In three more days I'll be boarding a plane and heading off to my second residency program. A year ago, I was barely thinking seriously about going back to get my MFA, and now here I am, one semester under my belt and not completely sucking at it.
I think my writing has gotten better. I hope I've gotten a lot better. Of course, if that was true, I probably wouldn't be using the word "gotten." :) Still, I can tell a big difference in both what I write, and how I revise.
Along the way I hoped to share some of what I've learned, but I'm not sure I've done that well. Part of that is that it's hard to put into words what I'm learning. The residencies provide hours and hours of teaching - very practical put-into-words kind of learning, but the rest of the semester, where I'm working on my own with my advisor, what I learn isn't as easily quantifiable or definable.
But here's a tidbit I learned about dialogue that I passed on to one of my critique partners this week that might help you:
Dialogue has two purposes: to show character, and to propel the plot.
It should not be used to dispense information that the narrative could give.
Simple, and yet such wise advice. If you look at dialogue in a book that just doesn't work for you, or that seems hokey, it's likely it's because it's trying to give the reader information needed for the story that the narration really should be telling. Or it's a conversation in which nothing happens. I know real people have those conversations all the time, but in a book, stick to what's important.
So that's my last words of MFA wisdom for the semester. I'll be on a plane on Thursday, and I'll try to update as often as possible from Oregon.
There is sure to be pictures. None of the ocean this time, since I will be at the Pacific University campus instead of the beach, but since the sun is scheduled to shine for the first few days at least, there will be pictures! :)
Beyond that... You tell me - if you happen to come back to this blog over the next two weeks, what would you rather read about? What I'm learning in class, or what I'm doing?