We told stories around the campfire.
Someone told of a moment of fame ultimately splashed with humility. Another shared an experience with a well-known celebrity that has become part of the family lore. Childhood memories and funny stories and more helped the listeners understand each other as we warmed around the campfire.
We all love stories because it’s how we were designed to learn and grow. It all started around a campfire when the hunters and gatherers of long ago learned from and entertained each other in the same way I did with my friends a few weekends ago.
At this particular campfire, I was at a retreat for writers. Mick Silva taught Story Vision. I went to get help on a story I’m working on. I still had questions. Did I have unnecessary plot points? Were my characters believable and sympathetic? Was my theme universal, something that would resonate with my readers?
Fourteen writers and Mick allowed plenty of individual attention. Also, the camaraderie of this group of writers allowed continual conversations on our favorite subject: writing story.
Mick covered the basic elements such as character, plot, theme, scenes, dialogue, style, and voice, which led to discussing novels that work so we could determine why they worked. That helped in a practical way because, again, we talked about story. What makes a great story? Why did you love that story? We shared titles and grew our book lists.
“Don’t Worry; Be Crappy”
The logistics, such as schedules and editing, required we look at what is holding us back. Time is our greatest asset, Mick reminded us, and to fight the malady of perfectionism, he offered a catchy saying: “Don’t worry; be crappy” for first drafts only. And we tackled schedules from a practical angle and peeked in on a fellow writer’s actual schedule (Thanks, James Rubart).
Practice exercises, such as how to imbue our setting with emotion that either contrasts or magnifies the character and plot, allowed us to begin to process what he taught us. How to figure out where our book is heading and why we want to tell a particular story. How to find our unique writer’s voice. We considered what it would mean to us if we failed to write, and a particularly meaningful exercise was to consider what we are learning about ourselves as we write these stories down.
Story Is A Relationship
At the core of Mick’s teaching, the very gem of Mick Silva, writing coach and editor, is his belief that writing is about the relationship between the reader and the writer. Story is a relationship. The stories we have been given demand vulnerability and honesty for our reader if we really believe books can speak Truth into lives. He encouraged us to leave our safe box, believe our story is—not only for our own comfort and healing as we write it, but—a treasure everyone needs.
As I’d hoped, the retreat helped with my particular novel, giving me reasons beyond plot and character to write it. But I gained even more than that. My writing dream expanded to help me understand not just the who, what, where, when, and how of my craft, but most importantly, the why.
And that makes a great difference for me.
Mick’s experience in the publishing industry and his unique approach toward the writing process qualify him to be an amazing teacher. His expertise and sincere heart transform writers into authors of wholehearted stories with the potential to touch their readers’ souls.
And, in the writing process, stories that will also change the writers.
Around a campfire . . . or not. It’s all about the story itself.