The eight ladies have been writing to a theme this week, and the theme topic is “New Year, New Writer.” I panicked, because, hey—nothing like a little pressure to be a new writer in the new year. When I stopped hyperventilating, I decided there’s no rule that says I have to be new. So here’s my theme within a theme:
New Year, Same Old Writer.
To my classmates who have had transformative experiences with their writing in the McDaniel program, I salute you. I wish that I, too, could say my writing has been transformed. But it hasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I signed up for the MFA certificate program because I thought I’d learn new writing techniques. I thought I’d learn to analyze texts better, to see more clearly what’s on the page so I could fix it. I thought I’d learn how to structure a manuscript from the beginning. I pretty much got all that.
In addition, I had a lot of fun. Until you do it, you can’t imagine what a blast it is to hang out for 20 or 30 hours a week reading novels, talking about novels, and analyzing novels. I also made a ton of new friends, and here we are, writing this blog. So all good there.
But as for writing transformation—not so much. I expected to learn the most—and sweat the most—in the conflict module. Because, let me tell you, I sucked at writing conflict.
Guess what? One year later, I still suck at it.
Am I better than I was a year ago? Maybe. I sure hope so. I learned one good, simple test for conflict, besides the conflict box that Jenny talks about on her web site. My test is a hypothetical situation: did the heroine’s laptop get stolen, or did the antagonist take it? If it “got stolen”—that is, by anyone, a stranger, a random burglar—that’s trouble. If the antagonist took it, it’s conflict. Now every scene I write, I think, did the antagonist take the laptop? Because if not, it’s back to the drawing board.
So where am I now, one year later? I seem to struggle as much as ever to keep the antagonist on the page, to keep him engaged with my heroine, to keep them in conflict. If my heroine can escape her troubles by hiring a virtual assistant, she has nothing to overcome. Conflict is key.
I want to think that I’ve elevated all my writing, including my grasp of conflict—a “rising tide lifts all boats” sort of thing. The proof will be in the final manuscript, still some time away. Do I feel like a New Writer? No. Do I feel the New Year beckoning? Yes. And with it, I hope, a new sense—a new understanding, if not of mastery—of what conflict can do for my story.
So, my friends, best wishes to all for the new year! And my hope to everyone that your writing, as well as your year, will be new.