*****I know bloggers are “supposed” to end posts with a call for response. I don’t do that often because it bugs me and feels so contrived. But, this post is specifically for writers (the rest of you may click out now ), and does end with a call for response. I’d really love to hear your thoughts! Merci.****
Our workshops at the Mont Blanc Writing Workshops often began with a discussion of a particular craft-point by Alan Heathcock. Toward the end of our first week, he talked about a letter he had written to his students after he completed writing his short story collection, VOLT. (FYI – VOLT won multiple awards — NY Times Editors’ Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Whiting Award Winner and twelve more! If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for??) We discussed the tenets and you can learn more about them in two ways. There’s a pdf of the letter and 27 tenets here or, listen to a podcast of Alan discussing the tenets here.
Here are a few of my faves from Alan’s 27 personal tenets on writing:
5. FEEL your character’s struggle. Make yourself weep and angry and tired. Make yourself swoon. Find out what it means to be someone who is not you.
14. Reveal something in your endings, creating a convergence of plot and story. Write the ending in a way it doesn’t feel tidy. Be French with your endings.
24. You must give yourself up to the story. Eliminate yourself. It’s not about you.
We spent time discussing the tenets by which we each try to live and work, defining them and then, the importance of “abiding with them” (Alan’s phrase – I love it.). I think for me, I fall down most often at the “abiding with them,” idea. I am going to continue to work on that!
Alan challenged each of us to come up with one tenet of our own to keep in mind and here they are. A few folks did more than one idea/tenet:
Marc Allan – Write something you would read. If you think what you’ve written is bad or
boring, imagine how bad or boring the reader will think it is
Amory Casto – Treat everything you write like a new foreign language that only you understand. Translate it all until the reader is fluent.
Christine Kathleen McMahon – Familiarize the unfamiliar so completely that your reader – regardless of whether they like the story or characters – cannot claim to have misunderstood what you are communicating.
Pam Parker – Seek to be the best writer you can be, not the best writer.
Halliday Reynolds – Go all the way to the end of the idea. Take everything you write and make it stranger, the language slightly unfamiliar.
Maggie Wheeler – Outlining is not the practice of the amateur; it is a creative a process.
So, writer friends, perhaps one of these tenets is what you need to post in your workspace or on your computer??
But, a far better exercise is to set a timer for five minutes (if you need the whole timer thing – some do, some don’t ) and come up with a writing tenet or two that you need to abide with in your writing right now. Then, won’t you share it here in the comments?