Logic and the Unconscious: How to Write Like a Maniac, Then Like an Engineer

Use the unconscious mind to generate fiction. An intuitive approach involving the utilization of a more urgent, language and image-driven process to create text, which you will then edit with precision.

Your Instructor: Blake Butler (author of "There Is No Year" and Founding Editor of HTMLGIANT)

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: March 15, 2018 - April 5, 2018

Enrollment: 16

Price: $300

Class Description

Looking to push the boundaries of what fiction can do?

Experimental wunderkind Blake Butler is here to help. Not only has he published some of the most uncompromising fiction of the new millennium, he's done so through both independent and Big Four publishers.

And as the editor of literary blog HTMLGIANT his keen eye has given many ambitious young writers a well-deserved platform.

If you are tired of the same old same old, and want your writing to stand out from the pack, this course will help you explore methods and issues pertinent to using the unconscious mind to generate unique fiction.

Over three weeks we will discuss ways to open up an intuitive approach to writing that involves the utilization of a more urgent, language and image-driven process to create new text, focusing on generating a complete object in a short time. We will then look at how to approach editing a raw document, including looking for ways to expand on what is there, and how to cut away the fat to find the true heart of what the work wants. Lastly, we will discuss how to apply this approach to writing a longer work, such as a novel.

You will leave this class with new techniques to approach writing and editing in the spirit of expanding what fiction can do through you. Shed your inhibitions and make your mark.

What This Class Covers

Week 1: Generation

Lecture: In the first week, we will discuss principles of writing with momentum, aimed at producing a text in a short period with attention to energy, sound, image, and focus. We will discuss techniques and approaches to writing from the unconscious using images and words as triggers, and how to streamline your ideas on the fly using logic and other forms of channeling your voice.

Ideas addressed:

  • Securing the mindstate (attending to what you surround yourself with)
  • Modular approach (learning where to stop and insert a pause, use white space)
  • Finding the groove and staying there but not forcing it
  • Using titles or frames/ideas to direct the narrative without necessarily intentionally mapping it out or directing the language itself (i.e.: Ball, Burroughs)
  • Using another text or work of art as a frame (Barthelme’s use of Ashbery)
  • Logic vs intuition
  • Visual momentum
  • Writing without knowing what you mean exactly
  • How to come back to it later and reconnect (using the downtime of the brain to let things figure themselves out, or to move on and allow a ‘problem’ to manifest itself into the work)
  • “Questions don’t have to be answered, in fact sometimes it is better if they do not.”

Assignment: Students will be asked to generate an original short or medium-length text, written in a specifically framed sitting or series of sittings, to be potentially revised and/or expanded upon in the following week(s).

Week 2: Revision

Lecture: In the second week, we will take the draft created in the first week and revise it, using the approach of writer-as-reader, looking for ways to improve on the initial text’s flow. We will discuss revision techniques and ways to find missed opportunities and places to expand, as well as recognizing what not to interrupt about the original tone of the work.

Ideas addressed:

  • Editing as a ‘reader’ of your own work
  • Allowing unusual phrasings to stay whether they make perfect sense or not
  • When not to edit (condensing characters, removing useless plot lines, searching out missed opportunities, etc)
  • Dealing with sections that don’t work (revise or delete?)
  • Accepting that deletion can be the best chance to improve, allow a new space or gap of logic that wasn’t on the page to feel ‘ghostly'
  • Looking for connections in the work that you can reinforce (recurring ideas, things that cohere naturally)
  • Use of film and music
  • Page manipulation / sequencing and resequencing

 Assignment: Students will revisit their text from Week 1 and seek to revise and/or expand upon it (though you will also have the option to start from scratch and then move into revision with a new draft).

Week 3: Expansion

Lecture: In the third week, we will look toward applying the ideas addressed in the prior weeks’ exercises to a longer project. We will discuss topics pertaining to how to write the first draft of a novel in the spirit of the unconscious-framework outlined previously, including how to extend your vision across a full scale work, as well as ways to reinforce your vision and intent over time.

Ideas addressed:

  • When (set time frame for the initial germination of the book (you can adjust later) and using that timing frame for a momentum setter for the pace of the plot (or not) of your book)
  • What (a framing idea or single sentence to get you started)
  • Methods of momentum during the writing process over the long haul
  • How (how to secure your time, including practical life consideration, and mental focus)
  • Inspiration during (what you will do with the time around writing)

Assignment: Students may choose to continue forward with the text generated in previous weeks, or start a plan to apply the ideas learned to a new text, with the intent in mind to create something larger from it, such as a novel, novella, or hybrid work.

Goals Of This Class

  • Explore methods of utilizing the unconscious mind to aid in the writing of quick first drafts
  • Learn how to edit that first draft with precision without losing what makes it special
  • Apply what you've learned to expand upon your idea, with an eye towards turning it into a novel.
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