I received my first packet back from my graduate school mentor today, and was thrilled to see that I’d managed to obtain a perfect 10/10 on the work. After a semester of seemingly above average work and only coming away with average grades to show for it, this is a wonderful pick-me-up for my inspiration. The last few sentences my mentor gave me were particularly interesting.
“Just keep on going with this. You’ve got me hooked!”
Now, I’m writing a novel about vampires and werewolves, for a woman who knows very little (self-admittedly) about the genre. This is high praise indeed. And I mentioned on my Twitter account that these are the best words an author could hear.
A moment later, I chastised myself. I’ve held to Alex Mindt’s comment for a while now, the concept that the two greatest words you can ask any writer are these: “What happened?” Alex emphasized the fact that the world, as a whole, is not interested in us as people. We are not important to them; our stories are of no consequence. The world does not want us to be writers. It is not designed for us, it is not equipped for us. But we fight against it, and struggle to be heard, and do not allow the world to define who we are, and we become the storytellers we want to be.
“What happened?” It opens the door, and lets us in. It is an invitation to the story, and into your lives, in many ways. It gives us an in that we wouldn’t otherwise get.
In addition to this, Alex spoke most recently at my university about the art of revision, and the importance of the word “yes.” For writers, it is all too easy to grind ourselves to a halt and freeze the creative process by doubting ourselves. When we write, and indeed, when we edit, we must tell ourselves “yes” all the time. The moment we write something down and then look at it and say “Hm, well, no that doesn’t work,” we have killed the momentum. And too often, momentum is all we have in order to keep going. (Says the person who got their car stuck in the snow a few hours ago while trying to leave the house. Sigh…)
But the longer I thought about this, the longer I put my mentor’s words next to Alex’s, I realized that they weren’t different. “Keep going; you have me interested” is, at its core, a “What happened?” moment. If they want the story to continue, then they want to know what happened.
So I needn’t change my comment. It’s true – they are the best words an author can hear.
And I am more than willing to keep at it, and show exactly “what happened.”