Monday, November 5, 2012

The Metaphor of Minestrone

Recently, I spent a week in manuscript therapy at Your Best Book, surrounded by the brilliance of:

  • Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg from Free Expressions Literary.
  • Emma Dryden from Drydenbks.
  • Josh Adams and Tracey Adams from Adams Literary.
  • Authors/YA Muses: Veronica Rossi, Talia Vance, Donna Cooper, and Brett Ballou.
  • Nancy Conescu from Dial Books.
  • And fifteen amazing, aspiring authors.

I got to spend all day with these people! From breakfast at 8:00 am, to the craft chat that wrapped up at 9:00 pm, there was no stopping the flow of amazing.

Some days I got overwhelmed by the information. Some days I couldn't contain my euphoria.

First, daily classes on craft and the publishing business blew my mind. Deep POV? Deep Scene? I'm still looking back on my notes and finding gems. My favorite takeaway was from Brenda Windberg on world building: React to details, don't just note them.

Then there was a visit to the book doctor.

Lorin and Brenda evaluated my first pages and synopsis for plot holes, or flaws in point of view -like an x-ray. I needed this is on a couple of fronts, but I was glad to learn some good things are already in my bag of tricks.

I wasn't prepared for the book therapist.

Lorin and Brenda took my outline and analyzed the meaning, looking for the emotional path to a better manuscript - like a brain scan. Scary things live in my head, I tell you.

When combined with daily intense critique sessions, the Book Doctor and Book Therapist visits resulted in an epiphany brought on by:

Josh Adams, who saw my antagonist pages and helped me see my story in an enticing new way.


Nancy Conescu, who told me I needed to write realistic fiction.

The two ideas didn't sound at all related, but they were the seasoned experts. I needed to stop and listen.

Apparently, I was trying to cram three stories into my current ms.
(Wonder if that was why I felt the need for three POV characters?)

At the end of the week, I came home exhausted, grumpy with a capital G, and convinced I needed to throw out the entire manuscript.

And then I made the worst minestrone of my entire life. (Chopping veggies was therapeutic, you know?)

"Is this what's going on in your head?" My husband asked as he ladled the concoction into a bowl.

Sigh. How right he was. Garbanzos, and lentils, and green beans, and kidney beans, and stars, and diced tomato, and... I spilled the red pepper flakes which made it almost inedible. There wasn't near enough broth to go with all the stuff swimming in that soup.

Metaphor? Definitely.

So here's the recovery plan: Sleep. Then separate the stories.

Instead of tossing everything, I'm outlining the third story, stripping the current manuscript of idea threads from the other two, and keeping a "cuts" file for everything. The first story will have to simmer while I keep an eye on it.

PS. This reaction to an intense workshop is not uncommon. A week into November, I've found my direction again, hopeful for a finished, brilliant revision by January.

Did I mention that I'd recommend this experience to any writer I meet? Epiphany seems such a small word for all the enlightenment.


Sarah said...

WHOA ... that does sound intense! I'm glad you got so much out of it but not at all surprised at how exhausted you were afterward. Thanks for posting about this, Carolyn!

LTM said...

Hmm... first--LOL! "worst minestrone of my entire life." :D Well... it sounds like it was a fantastic conference. It sounds like you got LOADS of great feedback. And it sounds like you've got a super plan w/the whole sleep and separate. (I'm assuming this was MOK.) GOOD LUCK with it! ((hugs)) <3

Connie Keller said...

Wow! That sounds like an amazing conference.

Carol Baldwin said...

I love the minestrone metaphor. And now I know why you're working on yet another outline. Jeesh. Are you having fun yet??? I know the feeling. look forward to tasting the new soup!

Janis said...

I make minestrone every week; the more I make it, the better it gets. Another metaphor.

Carin Siegfried said...

Wow! You know, often the books I make the most suggestions for are the ones I feel have the most promise and potential. I know it can be a lot of work but hang in there! I'm going to buy soup now (but not minestrone.)

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