NaNoWriMo Consultant: Genanne Walsh

WalshcwWelcome to National Novel Writing Month, 2015! We’re celebrating all month long with a sale on some of our favorite novels, daily discussions with Black Lawrence Press novelists on craft and writing habits, and this–a consultation program for those of you with in-progress novels that could use an expert eye.

Today, we’d like to introduce to you one of our NaNoWriMo consultants:

Genanne Walsh lives in San Francisco. Her debut novel, Twister, was awarded the Big Moose Prize. Excerpts have appeared in Puerto del Sol, Blackbird, and Red Earth Review. Her other work has appeared in Spry, BLOOM, Swink, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Finally, we’d like to let Genanne introduce herself. If you feel that Genanne would be the right reader for your novel, you can sign up here. The price for a full read and critique is $500. All critiques will be completed by December 31, 2015.

Genanne Walsh’s Statement of Purpose

DSC_8405 - Version 2If you’ve drafted several hundred pages of a novel you should heartily congratulate yourself. Lots of people talk about it, but it’s another thing to do it. The downside of that impressive stack of pages: it’s very hard to hold the whole novel in your mind at once. Many writers come to a point when we struggle to fully grasp and see a novel draft as a unified thing. We may have a strong sense of the narrative stance, but a blind spot when it comes to the plot. Or we may have the structure down, but an elusive or inconsistent hold on the point(s) of view. This is when new eyes and a fresh brain come in very handy.

I was trained in and am philosophically committed to a non-prescriptive approach. I have a superstitious belief that what makes novels grow and find their shape is, in part, mysterious, sometimes even fragile—so we must choose our readers carefully and approach each draft as more of a magic chest (exploratory) than a car transmission (diagnostic).

That is not to say I think writers can’t take straightforward critiques. Rather, I think readers should ideally approach a draft on its own terms, and not impose personal preferences related to style or story or (god forbid) character “likability,” or anything of that sort.

I’ve found it useful to approach it this way:

  • What do I (the fresh reader) see on the page? How do I think this novel is operating, what does it seem to want to be, how is it achieving its aims? What are the specific elements of its style and presentation, and where do those elements succeed? I particularly like to think about voice, point of view, time, and structure—how are they working together (or not) to serve the story?
  • What do I (the fresh reader) want to know that is currently unclear or undeveloped? Where are the boggy or confusing parts? What questions and observations do I have about specific elements that might help the writer strengthen the work?

Rather than noting the trees, I will be thinking about your novel as a forest. Specifically:

  • Is there a discernible path?
  • How (and when) is the narrator guiding us through?
  • What shape is the tree line?
  • What sort of shadows does it cast?
  • Where did that mysterious cabin come from and who lives there?
  • What is the emotion in this quiet, almost unnoticed clearing?
  • Are those meandering dead end trails fascinating or frustrating?

Novel writing is like wrestling a shaggy beast (which lives in the aforementioned forest) made of mist and springcoils and memories. That said, I think it’s really fun to do and think about. I look forward to reading your work.