Kansas stories have been sent in!

June 13, 2011

So, yesterday afternoon I emailed off three stories to the other student writers for the CSSF workshop in Kansas. It was fun and a little giddy stuff, finishing my rewrite of Harry and Mars, and going over my critique tracking spreadsheets for both Landing and Harry.

The third story, ‘Survey’, on the other hand, I just dug up the most recent draft from last September, checked to make sure that the formatting looked good, and sent it off. It’ll be interesting to see if anybody notices a different between that story and the ones that I’ve put more work into revising recently.

This evening, I booked a town car service to take me from the Kansas City airport to the University in Lawrence. I’m flying in fairly late in the afternoon, none of the shuttle schedules look like a good fit, and I don’t want to have to wait around the airport, so I’ll be making the trip in affluent style. Woot!

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Doing another big rewrite

June 3, 2011

I want to rewrite ‘Harry and Mars’ by June 14th, so that I can incorporate most of the notes I got from critters.org before submitting it for the Kansas workshop. (I’m also planning to do a few more revisions to ‘The Landing’ in the same timeframe.)

Unfortunately, it looks like most of the opinions I got from critters.org are suggesting that the story has some good potential, but some serious issues. When I pull up the appropriate tab of my ‘tracking spreadsheet’, some of the first entries for Harry and Mars include:

  • Flesh out the characterization of all characters (except Harry)
  • Explain the roots and the progressions of the phobia better. The reader has to believe in it!
  • Plot relies on unlikely personal issues.
  • ‘Show, don’t tell’ about Harry in particular
  • Write with better style
  • Explore the theme of hopelessness more?
  • The ending is pointless

Now, to be fair, I sorted the list for items that I felt would require a lot of work to get these ones to the top, but still, there weren’t a lot of ‘quick wins’ and easy changes that I thought would improve the story much.

Like the title character in the story, I do feel a bit as if I’m on the edge of giving into despair and fear. I’ve already done a fairly substantial rewrite on my first draft, and despite the potential that I and other people have seen, I’m not entirely sure if there’s a great story in here that I can tell, or that I really want to tell. Still, I haven’t given up, and I’m going to give it one more try in the next two weeks. Going over all the points from that list, I’ve actually just had an interesting idea for reworking the story – getting rid of Charlie as the POV character, beginning the story with Harry attempting suicide and being stopped, and having three supporting characters each interview her to try and find out why she did it – the doctor, the captain, and Charlie, the best friend.

As tempting as it was to work in the ‘phobia of Phobos’ bit, I think that that was leading me astray too. My first draft wasn’t about a phobia, but about a crewmember on a space flight giving into depression and despair in the midst of a crisis, and I think that may be the better way to go after all. The question of why she suffered from that depression, and how no-one had spotted it earlier, can be the central question that I explore.

Wish me luck!

 


May goals update! Much accomplished!

May 31, 2011

So, checking in on my list of creative to-do items for May, I feel like I’ve really done very well:

  • Finished all three fanfic chapters I wanted to write. The new installment of “Un-brotherly love’ is a little shorter than I had planned, but it came to a good chapter break point.
  • I added four titles to my master fanfic tracker spreadsheet, which was enough to figure out that it wasn’t all that hard.
  • I submitted four stories for magazine publication!
  • I’ve finished reading and critiquing a novel manuscript from critters.org
  • I’ve visited a lot of cool blogs.
  • I had a great time with the Storywonk workshop, and posted all of the ‘homework assignments’ on the private forum.
  • I’ve completed tracking spreadsheets for all of the critters comments I got for ‘The Landing’ and ‘Harry and Mars’

This, in addition to other cool but unplanned stuff like getting into the CSSF workshop, and getting the air conditioner repaired.

I’ve started on the list of June goals to accomplish, as follows:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »

Critique tracking via spreadsheet

May 15, 2011

Well, the new draft of “The Landing” has been finalized, and sent off both to Chris McKitterick at the CSSF in Kansas, but also to Lightspeed magazine.

I was more than a little daunted by the prospect of going through the seventeen different critiques I received on the story from critters.org, ranging from one short paragraph all the way up to one critique approximately three-quarters the word count of the submitted story! I copied them all from my gmail into a single text file on Thursday night, and tried to go over some of them Friday night at Runnymede, but didn’t really get that far.

So, yesterday night, I finally got systematic. I set up an Excel spreadsheet file, starting one tab with a list of the different critiques, including the origin email, the starting and ending position in my text file, and working out how long each critique was in lines. This was then sorted in ascending order of length, so that I could start with the shorter critiques and work up progressively through longer and longer ones.

(I formatted the email addresses in white on a white background, to preserve the anonymity of critters.)

Read the rest of this entry »


Don’t fight the rule

January 13, 2011

I went back to the New writing workshop last night – I had a good time and got some good notes on the first three pages of “The Landing”, as well as listening to some funky poems and stories and telling the other writers what I thought about them.

It was definitely a different experience than the first time I went, in September. I came prepared for some ‘intensely constructive criticism’, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But there was something else that I was reacting too differently.

The workshop co-ordinator made a point of spelling out ‘his rule’ for these workshops – the author hands out the copies, gives a little explanation if he (or she) feels inclined to, reads… AND THEN SHUTS UP. The rest of the group are then free to respond in any way they feel moved, to get into a discussion among themselves, but they are not supposed to ask the author questions. And the author is not supposed to reply to their feedback, beyond the level of grunts or pleasantries perhaps.

I do remember something being said along these lines back in September, but not as clearly – and I definitely didn’t follow the rule back then. That was a lot of the problem, I see now – I started to get defensive about my story, which probably got some of the other participants more insistent on making their points.

This isn’t the only way to run a critiquing circle, of course. The Chester’s group has a format where the people who wrote the piece are welcome into the discussion, and questions are often asked of them, and that works quite well for the group there by and large. But the rule for the new workshop probably encourages more indepth criticism, as opposed to promoting encouragement of authors.

I’ll definitely be going back to James street north for the New Workshop again this winter. And – I’m sorry for arguing back last time, guys.


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