Archive for October 12th, 2012

Viable Paradise: Day 3


Wednesday is designed as a half-day for a number of reasons. First, the obvious – we had stories to write for Thursday. Just as obvious, it’s a good time to allow for a breather, so we, as students, have a chance to process some of what we’ve been getting.

Workshops in the morning (the last round), lecture, then break at noon to call it a day.

This was the day for my story to be workshopped, I had Elizabeth Bear and Patrick Nielsen Hayden as the faculty. I made a comment to my group after we finished that being critiqued on a Wednesday, while good, is not as immediate of an impact as if it had been Monday, having already had the two one-on-ones (which, in my story’s case, meant some things I had been told on Monday were already being considered by the time the group got to me on Wednesday to tell me very similar items). Understand, I appreciate their feedback on what they were given, but after my Monday one-on-one I was already (mentally) working on how to redraft/restructure the story. Their feedback drove the point home that the story would need to be overhauled significantly.

Not a bad thing. However, Bear said earlier in the week that most of the goal behind the workshop isn’t to fix the one story, it’s to adjust the thinking to apply skills to future stories. [It’s just fixing this one becomes a side benefit, if it can work… my thoughts.]

The lecture of the day was from Elizabeth Bear on the subject of Point of View. The quick version: it fixes everything. [Longer version, attend for yourself.]

A fair gaggle of us walked into town with Steve Gould where we ate at Linda Jean’s PlaceĀ for lunch. Afterwards, Steve took us on a small walking tour of a Methodist Revival Camp (one street over from where the restaurant was), before we walked back to the Inn for some writing.

For the record: I started and restarted about three ideas before taking a short nap to let things stew. Naps, like POV, can often fix things. At least, it helped me rethink how I wanted to proceed.

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Viable Paradise: Day 2 (amendment)

One of the things that I realize that I left out of my previous “Day 2” post was a mention about my second one-on-one session… this one with Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Working with her was a much different experience from working with Macdonald, and here’s why.

As mentioned before, Macdonald focused on the story itself, and plotting. In my time with Teresa, she did what I later heard referred to as her “parlor trick” – line/copy editing the manuscript. In the span of about forty-five minutes, with conversation, we went through about eight pages with a focus on trimming the word count and tightening up the prose.

As was later explained, the idea is more for us to see that it’s not a difficult process (as long as we can get out of our way), but to also see how a few changes can make the work that much tighter.

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Viable Paradise: Day 2


Structurally very similar to Day 1. Workshop stories. Lecture. Lunch. Lecture. Collegium. One-on-ones. Dinner.

The morning lecture came from Debra Doyle, with the subtitle “Your sentence goes clunk, and other problems.” The focus being, in fact, constructing stories at the sentence level – word choice, presentation of information [how the sentences are structured]. Story is important, but how can the writer make sure the story comes through as clearly as possible?

Sherwood Smith flipped to the opposite end of the spectrum for the afternoon, discussing techniques for those that may be more visually oriented – when it’s all about capturing the images that we see in the mental movie as we write, and how to capture and work there.

Elizabeth Bear talked about story/plot formulas… “how to cook a workable plot every time.”

Yes, I am generalizing… the topics are great, but they are really things that are best experienced in person, since it’s not just the information being presented, but the conversations surrounding them that really forms the takeaway from this sort of experience. [Besides, the lectures could be completely different from what you may experience, should you attend yourself.]

It was at night though, after dinner, that things got… interesting.

That was when we had “Beer with Billy.”

In other words, the cadre had selected a work of Shakespeare prior to the workshop and prepared reading copies for everyone [this year was Richard the Second, but the play was not revealed to the students until the scripts were handed out]. Alcohol was available for those that desired to partake (as was cider or plenty of soda or water). And we read Shakespeare. Aloud.

The way the reading works is that everyone sits in a circle and someone ends up starting the play – either by volunteering or being thrown under the bus – and with each new speaking part that comes on, the next person in the circle takes that part. They then maintain that character for the duration of the entire Act. At the end of the Act, the next person in the circle becomes the first person, and the process repeats. (So, we had 24 students, and eight faculty all doing the reading. Act 1 had about ten characters. The 11th person in the circle became character # 1 in Act 2.)

And yes, we read the whole thing.

Afterwards, this put us close to 10p, it was back to our rooms for more critiquing (for Wednesday), or writing (for Thursday), or doing whatever we felt like needed to be done – passing out, perhaps, from information overload.

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