Instructor Q&A: Brian Yansky

“We read fiction to see characters struggle and overcome or fail to overcome the conflict in their stories.”

-Brian Yanksy

Brian Yansky is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas called “Developing Conflict in Fiction” on May 27 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. The class will identify and discuss different kinds of conflict and how to use them in novels and stories. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Brian Yansky

Scribe: First off, why is it important to develop conflict?

Brian Yansky: Conflict is at the heart of all fiction. It develops characters, propels plot, and makes setting relevant. We read fiction to see characters struggle and overcome or fail to overcome the conflict in their stories. From a writer’s POV, creating conflict within your characters and between your main character, other characters, or perhaps society or nature or any number of other possibilities builds narrative. You’ve got to have conflict.

Scribe: Do you find that characters are developed with a specific conflict in mind, or do conflicts form based on the characters?

BY: Both. For me, usually, I start with a character and a situation. The situation has to have the potential for conflict in it. The character wants/needs something, and something gets in the way of her want/need.  This is one way to build a central conflict for the character. However, as the character develops, other conflicts will occur to the writer. It’s a process. The character creates conflicts by her actions in trying to deal with problems and conflicts.

Scribe: Are there any specific tips you rely on to generate conflict within stories?

BY: The big tip is to start with a character in a situation that will create conflict from the inception of the story. But beyond that it depends on the story. A character in conflict with society—  for example, Hunger Games, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird – will find conflict everywhere because they’re struggling against something large and powerful.  Just generally, I look for friction inside a character, between characters, or between a character and setting or a character and plot. Developing this friction will develop conflict, which will develop character and plot. That’s why conflict is so essential. It helps the writer build her story.

Scribe: Have you noticed any trends of less-common conflicts emerging in contemporary fiction?

BY: It should be pretty clear that I think conflict is in just about every story. Whatever the new trend is, it will have conflict and writers will find creative ways to make the conflict different and unique.

A trend that’s been done many different ways is “end of the world” stories. The setting creates immediate conflict in these stories. There’s conflict between survivors and other survivors, or those pesky walking dead or a world consumed by nuclear winter, or aliens, or gods.  One of my favorites in this kind of story in recent years is Station Eleven. If you’re looking for a good “end of the world” story, check that one out.

Thanks, Bryan!

Click here to register for Bryan’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Brian Yansky is the author of five published YA novels and over a dozen short stories for adults. His last three novels were published by Candlewick Press  (Utopia, Iowa, 2015; Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments, 2013; Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, 2010.) His stories have been published in Literal Latte, The Crescent Review and other literary magazines. He teaches writing at Austin Community College.

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Instructor Q&A: Wendi Aarons

“Humor works best when it’s sprinkled in lightly, then occasionally dropped like a bomb. Less is more.”

-Wendi Aarons

Wendi Aarons is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on May 20 at St. Edward’s University called “How to Write Funny.” This class will introduce tips, tricks, and easy ways to lighten up dialogue and prose to be more humorous in conceptual humor pieces. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.


Wendi AaronsScribe:
When developing humor, do you find that character personalities or setting and circumstance play a larger role? Or perhaps a mix of multiple elements?

Wendi Aarons: I prefer a mix of multiple elements, but most enjoy seeing how certain personality types react to uncomfortable or different situations and circumstances. For example, you could write a character that is naturally funny and have her sit in a room all day just saying humorous lines and that would work somewhat. But it’s even better to take that character and place her in a situation where she’s not living in a humor vacuum. David Sedaris’ narrator in his essay “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol” is amusing on his own, but David places him at a local grade school’s Christmas pageant, which he then reviews like the snotty theater critic he is. That’s a humor home run. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be as elaborate as that, but think of the humorous situations you’ve seen in real life, things that make you laugh, and use it for material or inspiration.

Scribe: Do you have any tips to help writers find a balance so that humor within the story doesn’t overpower the plot?

WA: Even if you’re able to do it, an essay or story that has wall-to-wall jokes is exhausting to read. You’re not a stand-up comedian. When written, humor needs air to make the lines really work. Think about meeting someone in real life who just cracks jokes non-stop instead of letting you see his or her real personality. It gets annoying quickly. Humor works best when it’s sprinkled in lightly, then occasionally dropped like a bomb. Less is more.

Scribe: Are there any tropes that you find particularly useful for first-time humor writers, or any that you feel are overused and should be avoided?

WA: I’m a big fan of the List. My first accepted humor piece was a list on McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, and it was called “Potential Nicknames for the Star Player on My Son’s Soccer Team.” I think there were less than 100 words total, but it was an easy way to jump into that type of writing. It’s not as intimidating as prose or a longer piece. As for what should be avoided, I admit to not enjoying song parody because I think the joke is made immediately, then it’s the same thing for three more minutes. (However, the success of Weird Al Yankovic means many people don’t agree with me on that.) I also think people should be careful when jumping into parody where they are speaking in another person’s voice, like my Twitter parody account @PaulRyanGosling that concerns Speaker Paul Ryan. It’s not as easy as it seems, and care should be taken to get the tone and voice right before really going full-steam on it.

Scribe: What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to someone who is trying to write funny for the first time?

WA: Read a lot of humor. Listen to a lot of humor. Realize that humor is subjective above anything else. What you find funny may not be funny to me and vice versa (although, let’s be honest, I’m probably right). Be natural and don’t force the jokes. Don’t be offensive or insulting because the meanness will outshadow the humor. Play around with words because even the adjustment of one word can take something from “eh” to LOL. Don’t expect to get it right the first time you try because it’s not always that simple. As they say, dying is easy, comedy is hard.

Thanks, Wendi!

Click here to register for Wendi’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. In the past few years, she has written for a number of publications including McSweeneys, and for Esther’s Follies, Austin’s famous comedy revue. She has also been a commentator on Austin’s NPR station, KUT. Wendi is one of the creators of Mouthy Housewives and the much-lauded twitter feed @paulryangosling. She is also a writer for US Weekly magazine’s Fashion Police.

Instructor Q&A: Greg Garrett

“By pushing people into a literal or metaphorical journey, we’re pushing them across their usual boundaries. Things happen to them. They meet people. And story follows in its wake.”

-Greg Garrett

Greg Garrett is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas called “On The Hero’s Journey: Discovering Plot, Character, and Meaning for Your Novel” on May 13 at the ACC Highland Campus in Austin, TX. The class will provide writers with an overview of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and how this model will help a writer with almost any novel. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

greggarrett (2)

Scribe: In case anyone is unclear, what exactly is the Hero’s Journey?

Greg Garrett: The Hero’s Journey is an archetypal story told by cultures around the world for thousands of years. In it, a hero goes on a journey, proves her- or himself through a series of adventures and tests, experiences a sort of death and rebirth, and returns home with a boon or gift that, in ways large or small, saves her or his people. The pattern itself was named by Joseph Campbell, a twentieth-century scholar of comparative literature who studied hero and creation myths and found this incredible similarity from story to story. It was almost, he thought, like there was a story pattern to which we were conditioned to respond. I like to say that the Hero’s Journey is hard-wired into our genes, which makes it an essential piece of knowledge for every storyteller.

Scribe: In your opinion, why is the Hero’s Journey such a strong model that writers have been able to rely on for so long?

GG: I think the thing that works about the Hero’s Journey for storytellers is that the journey model is a perfect way to create conflict. If we say there are two great stories—a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town—they’re both about cracking open a hermetically sealed system and making story possible. If people remain hidden in their living rooms, then nothing happens to them (normally; the Will Ferrell character in Stranger than Fiction is a funny meta-fictional exception). But by pushing people into a literal or metaphorical journey, we’re pushing them across their usual boundaries. Things happen to them. They meet people. And story follows in its wake.

Scribe: Do you think it’s possible to abbreviate the Hero’s Journey for short form fiction, or is long form necessary?

GG: The short story plot arc is a much narrower arc than in a novel, play, or screenplay, so while you can use fragments of the Hero’s Journey, you can’t walk a character through the full journey in 12 pages. But you might show their Threshold Crossing, Ordeal, and Rebirth moments—that would make a strong short story. So knowing about the Hero’s Journey is a useful device for any story, but it most fully flowers in a long narrative.

Scribe: Is there any part of Joseph Campbell’s original Hero’s Journey model that you don’t agree with, or would like to see changed in some way?

GG: I find Campbell’s model really useful, but his expression of it is hard to digest for most writers. He was a scholar, not a storyteller. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is brilliant, but it’s really hard to read. Very dense. Even the PBS series he did with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, doesn’t really capture in any useful form the story pattern, the archetypal characters, or any real practical storytelling wisdom. It has taken story analysts and professional storytellers to find ways to make the Hero’s Journey a useful tool.

Scribe: Of the plethora of well-known works that are structured around the Hero’s Journey, do you have a favorite?

GG: Star Wars is the obvious response; George Lucas very consciously used the Hero’s Journey model and brought Joseph Campbell to Skywalker Ranch to talk with him about story. But I think maybe my personal favorite of the works that contains the Hero’s Journey is the Harry Potter epic. Every one of the seven novels contains a discrete Hero’s Journey, and then the 4100-page master narrative also bears the imprint of the Hero’s Journey. You can see how the archetype works in the most-popular story of all time—and it works REALLY well!

Thanks, Greg!

Click here to register for Greg’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Greg Garrett is the author of over twenty books of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, including the acclaimed novels Free Bird, Cycling, Shame, and The Prodigal. He teaches fiction writing and screenwriting at Baylor University, where he has received numerous teaching honors, and has offered highly-rated classes for the Writers League for over a decade. He lives with his wife and family in Austin.

Instructor Q&A: Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

“Personal essays keep us tethered to the human experience at a time when everything we know about being human seems to be undergoing a disruptive, at times frightening, transformation.”

-Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “How to Conceive and Structure Personal Essays” on May 6 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. This class will help writers learn to pair traditional journalistic methods and structures with the narrative energy of short fiction and memoir in order to craft compelling essays. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoScribe: For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, can you explain what a personal essay is?

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho: A personal essay is usually a brief piece where the author shares in vivid detail a personal moment in her life and how it transformed her or helped her understand something about herself, or the world, she didn’t before. A personal essay is to a memoir in nonfiction what a short story would be to a novel in fiction.

Scribe: What topics do you think make for strong personal essays?

AR: As in any other piece of storytelling, regardless of genre, the best essays combine compelling narrative force with indelible emotional import. As long as an essay has both, it can delve into any topic you may be able to think of – from the intricacies of small talk, to the enrapturing experience of moving to New York from Sacramento, as students enrolled in this class will see in the personal essays written by Karan Mahajan and Joan Didion we’ll be discussing.

Scribe: Is there a common slip-up that you notice in personal essays that you want to warn writers away from?

AR: Lack of detail and resonance, inconsequential events, and shallow perspective are always signs of a poorly developed essay. Interesting things happen to all of us all the time, but not every experience – compelling or life-altering as it might be – will translate by itself into a powerful essay. More important than what happened is how such experience is recreated narratively and how its impact on the larger scale of things is insightfully articulated on the page.

Scribe: Is there a market for personal essays? How would someone go about getting their essays published?

AR: Absolutely. Some of the most popular series in The New York Times, like Private Lives and Modern Love, are strictly devoted to featuring personal essays. Most literary journals publish them. If you are interested in publishing a personal essay, regardless of publication, you should pay attention to the topics we, collectively as a society, are discussing, and see if you have a personal, transformative experience that may shed new light on it, that may offer an unexplored or fresh angle to such topic, that may advance its public discussion somehow. But it must have inherent narrative force, its thought-provoking impact on the author must be genuine and not merely a fabrication aimed at producing a piece whose only goal is to get published. Editors, and readers, can easily identify when an essayist is “faking it” – and won’t buy it.

Scribe: Personal essays appear to be a recently popular trend; do you foresee the excitement around them continuing?

AR: Are they? Sure, every now and then we see an essay go viral with the same force of a Joe Biden meme, but Didion’s personal essays turned her into a literary rock star back in the sixties. George Orwell might be en vogue once again for his novel 1984, but back in his day he was a defining essayist who tackled sensitive issues such as colonialism, totalitarianism and social justice – his sharp essays remain as timely as his fiction works. Phillip Lopate’s must-read anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, opens with a piece by Seneca, a philosopher and writer who was born around the same time as Jesus Christ. Personal essays have been part of our literary tradition for centuries, and I don’t foresee their demise any time soon – just the opposite. The need to connect to a larger experience through storytelling remains as essential as ever, but our increasingly fragmented interaction with the world is rendering us isolated. We’ve never been more connected – and lonelier. Personal essays keep us tethered to the human experience at a time when everything we know about being human seems to be undergoing a disruptive, at times frightening, transformation.

Thanks, Antonio!

 

Click here to register for Antonio’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho was born and raised in Toluca, Mexico. A former Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University, a Dobie Paisano fellow in fiction by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters, and a Walter E. Dakin fellow in fiction at Sewanee Writers’ Conference, he earned his MFA from The New Writers Project at UT Austin. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Texas Monthly, The Millions, and elsewhere. His debut story collection Barefoot Dogs won the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction and was named a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Chronicle, Texas Observer and PRI’s The World. It was published in Spanish translation by the author, and is forthcoming in Dutch. Antonio lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, where he’s currently at work on a novel.

Instructor Q&A: Tomás Morin

“My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.”

-Tomás Morin

Tomás Morin is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on April 29 at St. Edward’s University called “Playing with Poetic Voice: How to Discover Your Own Voice by Borrowing from Your Favorite Poets.” The class will give writers tools to revise their poems by redressing them in other poets’ styles to elevate their poems to a new level.

Scribe: The focus of the class is about reworking pieces of poetry in styles of other famous poets. Do you have a personal favorite poet whose style you enjoy working with?

Tomás Morin: Not really. What’s really fun is when I choose a poet whose style is very different from the style of the poem I’m working on at the time. For example, if I’m working on a poem that’s fragmented and lyrical, then a Frank O’Hara style will really open my draft up. Likewise, if I’m writing a poem that is chatty about the ordinary moments of my life, and there are many, then the electric and sharp style of Lucille Clifton will be fun to try on.

Scribe: Do you think the process of reworking is a tool that should only be utilized if a poem gets stuck, or is it acceptable (or even encouraged) to start writing a poem with a particular poet’s style in mind?

TM: I think one can certainly start with imitation in mind if that’s what seems to call to you. My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.

Scribe: Are some styles better for applying to a poem? Are some styles incompatible? In other words, how might writers go about determining which writing style would be ideal for them to try rewriting their poem in?

TM: For me, it’s all about trial and error. The process is more about discovery than it is about following a formula. That said, all styles that are not the one you’re using would be ideal because they’re different. The more different the style is, the more your poem will have to open up and expand.

Scribe: Do you have any poems or poets you would like to recommend in preparation for the class, or for readers in general?

TM: I think any poet who has a very unique style would be great, the kinds of poets we couldn’t imitate because they sound so much like themselves that we would end up sounding like them if we imitated them. Folks like W.S. Merwin, Lucille Clifton, Wislawa Szymborska, Mark Strand, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natalie Diaz, etc.

Thanks, Tomás!

Click here to register for Tomás’ class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Tomás Q. Morin‘s poetry collection A Larger Country was the winner of the APR/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is co-editor with Mari L’Esperance of the anthology Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine, and translator of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. His poems have appeared in SlateThreepenny ReviewBoulevardPoetryNew England Review, and Narrative. His latest collection, Patient Zero, is forthcoming this spring from Copper Canyon Press.

Instructor Q&A: Natalia Sylvester

“Even if it doesn’t make it into your story, write different conversations and be willing to explore the fluidity of your characters as they move through the world and communicate.”

-Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas called “Talk to Me: Writing Dialogue that Rings True & Speaks Volumes” on April 22 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. The class will provide writers with tips and strategies to tackle all the different aspects of dialogue to help bring their characters and stories to life. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Scribe: 
Using different languages or specific jargon can play a huge role in creating the world of a novel; however, it can also slow the reader down. What do you think about using these different elements, and are there any guidelines you suggest for when to hold back?

Natalia Sylvester: This is a fascinating question to me. To think about “slowing the reader down” means there’s an assumption of a very specific reader who won’t understand or appreciate the presence of different languages or jargon, and we too often center this as our only reader. But language and jargon are windows to the world of our characters; it’s part of their culture, whether we’re talking about a character who immigrated from another country or a character who’s spent their whole career in the corporate culture.

It’s interesting to me that this conversation often takes the approach of “when should we hold back,” as if we should be afraid of making readers who are unfamiliar with these cultures uncomfortable. I’m far more motivated by the idea of making readers who will recognize themselves in these cultures feel understood, and helping those who are unfamiliar with them learn and grow by seeing the world through perspectives new to them. So my advice to writers would be to create their world truthfully and fearlessly.

Scribe: Many stories have large casts of characters. Any tips for helping writers generate distinct voices for each of their characters?

NS: How we speak is so heavily influenced by who we are, so generating distinct voices is truly an exercise in character development. For example, someone who grew up in Miami (like me) is going to have different word choices, idioms, and expressions than someone who grew up in Minneapolis. The same goes for people who have different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. That’s just one layer of it, of course, because characters who share all these things won’t (and shouldn’t) sound the same.

Think about who your characters are below the surface of this information. What are their passions and obsessions? How do they see themselves and their place in the world? A character who’s a pessimist will have a completely different way of speaking than one who’s an optimist. A character who grew up obsessed with solving riddles and puzzles will likely speak very differently than one who spent their whole childhood winning little league games. And then, once you’ve delved deep into what shaped each character into who they are, explore all the ways this changes.

The truth is, not only do people have voices different from others, they also have different voices depending on who they’re speaking to and what their intentions are. Do you speak differently to your mother than you do your boss? Even if it doesn’t make it into your story, write these different conversations and be willing to explore the fluidity of your characters as they move through the world and communicate.

Scribe: What is one common mistake you see writers make when developing dialogue that you would like to warn against?

NS: There’s a road in Austin called “Exposition Blvd” and I chuckle to myself every time I find myself driving past it because I’d love to warn writers to stay far away from loading their dialogue with exposition. Particularly when characters begin sharing information with each other that they already know, but that we as readers don’t. The best way I can describe it is it’s like watching an infomercial; you know those prescription drug commercials where two actors are having lunch and just casually speaking about the benefits and side effects of a specific drug? We all know that no one really speaks like that, so we don’t really buy into it. This kind of dialogue makes us lose trust in the storytelling and in the voices of the characters themselves.

Scribe: Are there any exercises you can recommend for writers to do to help them fine-tune the dialogue in their stories?

NS: Listen, listen, listen. Listen to how people you know talks. Listen to how strangers at coffee shops and hospitals and grocery stores and the DMV talk. Listen to how people who grew up the youngest of six children talk. Listen to how authority figures talk and how people of different ages talk. And then write how each of those people (or each of your characters) would tell a loved one at the end of the day the exact same thing — say, if they got into a car accident on the way home from work. No two conversations and reactions would be the same.

Scribe: In the class description, you mention the class will be looking at examples of well-written dialogue. Any specific authors you’d like to recommend writers towards, for guidance with dialogue writing?

NS: One of my favorite scenes of dialogue is the opening pages of Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. It is simply a phone call between mother and daughter, but it is so incredibly rich in information about the characters, the setting, the conflict, that it sets up the entire story brilliantly. I can’t wait to dissect this scene with the class and use it as a springboard for a writing prompt!

Thanks, Natalia!

Click here to register for Natalia’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel Chasing the Sun and the forthcoming Everyone Knows You Go Home. She is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her work has appeared in Latina magazine, Writer’s Digest, and NBCLatino.com. Her Twitter and Instagram handle is @NataliaSylv.

Instructor Q&A: Adam Soto

“To be honest, revision isn’t even a path: it’s a management strategy for errors, shortcomings, mistakes, and misgivings. In fact, that’s what all writing is about.”

-Adam Soto

Adam Soto is teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “Novel and Memoir Revision: Conventions and Experiments” on April 15 at the ACC Highland Campus in Austin, TX. This class will invite writers to consider revision in a new light as well as provide tactics and strategies that writers can utilize in taking their stories to the next level. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Scribe: Would you say it’s better to save revisions until the entire piece is completed, or to revise smaller sections as you’re writing?

Adam Soto: That depends, right? If you’re a writer whose goal is to finish something, by all means, push through; bask in the glory of something that has a beginning, middle, and end, then start over. Some of us build like this. For others, revision might become a part of the crafting process–a path to discovery that leads you astray from your initial intentions and surprises you.

Scribe: The class description says that revision is about finding a balance between what an author wants in a piece, and the desires of others. How much, if at all, should a writer expect to compromise in the revision process?

AS: This question highlights an important misconception writers run into, and I plan to attack the problem at the source. When I first started taking workshops I’d try to address every critique the group had and my stories would end up being these muddled versions of themselves and kind of neutral.  It’s what happens when you’re being appeasing: you lose yourself. In this class we’re going to talk about how workshop is really about taking on and wearing other people’s perspectives so that you can get better at looking at your own work and the world. Revision notes from others can be looked at as invitations to create explorations, rather than this daunting task.

Scribe: It’s possible to have many different steps in the revising process: revising your own work, workshop classes with other writers, working with an editor, etc. In you opinion, do you think these steps need to occur in a certain order? Are there any signals that writers should look out for to know which type of revision they should pursue?

AS: The order you establish in the question actually feels the most natural. Usually in an MFA program, undergraduate creative writing classes, or other similarly weekly workshop-like scenarios, you’re really struggling to finish the first draft of your submission for workshop, so I think in these cases it’s forgivable to bypass the first step and make yourself really available to the comments made by your community. Otherwise, you have to take some responsibility for your own work before asking someone else to chime in. In doing so, you ensure some familiarity with and conviction about your piece, and have also hopefully reached this point where you’re not just reaching out for validation. With the novel I’ve been working on, I’ve kept to a group of five readers, but with all of the short fiction I’ve published, my wife and I have managed to knock out the necessary revisions before a magazine or journal editor goes through it.

In terms of signals, I think these are the questions you have about your piece. If your question is, “Is it good?” well, these things are subjective, so don’t expect one person’s answer to be consistent with others. But if your question has to do with craft and form, or the nature of grief or joy, seek out the readers or teachers or editors who are worthy of those topics and conversations. Again, revision is an invitation, an opportunity to keep growing not only your story, but yourself.

Scribe: As you mention in the class description, revision work is usually not the most exciting task (it’s pretty safe to say that no writer writes because they love to revise). What one piece of advice would you give to writers that are at the revision phase, and are struggling to find the motivation to push through?

AS: A psychologist friend of mine is particularly fond of a line that goes: The problems you don’t address are the problems you get to keep. There’s a kind of damning matter-of-factness to the statement, and one can only imagine a pleased little smile coming across the speaker’s face at the sentence’s end, but it’s true. And for writers it’s a permission worth taking to heart. The path of revision does not lead to perfection, nor publishing; it doesn’t even lead to completion. To be honest, revision isn’t even a path, it’s a management strategy for errors, shortcomings, mistakes, and misgivings. In fact, that’s what all writing is about. A desperate attempt to cut through the noise and achieve a clear enough signal. Never mind if your signal can be interpreted correctly and lead to the proper response. Your unique strategy for managing your shortcomings as a writer is your style and is made up of what you choose to address and what you choose to ignore or are totally oblivious to. It’s about figuring out what works. Art is the problem no one asks us to solve, but we try anyway. Revision is that test portion to our design. Is our idea going to make it? Does it fly, does it float, does it sit up straight, however wonkily, elegantly, invisibly? So, my advice would be to see revision a little bit differently.

Thanks, Adam!

Click here to register for Adam’s class.

Click here for our current class schedule.

 

About the Instructor

Adam Soto is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. A finalist in Narrative Magazine‘s 2012 30-Below Contest, Soto’s writing also appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon ReviewGlimmer Trainfields, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Austin, TX, where he is an assistant editor for American Short Fiction and working on a novel.