Archive for February, 2007

San Francisco Writers’ Conference: Breaking Through Writer’s Block

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 | The Writing Life | No Comments

I almost did not write this post today. The conference ended only Sunday, and today is Tuesday. I thought to myself, “I need more time to take in all that I learned. I need time to think.” Well, I’ve decided to ignore all that. I have too much work to do on my novel revision to wait any longer. Whatever my thoughts are, they’re going online. Because Iwas completely inspired by this year’s San Francisco’s Writers’ Conference.

Just as a meeting of like-minded people is supposed to do, this year’s conference jump-started my work. The revision of my current novel is one that I had been dawdling over; this is a novel that I love, that my agent is excited to pitch in New York. All good things. But since December, I have done little toPrincess of France. I have read over it. I have made notes in the margins. I have looked at the notes my agent gave me. I have read over the novel again. Made more notes. Read my agent’s notes another twelve times. Still nothing. I could not see my way clear to making the requested changes, even though I knew that they would add depth and clarity to the novel as it is already written. It was as if I was standing on a road that suddenly branched off in six different directions, and I did not know which road to take.

Oddly enough, I did not think to ask my main character, Alais, what she thought. (I know this sounds like a case of multiple personality, but to those of you whowrite fiction, you will understand what I mean.) As I was sitting in my last class on day three of theconference, I found myself listening to the speaker with half an ear. Not because she wasn’t interesting, and not because she didn’t have something to teach me. I lost the thread of her class because another voice was drowning her out, the still, quiet voice of Alais.

Alais did not say much. She did not speak loudly. But for some reason, after months of silence, I was finally ready to hear her. I won’t go into details, but she showed me the path out of my dark wood. She showed me the right path to take. That path led not only to a clearing, but to a place where my novel will be deeper and richer for the journey. Alais’ suggestion won’t take much to execute. Another chapter. Maybe two. But it will illuminate the current text and set up claifying additions in the rest of the revision. She has given me a place to start.

I am certain thatbeing at the writers’ conference opened my mind to hear Alais. Talking with other writers who are struggling with their own work, their own blocks and their own joys. Listening to the editors who are desperate to get their favorite novel accepted by the pub board at their house and the agents who are praying to find a story that lights them on fire, a story that they can be proud and excited to pitch. Being around these people for three days, people like me, who love books as much asI do, people who also sacrifice their time and their lives to the service of this calling, opened me to the voice of my character, Alais, the voice of my muse.

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