Monday, March 22, 2010

The Story You Need to Write

Not yet home from the Vermont College of Fine Arts Novel Writing Workshop, I'm writing this with the knowledge that by the end of the workshop, by the time we got to the final Q & A, my words were beginning to evaporate.

My fellow faculty were the amazing, funny, energetic, multi-talented Emily Jenkins (aka E. Lockhart) and Roaring Brook editor Nancy Mercado who somehow in her concluding talk made wonderful, intuitive connections between the movement of story and everything else that we'd all heard and talked about all weekend. I'll be thinking about her talk for a while--it felt like the container of all things story.

From all the conversations, from Nancy's and Emily's wonderful talks, and from the stories of participants that are still buzzing in my mind, here are a few things I'm taking away with me:
  • Go overboard in drafts.
  • Find those places of excess in revision and rein them in.
  • Make sure you don't give the reader too many literal stage directions.
  • But do plant the right emotional pointers.
  • Begin with an emotional moment.
  • Ask, what's the worst thing that can happen? Then ask it again. And again.
  • Life is short. Write the story you need to write.


  1. Thanks for this. I've gone through my notes, but seeing what you found important was really nice. Going overboard particularly is something I need to allow myself to do.
    It was such a pleasure meeting you. I find your books to be so charming and warm without glossing over reality. I was thrilled to find the same real warmth and charm from you.
    I loved your speeches and just listening to you talk. I can't wait for your nameless novel to come out.
    Sherry (short blondish hair, bad title advice)

  2. Thanks, Sherry, I enjoyed meeting you too. And yes, that title. I'll get there. I will. Send positive thoughts.

  3. hi Uma,

    Words to write by. I'm just finishing a draft of my current WIP and feeling sort of stuck. I know I just need to spit it out and get something on the page to revise. Tomorrow I will go overboard!

    What story are you trying to name?