Having recently finished a story I started at Clarion West, all sorts of strange emotions are toying with me. It’s been nearly a year since we had to say goodbye to one another and return to the mundane realities of post-workshop life. This makes me want to work harder, write more stories, and share them with friends. There’s nothing so devastating as writing six stories in six weeks and then finding you’ve written almost nothing substantial in the year since. But ideas are nice, and I do have those. Since I’ve got about a million commitments to fulfill, I also started reading A Song of Ice and Fire, so I imagine I’ll probably talk a bit about those books in the coming weeks.
Anyhow, here are some of my notes from the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, uncensored and completely out-of-context:
- money → church → belief?
- confession → catharsis → belief
Delany: “Death to ‘waft’!” (“Kill it!”)
- “fantastika”: John Clute’s term for the literature of the fantastic
- most endings suck/are problematic
- write everything; experiment; “fail better”
“ishq” – love so much you become the object of your affection.
“Every author needs all the help they can get.”
“What we are doing is making narrative sense out of these stilts we walk upon.”
In America, suburbs are the default setting.
“We treat the past as nonexistent.”
“Any piece of fiction, in a sense, is a cover.”
A book does not equal an author’s intention.
“Faith in the book”
Obsession with endgame
- what one thing/shift/tech changes everything?
“Tragedy is the revelation of the tragic flaw.”
pressing on your bruises
(“The abyss opens . . .”)
moving forward a moment — of stillness
Reflections in the water as metamorphosis
Dragonball Z: “If one shapeshifting demon could bring about the end of the world, what might the whole of the human race be capable of?”
Kurosawa: Camera pulls away while subject falls into focus . . .
“In Iceland the gateway into Hell is a tourist attraction.”
* Next Thursday Evening: Neil Gaiman has a surprise
Google the physics and understand it first
- “A fictional architechture that only manages not to mention Harlan Ellison . . .”
“70 percent of a story’s impact comes from its last line.”
If you write a literal sentence within a fantastic frame, you may lose control — language is a dangerous creature.
“SHIT, SHIT, SHIT.” — LIZ’S 2ND MANTRA
* 17 Copies *
“Fantastika” can use pop culture or SF lit as a jumping-off point for enriching theme.
“Always leave a party just before you want to.”
- tech speak
- narrative drive
- sensory description
- Why go to Cairo?
- lack of authority/sense of place
- strange places
. . . WRITE. A. GOOD. FUCKING. BOOK.
- but don’t rush!
NO PROLOGUE, PROBABLY
- do not offer “exclusive submission” — “it’s bullshit”
- Don’t burn bridges
- 15% local, 20% foreign, 15% film
- have an “out”; be able to fire
- Keep your day job
- Tie your ambitions to what you can control
- Persistence; fiction as religion
- Danger of amition
- (Happens by accident) — “lottery”
- scaffold your literary life w/ some other work
- it’s SLOW
- took a couple years to assimilate & understand the Clarion experience
- blogging is a genre; you put out second-rate work
- Process: begin with 5 pages of notes & ideas (handwritten); first draft; first bit of research; then polish to a final draft
- one thing at a time *
- Career trajectory has “been set” for literary SF;
- be part of a “team” (publisher), but try and get with a good team.
write down good ideas
- Don’t be a premadonna; just write
- Don’t outline a novel; just collect scenes, ideas, and research notes
- Cap off the revision process when it feels like 95% of perfection
the “Reality Effect” — details . . .
Despite a burnout, despite fears or bumps, keep working. Period.
and “find” the story – free yourself from the shackles of perfection!
Viewpoint of the villain! *
“One thing happens.”
- “completes the story” (Lily)
- Kill your darlings
- Listen to people!
- “What makes a Stranger a Stranger?”
- Tri – Lo – gy (beginning/middle/end)
- put together a life that lets you do the writing
- “different” work
- ideally, be a writer, but also be a:
* “the monsters you conjured . . . ?”
Let it be alien the first time.
- YOKO ONO ESSAY’S [sic] ON ART?
- “Plotty ones, I find, are hardest.”
- “What I mostly do is try to imagine them.”
- “I doodle little pictures of them.”
- “I like to know what they talk like.”
“I try to give people funny hats.”
PAGE 1 — PANEL 1
(All the information that is in your head. We are looking at a room. 18 students are seated around a table. . . .)
How long do I have to put up with this shit?
And then, next panel.
- Forces you to go back.
Adam West/Shatner Voice: In TV you learn your lines, but nobody else’s. It was a strategy to upstage the secondary actors. “I do believe in talent, but I believe in hard work more.”
Roger Zelazny — “A master of the craft.”
- feel the weight of glorious backstory
- write the last chapter of a novel I haven’t written.
“Do that thing that you’re doing, but do it better.”
YouTube as dialogue coach?
* Write The End
- What’s gonna happen next?
- Nick’s neologism: “Starchild-Positive”
- genre/aesthetic + premise or existing story/myth + plot of shitty old film = idea?
Never lose sight of the theme, the larger narrative journey or arc
“As writers, because we’re very clever, one of the things we tend to do is use stories as clever ways to hide what we believe.”
All of the big steps forward . . .
Stop simply “spewing”
(Two lines of development that intertwine and affect each other.)
Get to the weird stuff; you lay any bullshit on the reader in the first sentence, and they’ll buy it. . . .
“It’s harder, now, to imagine the past than it is to imagine the future.” (via Joe)
- Alex James Kane?
- Write a folktale or fable set in 1970s IL or earlier
- trying to get home, deep dark wood?
- the devil?
- road trip across Illinois
GVGelder: wants to publish more good science fiction!
* “I love you.” — needs to die.
Ted: . . . You were made and set here to give voice to your own astonishment.
There aren’t really any new ideas; your take on that topic will be different than anyone else who has written on that topic before.
- I think [formulas] are often deadly.
- I’m not advocating being weird for the sake of being weird . . .
- Genre means being in dialogue with other works.
- Over time you will probably gain more confidence in yourself,
. . . it probably behooves you to find out about it.
Google maps(?). historical details. all this stuff is available now on the internet. [sic]
“It’s got to hold a reader . . .”
“A successful piece of science fiction is one that I like.”
Thinking about what you’re doing a little bit doesn’t usually hurt the story.
How much rent does a character pay?
“Why is it that when you condense a sentence enough, you end up with a line of poetry?”
- fir(?) [sic]
- “fairy-crazy” old lady line
- fragment sentences
- Undersea Search
- * imagine famous, gifted writers reading your manuscript
9. Don’t be a jackass.
Be fast. Be good. Be friendly.
Watch what people like Myke Cole, Toby Buckell, Chuck Wendig, and Ken Liu are doing. . . .
- Django uses Word; Cat uses Scrivener
“Nootropic” – does it come together?