Sometime in January: Dear Diary, today I got an email notice that Donald Maas, author of one of my go-to writing texts, Writing the 21st Century Novel, is giving an online workshop in March. I want to take this class. I have no time for this class. I am crazy to even think I should consider this class. I WANT TO TAKE THIS CLASS. I cannot take this class.
Sometime in February: Dear Diary, I just signed up for Donald Maas’s online class.
March 11: Dear Diary, today I got an email reminder about an online writing class. Apparently, in a moment of abject denial about the reality of my life, I thought I could handle a class. While working 80-hour work weeks. Was I drunk?
March 15: Dear Diary, my online class started yesterday, and the first assignment – to write a blurb for a WIP – is due today. It looks like nearly everyone has already posted theirs. I can’t get past the first five words. It’s 11 PM. Opening my travel-size bottle of Drambuie and praying to the writing gods for inspiration. Don’t judge me, Diary.
March 17: I missed commenting on fellow workshoppers’ blurbs, and on commenting on their comments on mine. The second assignment is to craft a paragraph (after much analysis) that captures the protagonist’s inner journey and what will make him/her relatable to readers. I haven’t started the analysis. It’s 11:30 PM. I am out of Drambuie.
March 24: Dear Diary, tomorrow, the online Donald Maas workshops ends. I never got through the second assignment, and haven’t even read lessons 3-6. Turns out, I really didn’t have time for this class.
OK, I admit it. I didn’t keep a diary of my failed writing class attempt. But if I had, it would have looked a lot like what you just read.
But despite my poor showing in the workshop, I did manage to get some good stuff out of it. I got my head back into one of my stories, even if just for a very brief time. I have access to the forum and can read other people’s stuff and learn from those examples when I have the time to go back and really absorb it all. And I wrote a blurb, which can serve as a jumping off point for discovery of the story I hope to write (in a year or so). Here’s how it started:
Small-town burglar Frannie James has done her time and wants nothing more than to take her hard-earned booty and slip away into obscurity, but when the men whose money she and her ex-best friend Andie stole are coming after Andie, Frannie has to choose: will she stand her ground, or take the money and run?
Then I got some helpful comments from both my fellow students and Le Donald. And here’s how it looks after some rework:
Small town burglar Frannie James did her time and kept her mouth shut to protect partner in crime Andie and give her a shot at a good life. Now free, Frannie just wants her share of the booty and a shot at her own life, but when the men whose money they stole come after Andie, Frannie has to decide: will she stand her ground, or take the money and run?
That and my story notebook in Evernote, which contains exactly six notes and a picture of a bedraggled poodle, are all I have thus far for a future story, Take the Money and Run. But all the best stories have to start somewhere, and with a few months (or a year) and some full-size bottles of Dramnbuie, I might just have a book on my hands.
Have you had any flashes of inspiration lately? Advances in your WIP? Good bottles of liqueur?