Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning from Frasier

I recently returned from a week long writing retreat in Florida. I know, I’m jealous of last-week-me, too. There is something soul-nourishing about spending time with people who share your passion. The kind of people who will talk to you about writing for hours without getting that glassy-eyed look or edging for the nearest door.

Writing is mostly a solitary thing. You get a story spark, you build on it, you give it bones, flesh, you make it beautiful. But then what? How do you know if this story you’ve built is up to par?  Contests. Contest season is upon us.

For those of us who are writers, this means, polishing the beginning of your novel, polishing it again, and then polishing it one more time. Then you choose what contests you’ll enter. I’m entering the Frasier this year at My Book Therapy. It's a great contest for some specific reasons I'll get to here in a minute, but also because it's named for Frasier Crane. How cool is that?

Contests season means you let someone else look at your work. This is good, but terrifying. On the list of scary things, it generally falls somewhere between running naked through a cloud of angry bees, and getting mowed down by a Zamboni.  But the Frasier is different. The people reading your work really know story. They know what you can do to make yours better, and they’ll tell you because they REALLY want you to succeed. They also point out your strengths, see in your work assets you might now recognize.

It also means writing a synopsis.  So. Not. Fun. But…this year my synopsis writing, while painful and time consuming, went better than normal. It turns out I’ve learned a lot about story structure over the last year, due in a large part to My Book Therapy, where all that stuff people tell you you’re supposed to do is explained in a way that teaches you how to do it.

So yes, it took me a while, but I managed to tell the story of my novel in a mere 500 words for the Frasier. I had to really get down to the structural basics. My physical, emotional, and spiritual plot. And you know what? I did it. It made me examine the story I’d told again, and when I made pass number eight-hundred-twenty-nine this week, I drew those out, emphasized them. My story is better for it.

So writer friends, give your story that one last pass, see in it the beauty you have to share, then take a deep breath and enter. Let someone who knows story read it. You’ll definitely learn something.

And friends who are not writers, go hug one today. We can always use it.

Today I'm thankful for my story, for the fact that my synopsis is done, and for other people who love story. For the opportunity to see growth in my own work and room for growth. For a chance to spend time with writerly friends and that I will never be done learning, hatching, or growing better stories.

Entries for the 2013 MBT Frasier Contest for unpublished novelists will be accepted through Sunday, March 31, at 11:59 p.m. The contest is open to Voices members. The winner will receive a scholarship to a My Book Therapy coaching retreat ($500 value). Final round judges are award-winning author Susan May Warren; literary agent Steve Laube; and Shannon Marchese, senior fiction editor for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. For more information, FAQs and to enter, visit