Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventure versus experience

I'm editing a very long novel for a novice writer. He's had a most interesting life and has written a novel about it. Unfortunately, an interesting life with interesting experiences doesn't necessarily make for good fiction. Like many people, he's probably heard quite a few times that his stories are fascinating and they'd make a good book. The first is true, the second is not. Why? Because there's a difference between experience and adventure, a difference between interesting and dramatic.

It is possible to make a great novel out of an interesting life. You go deep into characters, you create conflict and tension, you have a protagonist who is desperate for something and willing to spend his life, or a portion of it, trying to get it. But just writing your own life with someone else's name on it isn't enough.

My client doesn't have big aspirations for his book. I think he wants to have recorded his experiences and it was probably a lot more fun to do so with fictional characters than himself. While I learned a lot writing my memoir, I have had way more fun writing fiction. So I don't blame him.

I'm polishing his writing to be more readable and he's pleased with the result. He can self-publish some copies that may be of interest to others who shared his experiences. And it's a very worthwhile creative endeavor. There's a place for that kind of writing in our world and I applaud his intentions. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Am I a poet?

I spent Writing Friday this week reading and thinking about poetry. It's been on my list of creative things to do but I also knew that it was avoidance of the new novel. I haven't worked at all on the Frankie story since I came back from the July 4 writing retreat. And when I get away from a project too long, I get cold feet. Or maybe it's just a loss of momentum, like how hard it is to go back to the gym when you've been off sick for a week.

But I enjoyed reading the poems I had written in my 100 poem challenge and I spent time dividing them into the best, workable, and way too personal. Then I started to work my way through the maze of the Poet's Market, a giant compendium of journals and magazines that publish poems, contests that take manuscripts and collections, and publishers of collections. It was overwhelming and I realized that I am way too early in my life as a poet to do much marketing yet. That I need to write more, read more, and hone my craft. And that's okay.

I'm looking for another 100 project and poems might just be it.