Work that brain!

September 9th, 2016Posted by Nancy

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To keep my writing muscles working while I’m suspended in “I’ve written everything that I know happens and now must actually develop a world and a plot” mode, I’m doing writing exercises. I’ve just started on the ones featured in Ursula K. LeGuin’s wonderful book Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew.  (What, you don’t have the book? Go buy it right away.)  I’ve done it twice before, once in the mid 2000s and once in 2009.  I used the exercises to work on Cold Hillside wherever possible and some of the sections of Teresine working on her mosaics and remembering the past come directly from what I wrote then.   Of course, I also wrote a section about a woman getting bitten by a dog in Ramsden Park, which was far less useful in the long run, though good practice.

The process reaffirmed that I just cannot seem to master Authorial narration/omniscience for more than a paragraph or two but that I’m quite fond of eliminating punctuation (don’t worry, the next novel will not be an homage to Jose Saramago).  I did quite like pretending to be Jane Austen, though.

What do I hope to get from this exercise? Exercise, for one thing.  A decent sentence or two that might find its way into the new novel.  Some unexpected ways into the characters and plot.  And at least being able to claim that I did not fritter away ALL my time over the next month or two. To keep myself honest, I’ve recruited another writer or two to join in the process so we can share our experiments and maintain the pretense of discipline.

Here, for your amusement, is the Jane Austen sentence I wrote for the first go-round. The actual instruction was to write up to 350 words as one sentence.

            “Though she willed herself not to consider Maru’s chiding words, she found them echoing in her mind whenever she let her attention wander – which it did with appalling regularity despite her concerted attempts to otherwise engage it – and soon there emerged a succession of alternatives at which she worried without reaching resolution; that she ask him to leave and accept no responsibility for whatever grief he might endure over the loss of a regard she had never – or so she insisted to herself – invited; that she bed him and have done with it, trusting that wanting was more potent than having so that the inevitable disillusionment would soon set in and, with only the expected unpleasantness in such situations, bring the whole business to an end; or that she simply do what Maru accused her of, and run as far and as fast as she could.”

 I’m still quite fond of this.  Now I just need someplace to use it.

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