Insecure Writer’s support group – Writing in the Monastery

(Note, when I first posted this last night, I completely forgot that I’d meant to tie it into IWSG – so I’m making edits on Thursday morning

I have entered the monastery – and I came out on the other side to leave this post for you all. There’s no blogging from inside the Holly Lisle Monastery. (Which isn’t a real Monastery, just a state of mind for doing a particularly intense exercise in Lesson ten of the ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course.)

It was an interesting and cool experience. I dawdled a bit this evening – first, because you’re not supposed to listen to any music with words inside the Monastery, I spent time going through my itunes and coming up with an iPhone playlist of instrumental tracks – covering Bach cello by Yo-Yo Ma, Mozart piano sonatas, Serenity and Simpsons movie soundtracks, John Sheard and Natalie McMaster. Holly suggested just keeping ‘Classical Gas’ on single-track repeat, but I knew that sticking with any one song would drive me crazy.

Then I did a bit of review – going over my scene cards and every exercise that I’d done in the course so far, not trying to memorize anything so much as refresh my subconscious memory of anything that might be useful. That took about three quarters of an hour, and I put it all away and ventured into the Monastery at five minutes to eight, with my list of promises, my Alphasmart and a power cable for it, and the netbook a few feet away with the instructions and the Monastery progress thread on the Holly Lisle forums set up just in case – and a project tracker to count my Monastery time for NaNoEdMo.

And I started to write out scene sentences. And paragraphs, because I didn’t always get them down to single sentences, but I think I did a pretty good job of including the five elements of a good scene in most of them.

At first, most were scenes that I remembered from the current draft – sometimes with slight changes, or shuffles in the order – like Melanie discussing abortion before she and Tom get engaged. (I had her pop the question this time, too.) I dropped several scenes that I didn’t think were pulling their weight, and got to scene 30 just after nine.

Scene twenty-nine was the first big town hall – and this time, instead of getting an early victory that could slip out of their hands, my main characters get handed a humiliating landslide against them by nasty Ginny Warrmos. In scene thirty, the core heroes talk about needing to find a different way of inspiring others to follow their cause instead of just announcing it and assuming that voters will flock to them.

But I didn’t really know where the story would go next. So I grabbed the iphone and took my Monastery music on a walk around the neighborhood with me, down the steps to the baseball field and back.

And when I got back, I found that one scene at a time, I could forge a new trail through the second half of my book, incorporating a few elements from the old version, and even making them fit together better. At least once again I figured that I’d written myself into a corner, got up and started making some pasta to take to work for lunch tomorrow and Friday, came back, and figured out that just from my characters doing the natural next thing, there was something developing that could work as a narrative, taking them through a dark, soulful moment and to a very unexpected climax that more or less fits with the theme that I had in mind.

I don’t know if this is going to be the final synopsis for the revised version of my book, or if it’s supposed to be. But I definitely learned a lot by going into the Monastery and writing it! So, Insecure writers of the Internet, don’t be afraid to try intense new things, and trust the muse deep down inside you – that sense of inspiration can carry you through remarkable things!

8 Responses to Insecure Writer’s support group – Writing in the Monastery

  1. Donna Martin says:

    Sounds like you had a lovely and productive time!


  2. You take your writing very seriously. I would never go to a monastery. I find my solace in television and books.


  3. Cat says:

    The monastery is alway worth it. The only time it didn’t help me was during the revision of my Create Your Own Adventure Murder Mystery story.


  4. Jarm Del Boccio says:

    Sounds like a perfect place to get away and write…enjoy!


  5. Yay! For the sake of hanging out with you and writing together, I’m glad that your visit to the monastery was brief. This sounds like an amazing experience.


    • I wouldn’t have wanted to stay in the Monastery much longer – it’s a weird sense to be leaving so many pieces of my everyday life behind, even while I’m sitting in my usual chair in my apartment. 🙂


  6. Sounds interesting and liberating at the same time. Good for you! I don’t know if I could have the guts to do it…


  7. Morgan Shamy says:

    How fascinating is this??? Sounds exactly what I need right now with my WIP… I could sure use the clarity. Thanks for sharing–I very much enjoyed this 😉


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