Workshop 101: Trying Too Hard

Nope, not dead. School is just sucking up my soul and some random zombie I think has been feasting on my brains. Ask my roommate; I’ve been leaving things out and forgetting things more than usual. I need this semester to be over and have a glorious 3 months off.

Which leads me to my plans for those 3 months off: my MFA thesis. Flickering, as I’ve titled it. My “I decided on this because it was simpler than my other projects but still somehow incredibly complicated” project. I need to get all the pieces in order, in one place, and in a working order. That is my goal for this summer.

I took a revised first chapter with me to class last night. I haven’t brought anything to class for workshop since the second week because I’ve been spending my time revising a piece here, a piece there, writing this scene, that scene, skipping three chapters. It’s a massive jumble. So, after looking at what I had, what I needed to set up, I realized I needed a new first chapter. An idea jumped out at me, and I sat down and wrote it, let it flow before I lost it.

After an excruciating 30 minutes of critique in which I was told this is better, but this is not, over and over again, my professor leaned back and said, “Maybe the best thing to do on this piece is to relax. It’s too heavy, it’s too overdone. Just let it write itself.”

Meanwhile I’m being told that I need to include biological definitions and a glossary of terms.

Oh, my head hurts.

First, it’s not hard science fiction. It’s fantastical science fiction that depends on real-world science to ground it. To add in more scientific and information would only make it heavier.

Which made me start considering my professor’s advice. We are generally not on the same page, but this particular advice was something I thought could actually be useful. Am I thinking too hard? Writing it too heavy? Have I become too focused?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. I haven’t decided yet. I have decided a need a second opinion, and I’m taking my piece to be critiqued by a fellow fantasy writer later this morning. I think there is something to his advice, though, that when we’re relaxed our writing flows most naturally. Maybe that’s the best way to write a first draft, then save the crunch time stress for later drafts

So, writers and readers alike, have you noticed a pattern when your writing is at its best? Are you relaxed or stressed? When your writing feels too heavy-handed, what are you doing differently?

Blog Comments

I find I write better when I’m stressed or upset, as writing is my outlet. If I’m relaxed, I find that my writing is too bland and there isn’t enough emotion or nothing exciting is happening. As for heavy, I find a way to make it simpler.

I think your problem is that you’re going back too much. You’re too worried about revision. How can you know what needs changed at the beginning to work in the middle and the end if you don’t have the beginning and the ending written as well?

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