I knew when I invited author Bren McClain to join us on The Mastermind Path to discuss her rewriting process that students were in for a treat. What I didn't know was how much I would be laughing during the discussion. It was with particular pleasure that I had the opportunity to visit with Ms. McClain because I KNEW the path she had walked to achieve publication of her first novel.
She tossed five years of work, kept one line and started over. Ok, that may be a deep simplification of the process and just as soon as I edit down our visit so that I can post it here I will. But that is the core point. To honor the story, to tell the story asking to be told she didn't give up on her character - or herself.
This woman happens to write in a chapel. One she built in a bit of walk/crawl space beneath her stairs. To enter as she puts it she has to bow a little and that puts her heart and mind in the right place. Bowing to the Divine muse and the power of story before she begins. With due reverence and respect for this thing we do.
On all that writing advice? This is when you simply hear me laughing and laughing as well as some of the evil laughs of the students. Bren shared when she first wrote her novel she kept showing it to people and taking whatever advice they gave her. Put more purple in the story? Sure. We need stripes. Okay. No, make that Polka dots! Got it! Until it went all the way around to - we need more purple in the story. The analogy is one of the funniest I've ever heard and of course hearing her tell it. Those in The Mastermind Path have already procured a loooong unedited and fun listening copy but I promise, sneak back here later and I'll try to pop up some audio outtakes.
We didn't stop at rewriting because Bren's story about her road to publishing is so inspiring in that it's no moonbeam fa-la-la publishing accident. It took years of working the ropes, honing her abilities, attending writing conferences, taking classes and working with writing critique groups. Which led eventually to being the last book that Pat Conroy published with his imprint (the imprint continues) prior to his passing away. A whirlwind and storybook finish to a long, arduous journey.
Ms. McClain deserves every ounce of success that finds its way to her, One Good Mama Bone, and her forthcoming novels. From one storyteller to another - my hats off to her.
You can find more about Mama Red, Bren McClain, her writing journey, awards, and advice - here.
Last weekwe were richly joined on The Mastermind Path: Following Your Muse and Finding Your Audience by author Joy Jordan-Lake. It was a great visit!
I loved most our discussion which really began with talking about capturing place, setting, and location of the story. All of this led to pondering the question - to research or to write? When is researching just a way to delay the process of actually writing the story? When can you simply add a small detail with a note (mentally or otherwise) that place-marks that spot and keeps you on the path of writing the story?
Writers have a lot of obstacles to overcome on a regular basis including demands or needs of family or other occupations but the greatest obstacles we have to work against are those that so easily lead us astray. What might those be?
The great commandment for writers might began -
Thou shalt not surf the internet while calling in research in the writing process.
I loved where the group went with this. Part confessional, part self-realization while laughing. Yes, that little spark of - I wonder what flowers might be blooming in the Spring of 1805 in Atlanta, Ga to the three hour rabbit trail you just took that ended with you ordering new knock-out roses for your garden. We resurrected the old-fashioned idea of going to a library or City Hall to the records department for research. Some feet on the floor and out the door research time that feels like honest to goodness research - not cheating on a test. Research can be all consuming and a wonderful thing. There are writers that thankfully spend years on research before writing their works but does your tiny little curiosity about that fashion women wore in 1938 really justified your four hour google search?
Writers possess a wonderful curiosity. It's one of the qualities that makes a great writer whether that's over ancient artifacts or the emotions of the human heart but that can also be like a sugared up kid in a candy store. Distracting and ultimately potentially destructive.
When it's time to actually dig into the story consider setting a timer, logging yourself off the internet, and enjoying the pure, pleasure of doing what you do best - creating the story. Yes, there are all kinds of apps you can buy now and programs you can launch that will kick you off for x matter of minutes but your own self-discipline following the love of your characters and creations might just be the higher path to follow and one that serves you better in the long run.
(Signed copies of award-winning author, Joy Jordan-Lake's most recent novel, A Tangled Mercy may be bought and ordered at Parnassus Books, the local Indie store in Nashville.)
Phone Booth Writer Series Student Amy Bacon Shares why this writing series is the perfect fit for her writing life.