What I learned about writing from Amy Bloom 

Tonight I attended a reading with Amy Bloom at the Canadian Writing Conference at the University of BC. Ms. Bloom is an amazing oral storyteller, with a fabulous sense of humour and quick witted mind.

She has written several novels; her newest, Lucky Us, will be released this summer and I am looking forward to reading it! She also writes short stories, and I recently ordered her newest collection Where the God of Love Hangs out.  And, I got my copy of her her 1996 bestseller Away personally signed.

While Amy did read for us, she spent a very satisfying amount of time discussing her life, her opinions on reading and her thoughts about writing. Not only was I able to enjoy the evening from the perspective of an enthusiastic book blogging reader and an at-times frazzled mother of three, but also as a keen, green, writer who is yearning to learn everything possible about the art of writing a coherent, interesting, perhaps even engaging, work of fiction.

From the evening, I have taken away several meaningful nuggets. However, one succinct idea has grabbed me most effusively:

Writing a novel is painstaking work.

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about writing fiction. I store little tidbits of ideas or chains of them even, in my head. I fleetingly remind myself that I really should attempt to write some kind of an outline for the plot points that are floating around in my brain. But then I think of the work that needs to be done to develop a vivid setting; believable, semi-consistent characters; eloquent writing; dual meanings, symbolism and irony; ensure every written detail is relevant and meaningful; as well as the aforementioned unexpected plot full of epic twists and turns; and I feel completely overwhelmed. I avoid mulling the ideas around. I tell myself I will do it later. And then, I proceed to do nothing.

Tonight, I heard that yes, writing a novel is complex, rigorous, sometimes tedious. To use one of her analogies, it is like “climbing a mountain barefoot.” Doable, but probably quite painful. But, when you make it to the top, the climb, the strife, the toil, has all been worth it. There is joyful, triumphant celebration.

While I am sure that not every novelist feels this way about the writing process, I felt much better about my own struggles knowing that real authors, with real published books, can also struggle; that I am not alone in my apprehensions.

I am left invigorated by the thought of thinking through more seriously the elements needed to construct my own great story. I am left understanding that it won’t be easy, but it is achievable. I am left knowing that if I work consistently and with vigour, that the novel that I have inside of me can come to fruition.


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