Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Non-Fiction Workshop

I promised I'd let you know how the non-fiction workshop went and I guess it's only fair to give you an update before and after I go up for workshop the first time.

The class is small and a mix of grad students and undergrad upperclassmen. Despite there only being seven of us, I have managed to hedge as long as possible and have not yet put work up for workshop.

I have embarked on a Post Secret memoir that I mentioned before in my plea for help. The project is, by design, large. However, it is growing into an ungainly mess. Thus my need to wait as long as possible to workshop. I'm trying to give the storyline a shape and that's not happening because I just keep on remembering things and wondering if I should add them in as well.

The nice part about writing nonfiction is that I just remember and write. I can focus on the storytelling aspect and on the sentence level craft without spending as much time thinking about plot, character development or any of the "creation" aspects of generating fictional material. And, as I have (within the past year or two) moved away from using my own life as wholesale story-fodder, that "creation" aspect takes a lot of time and energy in my fiction writing process.

The crazy part is that I keep remembering stuff. The more I think the more I recall. And more. And still more. It's all there, it's just taking a while for me to dig up again.

The awful part is that I'm not a linear thinker. So my narrative is jumpy and so is my process of remembering. This makes editing the "first" section difficult for workshop. I'll be giving them an incomplete narrative (it won't even have in the Post Secret interviews because I haven't addressed the shape of the narrative so I can't figure out where those interview snips best compliment the story), but it will be okay so long as I only give them the "second" part next time. What I don't want to do is give them twenty new pages plus twenty old pages that have been reworked and had a few more scenes added to them.

I'm also spending more time writing and reading for my grad classes than I am teaching and prepping for class.

A professor recently said that he's seen teaching composition ruin many a would-be writer. He went on to explain how easy it is to throw yourself into teaching when your own writing is going poorly and that if you become a really good teacher the need to become a really good writer lessens. Unfortunately I'm having the opposite problem this fall.

Highly Recommended