In a writing class taught by Nicola Morris, I learned how to be a sculptor of words. As described in part 1 of this post, she had us take a page of completed work and after each sentence, insert two new sentences.
Now that I’d added 66% more words to my masterpiece, it was time to whittle away the unnecessary fat. The first exercise Nikki gave us is called “unpacking.” It’s a good exercise that teaches us to take our time as writers and fully develop a piece. The next trick was to take these unpacked, expanded pages and whittle them down again—leaving only what’s essential. I think of it like packing and unpacking a suitcase—there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there and each item has its own place…I wouldn’t put my bra in the medicine cabinet with my toothbrush would I?
In order to decide what to keep, I ask myself three questions: 1) What is important to me in this piece? 2) What do I want to say? 3) Which sentences are essential to what I want to say? Read more
Writing workshops. Seminars. Weeklong Retreats. Self-help books. MFA programs. Online classes. I’ve done them all. I consider myself a lifetime student of my craft, a connoisseur of writing classes. At first, everything seemed new and fresh—a magical land of writerly ways and secret handshakes. Over time, I learned and grew. I became more selective. I’m still an eager student of the writing craft—I just don’t rush at everything like a new puppy. Still, every once in a while, I find a class that gets my tail wagging again…
One such class, taught by writer and Goddard College faculty member Nicola Morris, was on the theme of re-visioning. We were told to bring a few pages of a completed work to class. Nikki explained that as writers we were either building up our work like a sculptor or breaking down our work like a wood carver.
Our first exercise was to be the sculptor—to take a page of our written work and, after each sentence, insert two new sentences. Excuse me? She wanted me to expand it by two-thirds? How was I supposed to add that much new material to my finished masterpiece? Read more