A Reflection

Like many manuscripts, mine started with a character and the need to tell his story. I put so much focus into writing for my main character that I neglected the rest of the manuscript. Setting, point of view, and dialogue just to name a few became casualties of my hyperfocus but in doing so, I was able to have a clear list of items that needed to be worked on. With each subsequent revision, I focused on one of these elements. For example, one of the biggest undertakings and overhaul of my manuscript had to do with point of view shifts. There were numerous examples in which I played musical chairs with whose head I had the reader in and often did these shifts within the same chapter as well. It made for a confusing read and only after several edits, I was able to keep these shifts from happening and kept the point of view of each character consistent and avoided head hopping. There were occasions, to keep the point of view shift consistent, I write an entire new section of story from that other character’s perspective. This was a sort of mini revelation for me. I had mentioned previously that forcing myself to look at a scene from another perspective gave me new insight into a character’s inner thoughts and motivations. It allowed me to see how they felt about a certain situation or how his feelings were being effected by the actions of others. I guess this taught me a lot about empathy and seeing the other side of the fence for my characters. This control over point of view really taught me a lot and gave me a chance to see how with practice and hard work, manipulation over storytelling elements is possible.

            Tangentially related, the evolution of my characterization has really changed over the course of my manuscript and this program. For me characterization is best described by Ayn Rand in The Art of Fiction a Guide for Writers and Readers. Rand says “characterization is really the presentation of motives. We understand a person if we understand what makes him act the way he does. To know a person well is to know ‘what makes him tick’ as opposed to not seeing beyond the superficial actions of the moment” (59). When I first wrote my characters, they were doing action A then B then C, etc. I attribute this to my outline being plot based and leaving no explanations for why my characters were doing certain things so when I completed my first draft it was largely a list of things being done by my characters that really had no depth to them. It was only after several feedback sessions and well into my third draft that I learned that this interaction and understanding of what made my characters “tick” like Rand described is what drives characters forward not only in plot but in character development. It helped me see beyond the superficial and give the reader real reason to care for my characters and invest emotionally into them. My manipulation of characterization over the course of manuscript has really given me a chance to learn more about my characters and see their story evolve over time. I truly believe that controlling this storytelling element will not only benefit future revisions but all fiction writing of mine to come.

            For the longest time I was so confused on what the difference between platform building and literary citizenship was but came to understand, its just a matter of perspective. Jane Friedman in Are There Limits to Literary Citizenship? describes it as “activities that support and further reading, writing, and publishing, and the growth of your professional network. It’s not about competition but collaboration”. This might sound vague in its description, but it really encapsulates what I want to do with my writing career over the long term. Aileen Weintraub in 6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen discusses ways a writer can engage the community in hopes of becoming a good literary citizen. This brings me to how I plan to practice good literary citizenship as I move forward in my writing career. Weintraub talks about mentoring other writers to “offer advice, teach a workshop, and to be available to other writers who are still learning what you’ve already figured out. This could mean providing feedback on a query letter, or simply answering questions”. Even though I am still young in my writing career, I do feel that I have a lot to offer a novice writer. I have plans to work with my local library to have an ongoing writing workshop where experts and novices alike can work together and learn from each other. I want to have a central place that writers can meet and talk and network on almost any writing endeavor. This setting can also provide ample opportunity for mentoring to begin and blossom.

            Weintraub also talks about forming or joining an online group for the purposes of supporting other writers in virtual space. “This was a place for authors with books coming out around the same time to share ideas, ask questions, and find fun and unique ways to collaborate. It helps you build your own platform, expand your audience, and gets the word out about your writing”. Even though I am not a big fan of Facebook, I do admit that it is a great tool for networking and online groups. Once I have firmly established myself online, I plan to create a group for locals and nonlocals alike where we can share each other’s successes that can also be a springboard for the in-person workshops that I plan to have quarterly. Having an online place to meet will expand the reach further and enable for the sharing of social media accounts for other cross promotion opportunities. Either way, forming online groups is a great way to network and keep each other engaged.

            One other way I plan to practice literary citizenship is what L.L. Barkat in Totally Epic Literary Citizenship describes as stepping outside the circle. “Occasionally stepping outside the lines of what we already know and do means we continue to enhance our being and the world within each we exist. On a practical level, this can mean trying out new genres, new authors, global literature, and new media”. In my manuscript I toyed with the idea of a romance subplot but never fully explored it to its potential. I want to step outside of my genre and try writing a full fledge romance novel based on some of my already established characters, giving them a chance to be fleshed out to their potential. Doing so will be stepping outside of my comfort zone and allow me to try other genres, giving me perspective on the unique struggles romance novelists have. I do think having multiple perspectives on writing can enhance my understanding of my peers and allow for a better conversation within my community. I already try and read multiple genres so that I can see how other writers write different ways. It gives me ideas for my own writing and also helps me grow my overall understanding of the craft. Being a good literary citizen isn’t hard but does take work. It is my hope that in doing the things I mentioned will give me better understanding of the community I serve and work with.

Works Cited

Barkat, L.L. “Totally Epic Literary Citizenship.” Tweetspeak Poetry, 3 Mar. 2020, https://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/2020/08/03/10-ways-to-be-a-totally-epic-literary-citizen/.

Friedman, Jane. “Are There Limits to Literary Citizenship?” Jane Friedman, 17 Aug. 2020, https://www.janefriedman.com/limits-literary-citizenship/.

Rand, Ayn. The Art of Fiction a Guide for Writers and Readers. Plume, 2000.

Weintraub, Aileen. “6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen – Writer’s Digest.” Writer’s Digest, 22 June 2022, https://www.writersdigest.com/be-inspired/6-steps-to-becoming-a-good-literary-citizen.

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