Friday, March 12, 2010

Forward Motion: Writing and the Writing Community at DWC PRO

by Peter McShane

It's true that writing is a solitary pursuit, but ironically you can't do it alone.

When I decided to try my hand at writing a memoir, the words flowed, thousands of them. It read like a confessional. A few family members said it was terrific. They love me; I knew better. I wanted to write something that non-relatives would read.

I decided to take a few courses at the DWC and quickly learned that I didn't know anything about writing. In the words of acclaimed writer and educator John Gardner, the key to writing stories is creating for the reader a vivid and continuous dream. This holds true whether it's creative non-fiction or fiction. It's difficult to pull it off with exposition alone. Adding characters who interact draw the reader into their lives. Successful writers use a combination of exposition and dialog. This helps to create what Gardner calls profluence, or forward motion, drawing the reader in and holding his/her attention.

What's next after you've learned all this procedural stuff, like genre, style, theme, point of view, plotting; the nuts and bolts? It's finding readers to test drive your work; people willing to read through your early drafts and tell you what works and what doesn't. That's what workshops are all about. It's an eye-opening, humbling experience, but your writing will improve. You'll get encouragement from your instructors and peers, and one-on-one tutorials with experienced, published writers who provide valuable insight and suggestions for fine-tuning your work.

All this is what you get in the DWC PRO program: people serious about writing stories and instructors who validate your work. More importantly, it's an introduction to the writer's community. This is how successful writers do it. It's not easy, but the reward is a reader who can't put your story down.

Peter McShane and nine other DWC PRO students will be featured readers this spring, and in June will comprise the very first DWC PRO graduating class.

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