Inventory

Well, made it this far. Writing all the way. In January I traveled to Maine to attend the Stonecoast residency. Jet lagged and wide awake one night I read about a flu or pneumonia in Wuhan. You know how that ends.

Best part of 2020 re: writing is beginning the Stonecoast MFA. I returned to Korea after residency ready to read and write and so glad for the guidance of a mentor. And I absolutely love the connections I made with other writers during my time in Maine. Swapping work, receiving and offering feedback, joining the occasional Zoom happy hour at six or seven in the morning: all, and more please. I enjoy the writing community.

First semester of my MFA I drafted multiple short fiction pieces and played around with theme. I center on identity and culture, the way place can shape a story. Second semester I decided to make use of the support this program provides. Instead of continuing with short fiction I decided to write a “long story” and worked my way to saying out loud: I am writing a novella.

The novella form intrigues me. You’ll hear more about that next year.

Here is what happened when I began drafting a novella. I thought I might approach it as I do a short narrative piece: just throw it on the page. This did not happen. And that isn’t how my short narrative drafting works either. Any short piece (fiction or creative nonfiction) starts in my notebook, weeks or months or years back. The quick first draft comes from hours of mulling and writing around. Though I had thought about writing a novella before, or a collection of linked pieces (like A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan or I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro), and had even note drafted ideas of what this might look like, the whole idea was nebulous.

So I learned a lot. After years of reading short fiction to note craft, I now look closely at the structure and pace of novels. What are writers doing to keep me reading? My mentor talked about how much a novel can hold – all the tension you can include, all the storylines. I decided to write about a transition year to Korea, drawing from our own first two years here, but I worried there was too much happening for a story to work. What to cut. But the longer I think how to tell this story, the consideration changes from what to cut to how to rearrange or compress or raise.

And along the way: open to a different kind of story. Because I am not writing memoir (let’s all be glad), I can change elements or details. I can turn lived experience to create a new plot. I know this from short fiction. But sometimes when you choose a new form you relearn the craft in a new way. Like plot devices. Just inventing something to get the characters where they need to be. I’m allowed to do that.

I have no novella draft. I have a lot of scenes. Ideas. I have things too. This is a good project. This pushes. Even as I muddled the opening of this novella, I revised a few short pieces with greater intent – all the work is good. Overlapping. Return to the fortune and pleasure of process, the great joy that we can make and create.

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