MFA

MFA Update: Yet Another Discovery

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I have a good friend who is also a writer. We happen to have been writing together for the last almost eight years. When we write together, it’s in a particular structure because of the need to work asynchronously. Anyway, I suggested to this friend a writing exercise with her own fiction based on this approach–and then I decided to try it myself.

The result? Something that I’m excited about. Not only did it help me get into a story I had started several times and still felt distanced from, but it meets some criteria that I have for my work right now:

  • I want to try to tell a story in a way that isn’t commonly used in novels.
  • Even though this story follows another character in my book, my linking character still gets a say.
  • I get to tell a 17th-century story in a modern way.

Will I keep this going for the whole book? I don’t know yet. I’m just at the start of it, but I know it’s exciting to write this story in this way. I don’t want to get into details just yet–suffice to say that it’s something that’s been tickling my mind for awhile now and I’ve never actually tried it until yesterday.

I’m excited to write the rest of this submission and send to my mentor for her thoughts. At the very least, even if I’m starting my thesis from scratch at the start of my third semester, I know I’ll be able to look back and say that in my first semester, I really got to know my main character and my themes, and I became familiar with the research enough to write a story set in this time (there’s still more research to do, of course). I’ll be able to look back and say that in my second semester, I really forced myself to stretch and grow as a writer, trying new styles, structures, and voices.

This will be my third out of four submissions, and already it’s taken me to unexpected places as a writer, thinker, and human.

MFA, Writing Life

Inspiration in My Own Back Yard

IMG_1444Today temperatures reached an unseasonable 50+ degrees. While I’m concerned about what this indicates for our planet–usually in February we don’t really climb out of the forties–it made it a pleasant day to go for a walk.

Nearby there’s a state park called Chatfield Hollow. The park has caves, trails, pines that I’m guessing must be hundreds of years old, a little lake/large pond, river, and a boardwalk that goes through a swamp with plenty of colorful flora and fauna.

People can fish there, walk dogs there, ride horses there, picnic there…you get the point. But, during the winter months, the park is nearly empty. It’s a great place to go for some quiet time in nature, without the interruptions of our modern world. For historical fiction writers whose characters enjoy traipsing around the Connecticut woods, this is as inspiring as a park can be.

Today, after getting some incredibly thorough feedback on my first submission (I’m totally stoked about it by the way), going somewhere so restorative and inspiring helped me wrap my head around much of that feedback.

I’m still going to re-read it Thursday. I’m talking with my mentor over the weekend, and I enjoyed the opportunity to take a walk, get myself out of my everyday world, and think.

Plus, as a bonus, I got to visit my cousin for about an hour and a half afterward. All in all, a perfect afternoon, followed by an amazing morning.

Writing Life

On-The-Go Epiphanies

Last week, I was on the road for about a 2.5-hour trip. Naturally, during such an expanse of time, I thought of the story I’m writing for my MFA thesis. That’s when it hit me–at 70 mph–a connection between my character’s past and present that would offer an opportunity to show his growth!

But at that speed, alone in the car, and with no safe space to pull over, I was worried I would forget about my idea.

Sure, I could have left a voice memo on my phone for myself, but those often end up getting garbled, and I didn’t want to distract myself whilst on the road. It’d have been even more dangerous to take out a pen and physically jot it down.

With the next exit miles away, and with my eagerness to reach my destination, I did the next best thing: I made up a tune. It was a simple tune, just four lines long, but I sang it occasionally throughout the rest of my trip until I could safely stop driving and write it down for later use.

Off the Road

What came next was figuring out how to integrate my idea into my already drafted outline. I ended up deleting most of my outline, but that’s okay. It’s important to stay flexible, to stay fluid, and to accept that the brain is always writing.

I think that’s the thing so many non-writers don’t understand: Writing happens constantly, and the most powerful ideas often occur to a writer at the most inopportune times.

How About You?

Where are you when inspiration strikes? I’ve gotten ideas while out walking, driving, and hiking. Epiphanies have struck while I’ve been in the shower, while I’ve been teaching, and while I’ve been mixing bread dough so I was too messy to write. Only once did a big idea hit while I was actually in a place where I could easily record it.