I just finished the Conversion Writer’s Workshop and had part of the novel I am working on, The Last Miko critiqued. The workshop was a fantastic experience and I got a large number of good crits for my novel. I also have a lot of thinking to do. It was our facilitator who gave me the bombshell.
He said that every writer has two minds: a craft/technique mind and an artistic/muse mind. Writers who are good at craft will write competently and formulaically, whereas writers who are good artistically will surprise. You can’t craft surprise. The best writers, the ones who are recognized for their work, use both minds. He said I am a good craft mind writer (like himself) but I seem to be pulling punches. I had to put a sharp edge into my writing. In other words, I had to let my artistic mind take over once in a while.
I know what he means. I don’t often let my artistic mind take over because I am so focused on craft and I don’t really trust my muse. But when I do, sometimes, I do something right.
Case in point: Ami. More than one person, in fact half of the workshop participants, said they loved Ami. Not liked, loved. Ami had a short, five page appearance in Chapter 2. I didn’t do much with her either. She was a foil for the main point of view character. Yet they loved her? She was amazing. They cared for her. I was quite taken aback by these comments. Then someone asked me how I did it. How did I get everyone to care so deeply about her in so few words?
The answer: I don’t know. Ami came out of nowhere. I originally wrote her in an earlier draft of Chapter 2 but then scrapped the whole thing and started fresh – new setting, new characters, new plot. The draft I submitted to the workshop hadn’t even been polished. I guess I discovered the diamond at the core of Chapter 2 and her name is Ami. And I still don’t know what I did right.
The only thing I can think of is that my muse was kind to me that day.
This Week’s Reason to Read:Shanghai by David Rotenberg
Most noted for his Zhong Fong mysteries (also set in Shanghai), Canadian author David Rotenberg has written a thick, page turner of a book that will remind readers of the Clavell's novels Shogun and Tai Pan. The novel centers around two families, both descendents of Emperor Qin, the first Emperor of China, locked in a multi-generational feud. This is not-to-be-missed reading.