Another caveat: I began my work-in-progress in the fall of 2011, when my mother was dying of Alzheimer’s. Overall I’ve written way more than 327 pages, changed protagonists, tried multiple viewpoints to avoid losing my original protagonist (didn’t work), and gone from first person to third and back again.
I don’t consider the time wasted – I’d been away from writing fiction for more than ten years as of 2011, while I immersed myself in the monastic life. It took a long time to feel my way back in, and even longer to find the story I wanted to tell.
Enter Lisa’s first book, Wired for Story, her “Story Genesis” handout from her website, and a day-long workshop with her in San Jose last year. Mix in a twenty-minute session with Donald Maass in which he flew through twenty-some pages (not enough conflict to slow him down – very depressing), but the one-page scene written with one of his exercises made his eyebrow go up and say, “I’ve not read that before,” (I was elated). After four years of meandering, my book started to take focus. It was turned upside down and inside out through my encounters with both Lisa and Don, and I learned more and more with every word I wrote.
Turns out, that’s been very helpful for me. I’ve seen how Jennie worked her way through certain things, how she looked at a number of choices, and then how she made her decisions (with Lisa’s commentary, explaining why those choices were the best ones given the story being told). It encouraged me to explore a little further than I might have otherwise. Instead of grabbing the first idea that seemed to work, I looked at more options and played around with them. In a sense, seeing Jennie’s process gave me permission to take my time with my own process, which led to some unexpected revelations.
After 36 hours of more or less uninterrupted reading, writing, and walking/ruminating with Story Genius, I can report that I’m more than halfway through Lisa’s book. More important, my blueprint is well underway, my overarching story problem is clearer to me than it’s ever been, meaning that my opening scene and ending resonate with a connection they didn’t have before.
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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