Writing Workshops and NaNoWriMo 2015

It’s a late fall evening and I’ve just returned from my weekly Wednesday night sojourn to Minneapolis for the Minneapolis Writer’s Workshop.

I first caught wind of this workshop while googling local writing groups. I needed to find a writing group, because up until now I’ve bombarded family, friends, and colleagues with samples of my work, soliciting feedback. In a way, giving my writing to these people is a shitty thing to do? Why? Because they’re all busy people with lives of their own, and I’ve given them the onus of not only reading my work but also providing notes. They don’t want to decline, but they also don’t have time to do this. So, I sought other avenues.

The Minneapolis Writer’s Workshop meets every Wednesday at the Black Forest Inn near “Eat Street.” The first Wednesday of every month is an “open mic” read, which means non-members can attend, read a piece for up to 10 minutes, then receive verbal and/or written feedback. I attended October’s open mic and became enamored with the workshop.

I read a story I’d been drafting for a while, “You Can’t Trust a Middleman,” and got about three scenes into it before running out of time. I received quite a few helpful critiques as well as encouragement and validation.

This was relieving.

You spend a good amount of time working on your craft, not knowing whether or not it’s any good, and to hear, “You can write,” feels tremendous. Not that writing is about creating for others. It’s about telling a story. But while in the process of creating, doubt worms its ugly bastard head in and does its damndest to convince you that you suck. Validation helps. Obviously, it’s not the most important component of the workshop, but it’s encouraging.

After my first visit I knew I needed to join.

INTERLUDE: My family and I traveled over to Door County during MEA. I relaxed, ate too much food, played multiple rounds of Settlers of Cataan (won one of of three games), visited an orchard and rode a pedal car with Erp and Alp and completed a rope maze and got a sweet hat that doesn’t necessarily fit my head too well.

Upon returning to the land o’ lakes, I jumped back into the workshop (that is, I showed up…I didn’t get beaten up by the current members of the group). Normally, membership for the workshop is $35 annually, but because there is only two and half months left in the year, my membership was prorated, so I only had to pay $6.

That night I read a shorter piece, “Sandwiches.” Again, I got quite a few solid critiques. Some felt the piece unfinished, encouraging me to write a second half, delving further into the characters’ lives, while others told me to keep it as is. Truthfully, I tend to agree with the latter. While I do need to add some more descriptions of the setting, I don’t want to reveal too much about the characters. I like the idea of a snapshot story. Readers are plopped into an existing situation and have to figure shit out on their own. I don’t think I should spell everything out. If I give too much away, then I’ve taken away an opportunity for a reader to bring his own interpretations to the story.

Tonight I read from “You Can’t Trust a Middleman” again, and the feedback I got was helpful, as it made me aware of where I can “trim the fat.” I like writing these sensory laden settings, which read “pretty,” but don’t necessarily move the story along. I have a better idea of what I can keep and what I can lose. I’ve done a number of drafts on this story, but I want to keep working it….tighten it up.

That being said, National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner, and I want to turn my attention there.

I’ve primarily worked in the short story genre, but I have an idea that feels like it could move beyond the confines into something larger.

For NaNoWriMo, I want to write a western, but not a typical western. The story will take place in Minnesota, in the Iron Range. The protagonist is a hockey player, a goon, on his way to Winnipeg for open tryouts. He passes through a small mining town and inevitably is pulled into the town’s drama. I was thinking of calling it Da Range but now I realize that this name sucks, and sounds like derange which isn’t what I’m going for.

This will be my toughest writing challenge thus far. The goal is 50, 000 words, so I need to try and hit approximately 1, 600 words each day. I’m nervous, excited, scared, and determined. I don’t know what the end of the month will bring, but I know that I will have the semblance of a  first draft to a novel completed.

Huzzah,

Gus

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