I Was Not Slaughtered Over the Weekend

Some of you may recall this past weekend I was to travel out to California to meet my best friend for the first time in person. Some of you may have even thought I was crazy to be taking such a trip. A few of my co-workers thought I was nuts to go meet someone I've never met in person.

I am happy to say that Angela Alsaleem is officially my best writerly friend. We had a blast. Oh, and her book, Women Scorned, is coming out next month! I'll be sure to post when it is available and how you can get it. She is an awesome writer. Her book coming out is so horrific it comes with a warning label. I dare you to read it.

Now, about the boot camp...

The Writing Loft is located in Paradise, CA, which is a beautiful little town on the foothills of.... not sure which mountain range. To give you an idea, I flew in to Sacramento and it was roughly 2 hours to get to my friend's house in Gridley, which is about 45 minutes from Paradise.

The woman who runs the Writing Loft is Nora Profit. She hasn't had any fiction published, but she does write for money and she has written hundreds of articles. She has a keen eye and ear for what works and what doesn't. She was our drill sergeant. And I mean that. This was not a writing retreat... that would imply relaxation. This was straight boot camp.

On day one, she taught us her techniques and philosophies and whatnots, and we were given homework. We were up until 3am doing the homework (technically 2, but with the time change and all it ws 3).

Day two, she basically tore what we wrote apart and made us rewrite it until it was perfect.

One peice of her philosophy about writing is FOCUS. You MUST know the focus of your story. The first step is to write a focus statement. It has to be specific. She loved to use To Kill a Mockingbird as an example. The focus statement of TKAM is "I am writing this book to prove that prejudice is dangerous." That focus statement applies to the entire book. Every event that takes place in the book must work to prove what you are trying to prove. This step is by far the hardest.

The next hardest comes later, but I don't feel right spilling all her techniques. I highly recommend anyone serious about writing a novel to take her Novel 1 class when she has it again. It is online.

Nora is a genius. She's brilliant! And she doesn't sugar coat. She doesn't say "oh, well, it was OKAY." She will straight up tell you that it doesn't work. That it isn't good. In fact, my "before" scene she said sounded like I was writing for second graders. But when I read my after scene out loud, I didn't see her face, but Angela told me her eyes widened and she responded the way I wanted her to based on what I was going for in the scene.

The whole weekend was so amazing. At the end of day two we felt like zombies and went home and drank a bottle of wine and analyzed published authors' lead lines and first paragraphs until two in the morning. It was awesome and helped us solidify what we'd learned.

In the process, I've abandoned Howard's Story once again. I am now working on a new project, but don't expect me to tell you about it. Nora says to keep it all to yourself until it is finished, otherwise, you might get tired of it.

Swimming in Circles,
Claire L. Fishback


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