Friday, August 5, 2011
Francine Prose and Writing Workshops
On editing your own work: "Writers need to ask themselves -is this the best word I can find? Can a word or phrase be cut without sacrificing anything essential?"
On dialogue: "Our characters should speak with greater economy and certitude than we do. Unlike us, they should say what they mean and get to the point."
On details: "God is in the detail....detail reassures the reader that the writer is in control and isn't putting us on."
Prose quotes from Kafka's "Metamorphosis" -
"He was lying on his hard, as it were, armor-plated back...his numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk."
The meticulously described image of the shape of the insect convinces us Gregor Samsa has turned into a beetle.
In particular, Prose's thoughts on writing workshops grabbed my attention.
"It's learning to write by committee which is insanity." Prose singles out the MFA Creative writing programme for mention: "If you're going to spend 2 years and $80,000, I'd think a million times before doing it." Her main beef with workshops and writing courses is that you are following a tutor's lead in how to write and capitulating to the views of participants. Writing is a solitary activity. Producing words to suit the tastes of a group is "actually quite dangerous" says Prose.
For me, the most enjoyable bit about attending the writing course or workshop is the social aspect, the meeting of like-minded people, something Prose acknowledges and describes as "invaluable". Writing workshops are fun and I've thoroughly enjoyed any I have done. But do I learn anything other than attaching the seat of the chair to my backside is the way to write?
I think not.
What are your thoughts on writing workshops or courses?