Leaving Lawrence, Kansas

July 10, 2011

I’m leaving Lawrence, Kansas, at the age of thirty-five.
To chase down my own notion of the writer’s life.
With my netbook, my convention shirts, and Mom’s old suitcase bags.
If anybody can make it, then maybe I can too…

(With apologies to Sarah Buxton and Bob di Pero for “American Daughters.”)

I leave for the airport late this morning. It’s going to be weird leaving the workshop crowd behind and returning to everyday life. I’ve learned some great things here:

  • It’s not that hard to find good food at Mrs E’s cafeteria.
  • It takes a lot of work to come up with a good critique.
  • It can take even longer to figure out what to do with a critique of your own writing.
  • The main character needs to be proactive and overcome his own obstacles.
  • Be very careful about how much information you dump on the reader and where.
  • As Kathy put it, “Resist the urge to explain” what you’ve just described. (She had a tendency to hand our manuscripts back with just R U E marked on them where we were doing this.)
  • Don’t give the editor an excuse to say ‘no’ to your story at any point, especially at the beginning.
  • Keep working on every word, every sentence, every scene, every character. They all need to support the completed story.
  • A good sentence is one that makes you want to read the next one.
  • If you can get an editor to read all the way to the end of your story, you’ve got a good shot at an acceptance.
  • Every sentence ought to be worth reading. You shouldn’t get by with a sloppy sentence – though occasionally the rest of the story can carry it.
I’ll have more to say about what I learned here once I’m back in Ontario, I assume. That’s all for now!

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