Last night was Readings in Contemporary Fiction. This is my favorite grad school class, because we get to read new(ish) books and then talk about them as writers. Our professor* treats us like we're smart people who are thoughtful about reading and writing, and it's kind of the idyll of grad school that I'd imagined.
One thing we have to do for the class is take careful notes about the structure of what we're reading and, for three books, write really short papers about that structure and how we might apply it to our own writing. I had no idea how hard this would be. I find myself thinking about theme and character and language when I'm supposed to be outlining flashbacks and plot and pacing. My trouble is I fall in love with this story thing. Is it that unpacking structure feels like pulling back the curtain and seeing that Oz is just a dumpy guy with a big machine? I don't think I'm afraid to figure out how things work, but I found it really hard to write 6 compelling pages about structure (6 pages! that's nothing!).
Maybe you could have the same structure for two completely different books and end up with one being wonderful and the other simply garbage. Maybe that's my problem.
Eh, whatever. Gotta get over it. Another paper is due next week. And anyway, I love the class to pieces. It really makes grad school worthwhile.
* The professor is novelist Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter.