Goldilocks Your Way through Resistance to Write Your Novel or Memoir

By Rosanne Bane
Instructor of the Loft class “Entering the Flow,” starting April 18 in Fergus Falls

Too much structure or structure applied too soon in the writing process can weaken a novel or memoir by making it all head and no heart, all lines and logic with no curves and imagination.

Resistance sets in because it was your imagination and heart that called you to write in the first place. If you can’t access your unconscious, you can’t connect deeply with the characters, story or readers.

Too little structure or structure applied too late in the writing process leads to rambling, inflated drafts that lose the reader amid dead ends and tangents that never go anywhere.

Resistance sets in when you get lost in your own creation and can’t figure out how to bring a story to a satisfying conclusion.

Fortunately there is a Goldilocks solution – just the right amount of structure at just the right time. The dreamstorming method Robert Olen Butler describes in From Where You Dream is an easier, more effective and less frustrating way to write a novel or memoir.

[Read the rest of Rosanne’s post here, and check out her other posts on this topic, Blending Both from the Very Beginning and The Great Debate: Outline-and-Order vs. Draft-and-Discover]

Scholarships for Loft Classes

scholarshipIn collaboration with the Lake Region Writers Network, The Loft Literary Center is offering four creative writing classes (starting in April and May, 2015) at four locations in the lakes region: Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Glenwood and New York Mills.

One scholarship in the amount of $100 is available for one applicant for each of the four workshops. On no more than a single page, please submit a short paragraph about your writing journey and your reason for applying to: paul.carneyATminnesota.edu or LRWN Scholarship, c/o Springboard for the Arts, 135 S. Mill St., Fergus Falls, MN 56537.

Scholarship applications must be received no later than March 13, 2015. These scholarships are made possible through the Lake Region Writers Network.

A Message from the LRWN Board

2015 will be a year of re-structuring for the Lake Region Writers Network. Several longtime board members completed their terms in 2014, and for this and other reasons, we will not be putting on a conference or producing a Lake Region Review this year.

This spring we will focus our time and energy on the Loft Classes. Once these classes are up and running, we will direct our focus to what the LRWN might look like in the years to come. We will respond to comments and questions as best we can, but we appreciate your patience over the next few months.

Best regards,
The Board

Loft Classes in Our Region

(This post duplicates the information on our “Online Classes” page, but we want as many visitors to our site to see it as possible.)

Loft logo

This spring the Loft Literary Center in collaboration with the Lake Region Writers Network will be offering hybrid classes (part in-person, part online) in the lakes region. The four classes and their initial in-person meeting dates are

Register for a class (or two!) today and please help us spread the word.

The Loft website has an excellent FAQ explaining how their online classes work: https://www.loft.org/classes/about_online_classes/online_class_faq/.

The Traits of Successful Writers

by Gwendolyn Hoberg

Last January, I read a New York Times op-ed titled “What Drives Success?” It caught my eye because one of the co-authors was Amy Chua, who has received so much attention—praise from some quarters and intense criticism from others—for her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

In “What Drives Success?” Chua and Jed Rubenfeld argue that three traits are common to “the strikingly successful groups in America” (such as Indian-Americans). “The first is a superiority complex—a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite—insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

The essay explains how these traits work, gives examples, and touches on their drawbacks, or “pathologies.” Rather than get into these details, in this post I want to explore how the three traits might lead to success in writing.

A deep-seated belief in your exceptionality. It may not be something we like to admit here in the modest upper Midwest, but I think many and probably even most writers do have this belief, to some degree. Why write if your experiences, opinions, and ideas are no more word-worthy than anyone else’s? Some writers, it’s true, don’t share their work with others, or view the dissemination of their writing as a necessary evil or an afterthought. But successful writers (which could mean many things, certainly) tend to believe that what they have to say is important, valuable, or special. And that’s okay. It needn’t be a slippery slope to arrogance and delusions of grandeur.

Insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. This we Minnesotans and North Dakotans can handle. “Oh, this poem is nothing special.” “I’ve been working on my memoir for ages but I don’t think it will ever be any good.” Many writers I know (and I’ve felt this way myself) not only say things like this but really mean them—really brood on them and get worked up over them. The key is to let insecurity drive you to work harder and smarter, not allow it to cripple you or deter you. Take Ernest Hemingway’s word for it: “The first draft of anything is shit.” Revise! Strive!

Impulse control. Every writer has her own undesirable impulses. Maybe it’s over-punctuation. Maybe it’s boring digressions. The possibilities are plentiful. So successful writers also put on the editor hat at times and resist their particular temptations. Spontaneity in writing can be fruitful as well as enjoyable, but it usually works out better when balanced somewhere along the way with impulse control.

In your writing experience, have these traits led to success? Do you disagree with what I’ve written, or think other traits are more important? These questions might be a good ones for a writers group or writing class discussion.

Author’s Bio: Gwendolyn Hoberg is the owner of Content & Contour, an editing and writing business based in Moorhead, Minnesota. Gwen writes for the Classical Minnesota Public Radio website and regional publications. She is also the co-author of The Walk Across North Dakota, a travel memoir based on hikes in 2011 and 2013. In addition to her editing and writing, Gwen has played french horn in ensembles throughout Minnesota and North Dakota and currently performs with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

Writing Is Messy

by Ann Schwalboski

Writing isn’t pretty. It’s messy. Writers gush guts and tears. We puke… we dry heave… we ooze… words… and most of the time not in the right order. Yes, writing is messy, but isn’t it also… fun? Who else but writers hears voices yet understands that’s just our characters telling us their story? Who else but writers wakes up in the middle of the night and fumbles for pen, paper to jot down the best idea EVER? Who else but writers enjoys digging and picking through the muck of misplaced words, incoherent phrases, and indecipherable dialogue to find just the right (or write?) word, action, scene, plot, setting?

Yes, writing is messy. Revision is clean. Revision is where we wipe off the muck, pound foreheads against blocks, agonize… until we finally discover, locate just the right—

Wait…
Why can’t I gush, puke, heave, ooze…

Write more… mess?

Revision… finding the right everything…
That’s work.
I wanna go play!

Writing is messy.
Go!
Make a mess!

Author’s Bio: Ann Schwalboski teaches Developmental English and College Composition (Online) for M State–Fergus Falls, Writing for the Workplace and Technical Communication (Online) for MSUM, and Speech for Herzing University Online. She also works as a remote writing consultant for Ashford University. She wishes everyone happiness in messiness!