Saturday, 13 June 2015

Like a sponge

A forest of ideas
The workshop in Canberra was everything I hoped for and more! So much was packed into a few days. It was incredibly intense and very tiring. I spent most of my time soaking up the information and discussions. I didn’t say a lot but I scribbled away madly in my notebook. I was a quiet little sponge, absorbing as much as I could. At the end I felt both exhilarated and overwhelmed.

I had a few key insights which I feel are going to invaluable. We had to develop a pitch for our book, something that captures what the book is about and gets the reader interested. So here is mine:

I love cheese. I love walking. I love art. My job involved none of these, so I left. This book is about my middle aged gap year in France. I fell in love with goats, a man and living a more creative life.

It is very short, and feels a little stilted. It sounds like it was written to be read, not spoken. So a bit more polishing to make it flow more like a conversation wouldn’t hurt. Although I have to admit it has stuck with me, so when I am in the right place at the right time I shall at least be able to give it a go.

Revealing a truth
This exercise also helped me work out what the core thread of my story is, as opposed to simply writing an account of everything that happened. It all hangs on what the reader is going to want to read, what will keep them turning the pages. This has led to an interesting challenge – needing to be emotionally honest with myself and my readers. My starting point then is to write down all the difficult stuff as if no one is going to read it and then leave it. I will come back to it with an editing hat on and see how it reads and how I feel about it then. But getting it onto the page is the first step.

More light
So rather than summarising everything, I now know that I need to pick the key elements and tell those in more detail. Ooops, correction – I need to show those. This was my other big breakthrough. With my story thread in place I need to let my reader be an eye witness to my experiences. I have to create scenes which will move the story along, building some tension and finding the resolution. I have several potential scenes and the critical ones have stars next to them – these are the ones I will have to write, whether I like it or not.

My glass ceiling
Unpicking the technical elements of non-fiction writing and having the chance to apply them directly to my book has made my head spin. It has also turned my book from a dream into a project. I have some ideas and tools for how to move forward. I have a plan, some timeframes, pens, a notebook and a potential case of procrastination. Semester has just ended and I am giving myself permission to have a break - to spend some time relaxing and processing. I am feeling a little daunted about my next steps and can feel myself dancing round the edges of excuses. Next weekend is when it will all start to move…