New Fiction Workshop

In my last post I explained how I started this blog with material from my diary called Surviving a Graduate Writing Program.  The saga continues….

This workshop was comprised of seasoned students. Five of them I knew, three from previous workshops. Having been through the rigors of earlier workshops, the group was fairly supportive. We met  in the old Tower room below the clock of Gilman Hall where many of the MFA workshops were held. Professor Irwin had a workshop in the same room that sometimes went over its scheduled time. I always enjoyed having a chance to say hello.

The new first chapter was well received and my teacher commented that he thought I might be able to publish it as a short story. The approach was a soft one, starting with some description and featured a scene between my main character and his best friend where he wrestles with his decision to leave Peoria. After the workshop however, I decided that it still wasn’t right, that the soft tone I’d been exploring didn’t match my vision of the book. I decided to go back to a more funky approach that would allow me to maintain what humor I could muster and alternate that against the darkness of the overall tale.

The style of writing that I’d used for this draft was a healthy change for me. The sentences moved smoothly through the chapter which ended in a nicely rounded way. My teach said that he liked the way that I integrated my description into the action. My writing was improving!

I decided to work on some of the missing chapters in the body of the book and present one later in the workshop. The tone was once again funky, like some of my earlier submissions in other workshops, and it confused the other students until I explained that I’d shifted back to my earlier tone choice, once again dumping some of my material from that earlier draft.

Trying out my different approaches to the beginning of the novel was quite a learning experience, one that I don’t think I’ll ever really experience again. or if I do, I won’t worry about wasting time on false starts.  What I learned throughout all these revisions was that my first instinct about how the book should begin (with some modifications of course) was the right one. By using all the comments from my Fiction Techniques class, I’d ended up including too much information in the first chapter.

I didn’t really mind not using all of those extra pages of writing. They were experiements and it was well worth my time to find out what I shouldn’t be doing. If this manuscript was more like books that had already been published, it would have been a lot easier to write. But I’m also very happy that I’ve never seen anything like it because that means it’s original, not a bad thing.


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
This entry was posted in creative writing, Graduate Writing Programs, Johns Hopkins University, workshops. Bookmark the permalink.

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