Kansas! Day Six

Sorry for the lack of updates. Between spotty internet and the constant game of catchup with reading stuff to critique and taking naps to beat down exhaustion. I’d been trying to only do blog updates at night, but that doesn’t work so well.

By yesterday we got through the first two rounds of critiques, so I’ve been on the hot seat twice now. “It’s All Fun and Games” and “Thus Have I Heard” have been pretty thoroughly raked over the coals. It’s a little frustrating, since most of the workshoppers haven’t caught the pop culture or mythology that I’ve been trying to tap into. But in the same vein, if no one gets it and it doesn’t stand up well on its own merits… One of the repeated phrases here has been, “In the argument between the writer and the reader, the reader will always win.”

The other thing I find myself rebelling against is the line between going off the map in terms of creativity and writing to more of a conventional structure. But it’s been sinking in for me that if I want to be able to sell my writing, as opposed to just exploring my creative process, there’s a level of selling myself in a digestible format. I can afford to be weird and gonzo when I’ve established myself more.

I feel like I’ve learned a ridiculous amount, and we’re not even through the first week. I don’t necessarily know how to apply everything I’ve learned, but it’s given me new tools to look at my work through.

Kij’s novel workshop seems to be working much harder than the short story workshop. Aside from some of us playing catch up with the reading, the only homework the short story group has gotten was yesterday when we were given instructions for re-writing an opening scene. The novel workshoppers, on the other hand, have been busting their asses through assignment after assignment. Some of them have looked distinctly haggard shuffling through the dorm.

Overall I feel like I’ve been forming strong friendships with my fellow workshoppers, both my own group and the other group. I’ve been making a point to go on the big group lunches and dinners, so I’ve gotten to spend a lot of social time with people. There’s only one person I’ve gotten a bad vibe off of, and I don’t know what the source of that is. Otherwise, I’ve met a bunch of awesome people. I’m going to be a bit sad to have this all end, but I imagine my girlfriend would kill me if I tried to stay away at a workshop year round.

For those who care, these are the places around Lawrence that we’ve had dinner at:

  • Tuesday: Free State Brewing Company: Pretty solid brew pub.
  • Wednesday: Zen Zero: Nice Thai place. They had a special on chilled sake. Yum!
  • Thursday: India Palace: Pretty solid Indian fare, very reminiscent of the good ol’ days of Cedars in Seattle.

12 thoughts on “Kansas! Day Six

  1. scarywhitegirl

    Yes. You may not stay in Kansas year round. Unless I move to KC. And really, I melt in the humidity. It’s a true fact. That’s why I moved to Seattle. :)

  2. torreybird

    So glad to hear it’s going well, if challenging, to shape up into that wildly commercially successful writer we all know you can be. :-) Go! Write! Awesome.

  3. admin Post author

    Oh, I’m melting out here myself. The worst was the day before yesterday when I tried walking a mile to the local grocery store and then back again. My face was purple by the time I got back. Purple! I was positively violet, Violet!

    I just really like the creative atmosphere.

  4. rose_lemberg

    going off the map in terms of creativity and writing to more of a conventional structure

    Jim Gunn knows what he is talking about – conventional structure sells. However, I firmly believe there is more than one way to write a story. I wonder though if there there can be more than one way to teach how to write a story in 10 days of classes. Clarkesworld publishes some pretty wild, non-traditional stories that not only work but win prizes.

    But I’ve been trying to figure out why I sold the stories I sold and didn’t sell the stories I didn’t sell, and Gunn’s comments were spot on. My pro-published stories were more accessible and the beginnings matched the ends. Go figure.

  5. Anonymous

    Writing Your Fingers Off

    Glad to hear that the workshop is worth it, even if it is turning your world on its ear. Gives me hope for attending some in the future.


  6. vretallin

    I want to do the novel writing workshop next year and hearing that I can expect to be haggard and bogged tells me it will be an intense experience. Eeep.

  7. admin Post author

    Yeah. The difference in vibe between the two workshops is dramatic. I only see my other short story workshoppers periodically, whereas I always see the novel workshoppers working away at stuff or bouncing ideas off of each other.

  8. vretallin

    I suppose the longer novel format will lend itself to a more intense experience. There is a lot more to cover in those two weeks than with the short stories. It’s a theory anyway.

  9. admin Post author

    You don’t bring a full novel. You bring an outline and an excerpt of 15-30 pages (which is about 3300-7000 words if you use Standard Manuscript Format).

    Everyone provides their outlines and opening excerpts in advance of the workshop so part of the first week is spent in a group discussion of the plot. Without exception, I think everyone has had their outlines and opening chapters demolished. Thursday they had to re-write their opening scene without using exposition. This weekend they needed to provide revised outlines.

    If they were doing the full novels, this could take months.

  10. vretallin

    Without exception, I think everyone has had their outlines and opening chapters demolished.

    That’s absolutely what I would expect and what I hear about a lot of workshops held by the high level writers, editors, and agents.

    Sounds like an excellent and tasking exercise to rewrite without exposition. Pull them out of the reliance on overwhelming backstory that doesn’t help pull the reader into an active story.

    Yeah it would take months to do the full novel. I didn’t think about that. LOL. the excerpt and outline is enough. So I am surprised then the story workshop doesn’t have similar requirements and exercises to rewrite the story in full. Or do you?

  11. admin Post author

    The short story group has had similar, but it doesn’t seem to have impacted most of the attendees. Because even if the amount of writing is comparable, the amount of thought that goes into it seems like much more. The outline for the novel just seems to be much more involved. The scale of plot and characters is much bigger conceptually.

    Now, my perception may be skewed. I see the novel workshoppers out and about all the time. They are rearranging sticky notes on giant sheets of butcher paper, discussing their plots and trying to patch up plot holes, etc, etc. The short story workshoppers appear for meals, but they haven’t been as social outside of those. We don’t discuss our stories much outside of the critiquing session. I’ve cornered some people and asked for input on stuff, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

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