First of three posts recreating workshops you may have missed at Un-Con 2019.
Planning this year’s Un-Con, Therese asked me to address the issue of career crashes and stalls. Every fiction writer has hit a snag or feels stuck. Pretty much every published fiction writer will at some point face a career crash: writing gone stale, sales stalled out, option book dropped, confidence shot.
At such times what’s helpful is reinvention, a fresh start, a new direction. The stalled or stuck writer and the derailed author both are writing safe, and that in turn derives from the same underlying condition: fear.
Every manuscript holds back in some way. WU’s own Barbara O’Neal wrote, “People who read your novels will know about you.” They will also sense things about you from what you avoid and the things you shy away from.
In my work as agent and as a teacher of fiction craft, I see fear strangling stories in a number of ways:
- Novels that obey strict genre rules
- Characters who only go so deep
- Characters who react instead of act
- Plots that don’t surprise or take risks
- Outcomes never really in doubt
- Scenes that wander
- Voice that could be anyone’s
- Pages filled with ordinary, low-tension business
- Story meaning that’s shouted (or absent) rather than demonstrated
Reinventing your fiction isn’t so much about writing a different story type as it is about writing in a different way. To do that means giving yourself permission to go big. In what ways? Many. All. Go bold and try things that are unsafe but that work—irony alert—when other writers do them.
What we’re talking about is not reinventing your fiction but reinventing you. The theme of Un-Con is Wu-nder, and the sense of wonder we feel in reading springs from what is personal to you in writing. It is also true that terrified is exactly how you want to be. When you’re terrified, you’re not playing it safe.
When you’re terrified you will succeed because, frankly, there is no other choice. So, here are some approaches to reinventing your fiction by, in part, rediscovering you, identifying your boundaries and breaking through them: [Read more…]