Monday, February 11, 2013

So how was the writing workshop?

Back from four long days at the UCLA Extension Writers Program's Novel Revision Techniques workshop. And when all is said and done, I must say I got a lot out of it. The instructor, Mark Sarvas, was well prepared and he enthusiastically imparted his knowledge of novel revision. It was hard to tell that this was the first time he had ever taught this workshop. As a result I’m very tempted to sign up for his Novel IV class that starts in April.

His best advice is: Read Like a Writer

He also encouraged us to keep reading novels all the time.

The class was really grueling. It included lectures on these subjects: 
The Many Drafts of the First Draft
Revision Tools
The Essential Revision Questions

Mark used The Great Gatsby over and over again to illustrate his points, and believe me, he is an expert on The Great Gatsby. He reads it at the start of every year. As much as I like the book – and I like it even better now that I know some of its back story – I don’t think I’d read it that often. We also listened to Mark read letters between Maxwell Perkins (Fitzgerald’s editor) and Fitzgerald and Perkins' suggestions for Gatsby revisions.

In preparation we sent in advance fifteen pages of our own novels so we could read each other’s work before the workshop began. Then each day we spent time work-shopping them. That is, each member of the class provided feedback based on their read of the material. Our instructor ended each discussion with his feedback and an assignment to revise a shorter portion incorporating some aspect of the review comments. Once the first workshop rounds were over we immediately started on the second and didn’t finish those until an hour before the end of the workshop late Sunday afternoon. Just in time to hear Mark’s last lecture – a wrap-up of the whole weekend.

And what made this adventure especially nice was that my friend Deborah Kalan and I carpooled and ate lunch together each of the four days. Even though we see each other at the gym and once in a while socially, this was a great chance for us to bond. She is a wonderful writer and working on a memoir, so she work-shopped with one of my memoir heroes, Samantha Dunn. Sam and I have known each other virtually for years, but only met in the real world Thursday. It’s like we’ve known each other forever.

This is where I'll be spending lots of time 
in the future - so why am I smiling?

Now the real work begins. I wanted to take this class to jump start working on my novel again, and it surely did. I got some wonderful and enthusiastic feedback, so I think I have something very viable going on. But I have at least a year of work left to do on it – if I work on it everyday for several hours. If I don’t spend that much time daily, of course it will take longer. The first step is to print out a hard copy and just read it – not even taking any notes or making any small edits. I have to literally sit on my hands. In fact I’m not even going to incorporate any of my workshop comments and revisions into this draft. I’m going to freeze it as of January 30, 2012 and go from there.

Next stop, Kinkos, to make a copy.


madeline40 said...

I just came back from Kinko's with all 254 pages printed out. And so the reading begins.

Gutsy Living said...

Can't wait to hear the premise. Good luck.

madeline40 said...

Thanks, Sonia. I'll tell you when next we meet. xo

Sharon Lippincott said...

I'm pumped just reading about your experience and how the workshop went. Of course I second his advice to READ LIKE A WRITER. I find that writing a review, if only for myself, immediately after I finish reading a book is ever so helpful and keeps me more attentive to structure and detail.

Wishing you nerves of steel as you read without that editing pen! I can't even read somebody else's work without marking it up.

Anonymous said...

Madeline, sharing your excitement enhances the excitement I'm feeling for my FIRST ever writing conference March 1st-3rd. There'll be fiction and nonfiction presentations along with a speaker who is a journalist, some e-pub topics, etc. And yes, there'll be some reading of our own writing. I really can't wait now. Thanks for sharing your experience.

madeline40 said...

Thanks so much, Sharon and Sherrey.

Sharon, your reviews have definitely helped me change the way I read. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up while reading my novel draft.

Sherrey, I'm so glad this has inspired you. I wish you a wonderful conference experience. Maybe next time you'll be one of the speakers.

Kas Sartori said...

Thanks for sharing your revision experiences. UCLA has some great classes, but lately I haven't been able to find any time for them. So, reading about your revising strategies & goals whets my own enthusiasm to get started. I intend to reread the 1st half of the wip of my 2nd novel, make notes only on my storyline and char. arcs, and draft the rest of my book. After shelving it for @8 months, I'll have to put my editing pen away, for the most part, like you. There is a great online resource that I used for my 1st book called which finds all sorts of things like redundancies, oft repeated words, vague passages, and many more. I used it before I turned my book over to a live editor & saved some time & money too. You might want to check it out later on.

madeline40 said...

Thanks Kas for sharing your process. That software system sounds interesting. I'll look into it.
I don't take many UCLA classes anymore but this one seemed so perfect for the stage my novel is in, I couldn't resist. And I'm so glad I did take it.