside from the work itself, the venue for the retreat was fabulous. We stayed at Camp Allen up in Navasota, a peaceful setting perfect for a retreat or any other kind of get away. Coffee flowed like water (yay!) and it seemed like we were constantly eating (oh yeah . . . we were).
And lest I should forget, a couple added perks were when we watched scenes from Good Will Hunting to demonstrate the art of writing “beats” into our scenes. Then Saturday night we gathered for movie time and watched The Pirates of the Caribbean with Darcy pointing out narrative elements to watch for.
We crammed a lot into a short amount of time. But even so, I would have liked another day up there. Hopefully Darcy will be back and I can do it all again.