Clarion Journal, 2003

Sunday, July 06, 2003
Yay! Baseball Fiction!

yay! alien baseball teams! love this story! smoochies to ellen! i forgive her for the morrow story! run, don't walk to read
Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Scott Westerfield.

Oh, and maybe you should go read Frankenstein's Daughter by the divine Maureen McHugh. (which is why I went there in the first place, to look up the link to her story - ah serendipity.)

(and yay baseball fiction!)

(why isn't there more of it?)

(no, I am not a fanatic, why do you ask?)

(ok, just a little, but I consider it a hobby, and therefore, completely healthy)

(and why are you not reading the fabulous story, silly peoples?)

(oh, but stop with the first ending, because the second is a royal cheat and totally sucks)

(ok, i wrote this blog in a rash of enthusiasm before the story ended, and now it's too late to take it back, but did i mention the ending sucks)

posted by chance 8:08 PM
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Monday, July 07, 2003
I had my meeting with Scott yesterday. I'm afraid that we have such different writing styles that I didn't really get very much out of it. He kept telling me that I ought to examine my scenarios and try to figure out who would be the best person's pov to tell them from.

Of course I start from a character and try to find the right story to tell ....

He asked me if I had thought of turning "The Good Cop" into a novel, and I said probably not. He also said he wasn't sure about it being told from more than one point of view (of course, I told him it is told from one point of view - the couple that is Mary and Sully.)

He did give me one piece of advice that has really been sticking with me, and that's to not be in such a hurry to write. Not to be so fascinated by the new shiny idea that you feel you have to run off and try to tell the story right away without knowing what kind of story you are trying to tell, what theme you are working with, what emotion you are trying to evoke in the reader.

And not that I believe that I think you need to know all that stuff before you start writing, or even necessarily any of it. But maybe I ought to try thinking a bit more before starting.

So, in celebration of this new thought, I got a new story idea, which I am going to do nothing but think about today, and play with how I might write it.

So. We shall see. I've got the beginning and the ending, I think, and the basic arc. What I'm not quite sure of yet is why the character changes, what sets it off.

hrm hrm hrmity hrm.

(that's my thinking engine - you wish you had one too)

posted by chance 7:43 PM
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Tuesday, July 08, 2003
I have decided that I am mad at ellen again. The ending for the baseball story was just awful and he pulled it right from his ass. "The Man Who Counts" and "Frankenstein's Daughter" do not make up for this. *pout pout pout*

In other news.

Today was our first day of the Jim-Maureen-Scott tagteam. I think we all knew critiques were going to be different when Jim announced that all the titles for today sucked. Maureen and Jim give some really awesome critiques and they are much more teacherly than our other instructors -- perhaps they wait until we are worn down to a nub before they start plying us with all kinds of information.

Did a little thinking about the new story yesterday, I think I have the arc as I see it pretty well laid out. I alo finally figured out the climactic scene for the other story I've been working on - it may be too obvious, I'm not sure, but what the hell.

I had a couple of shrink in my chair moments yesterday. When we were doing the critiques of Will's story, I started to ditto Doug, and then corrected myself saying "or maybe I was just thinking about this while Doug was talking" eep! what I meant to say was that something Doug said probably sparked a new line of critique in my head.

Then Maureen was talking about how Will's story was a parable, but that the theme of it doesn't make us uncomfortable, and it tells us something we already know, so as a parable it can't be truly effective. When she said that I was like eeek! I'm writing a story with an anti racism theme . yeah, racism is bad. who didn't know that? eep! (perhaps they will all think I didn't know that - I was joking with matt last night that I'll need to put a ps after the end - ps not a racist.

Then Jim was talking about how you really shouldn't write short stories from more than one POV and he was sitting next to me at the time, and all I could think was "gee, I've turned in one, two, three ... how many stories from more than one POV?" oops. well, I openly defy the one POV rule. nyah nyah nyah!

ok, maybe not. just that I don't actually agree with sticking to one POV if you have a good reason not to. And I think I did.

Scott gave a little talk today and told us the 12 most common reasons stories get rejected (well, stories that are generally competent.) But you will have to wait for later to hear about that.

posted by chance 8:06 AM
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An exciting day around the Clarion neighborhood today. Scott offered up a story that he had written for critique - got to admire that - the instructor offering his lamb to the slaughter before possibly vengeful students. *grins* Funny how we never outgrow the need for feedback. He took all comments with grace - he's a total professional through and through.

I agree with Maureen that he could probably sell the story as is, but there's always room for improvement. It was a hard story to like because the characters were post-human, and as such I felt really distant from them. But it was a story that grew on me the more I thought about it. Jim offered up a fix for the end that will get rid of most people's objections to the ending.

Jim is the fabulous story doctor, as Maureen likes to call him. And he is. One of the most frustrating things about critiques in general is that it's much easier to point out problems with stories than it is to offer solutions to them, especially solutions that jibe with the author's vision of where the story should go. Jim is great at providing fixes that really work with what the author wanted to do.

So I promised the 12 most common story flaws from yesterday - here they are -

1. beginning a story too early
2. beginning a story too late
3. erratic voice - the author doesn't seem in control of the story
4. plot and character are unbalanced
5. lack of focus - you have no idea what the story is really about, so you don't know what details to include
6. so what? - no cumulative meaning
7. indadequate extrapolation - one of my personal favorites, if you change something and don't think about all the possibilities, then your future isn't believable
8. Subtext unrelated to the surface
9 trivial
10 poor foreshadowing - too little or too much
11 lumpy details
12 no closure

posted by chance 7:52 PM
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Wednesday, July 09, 2003

posted by chance 8:13 AM
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Article up at about clarion losing it's funding.

go team! let's rattle them cages!

posted by chance 12:14 PM
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Maureen did a fun talk on POV yesterday. She had us write stuff in 1st person, 1st preson retrospective, and then in a third person style of someone else. (She said we could even do Steph, so I said "Walter was an INTJ .... - ok that's funny to people in the workshop). I really wanted to my someone else as Richard Nixon, because it would be fun to mention he (walter, who was cold, our paragraph subject) was on Nixon's enemies list. Alas, I have no clue what Nixon's style really is.

Maureen told us for her latest book that for a while she was writing each page three times, first in 1st person, then in st person retrospective and then into 3rd, just to get the right voice. woof. that's a lot of work.

posted by chance 12:23 PM
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Woot! wrote an entire story yesterday - 4200 words worth. It's still a little short. Needs more setting and more about the characters' background. I followed scott's advice and tried to really think about the story before I wrote it. I even went so far as to outline it - 3 full pages worth and to draw a little story arc diagram.

And you know what? I hate it. Seems like the most boring and trivial story ever. Bleh.

But I don't think anyone else has a story for the box, so in it goes. Which will just give me more time to work on my banal and obvious story on racism. go team!

I have to admit at this point in clarion I feel like I am writing just to be writing - just because I want feedback on stories, not because I have an overwhelming desire to write the stories I'm submitting, and I think it relly shows in this latest one.

Bah! Humbug! ok, whine time over.

Yay for Monkeys

Hannah sent me monkeys today Is there any day that doesn't get better with the addition of monkeys?

posted by chance 5:01 PM
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Thursday, July 10, 2003
Had the critique of my latest story today - it went pretty well. Most people felt unsatisfied with the ending, but weren't sure why. Sean gave some great suggestions on how to fix that. On the upside, Jim and Maureen loved one particular creepy scene, Jim even said he thought I might be able to sell the story on the basis of that alone. On the other hand, Maureen said my dialogue was awful, and earning me a blue line of death before the good scene (don't think I got a blue line of death from jim). Then she read some outloud, and I had to wince.

So, lots of good advice, and as a group our class is just so much stronger as critiquers, and I really felt that today. I'm also pretty excited to work on this story after clarion - it'll probably be first out the door, if I even wait until i get back.

So this was the story I wrote from the tropes Nalo gave us the second week here - mine was "The Mechanical Man" well, this just features mechanical hands, but whatever, it still counts as far as I am concerned.

Now on to the monkey monkey story. yay for monkeys! (well after crits and the reading I need to run to in like 3 seconds)

posted by chance 6:44 PM
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Just got back from the last reading. *sigh* that's the first of the lasts. Only one more week to go.

Jim read a really creepy second person story that came out in ROF a couple months ago (alas i forget the title) and Maureen read one tentatively called "Oversight" that she had workshopped at Sycamore Hill. Both were really nice stuff.

I overslept and missed dinner (though they went for mexican so I am not too too sad at missing it) I am also really starting to feel the sleep deficit. Even with naps every day I feel perpetually tired. Though I am trying to eat better - I went and picked up food from Meijer over the weekend and have been trying to avoid the cafeteria food mostly. Though this means I have been missing lunches with the gang, so maybe next week I'll come and just sit with folk.

posted by chance 8:56 PM
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Friday, July 11, 2003
So the monkey story is finished. Well, mostly. It's a silly bit of nonsense and if not enough people turn in stories, well, into the box it goes. Maybe it will shake somebody out of their writing depression - there's a lot of that going on. This is no masterpiece, but I think there are a couple of funny lines (more for me and Matt) and it was fun to write - I had a really good time putting words on the page. And that's the most important thing.

Went down and chatted with Maureen and Jim for a bit last night at eleven. We had talked about playing games, but no one had any real energy. They told us many secrets of the writing community, of which we are all now sworn to the deepest secrecy. Bunch of people were talking about going to worldcon. That would be very cool to see people again so soon.

posted by chance 8:12 AM
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Saturday, July 12, 2003
Bit of a slow afternoon yesterday. Didn't have my nap. Didn't get my laundry done. Went on a quest for a quarter and ended up in Steph's room for a couple hours plotting mischief. Was very fun - a bunch of people went out to eat, but I decided to stay home (they were going to Ruby Tuesdays, so I decided it wasn't worth the money for the quality of the food.) Went to the caf instead where Jim bought me dinner (he is mad with the power of the magic dining card) Had dinner with Maureen and Jim and a bunch of other folk, so I was glad I stayed.

Got all my crits for the weekend done - we're having a little bonus session today at 3, doing two manuscripts. Then I went over to Maureen's and stayed for a good long chat. Jim came by, and then later Tom did. It was a fun evening. Before dinner I told Maureen that Jim was the inspiration for my hands story - he was sitting next to me tapping his fingers on his couch during Scott's talk and it was driving me nuts - all I could think about was his stupid fingers. It made her laff.

We did a writing exercise on dialogue yesterday. Very revealing. Maureen wanted us to write a scene where one or both folks in a couple are furious - totally pissed off, and all they can talk about is the weather. I named my couple Maureen and Jim *grins* I didn't do a great job - I cheated a lot with a lot of action tags. Some folks read theirs aloud, and it was like "wow"

*click* (that's things clicking in my head)

Maureen said it is much more important to write dialogue from the perspective of what people want, not how they feel. She recommended we all go read a scene from Karen Joy Fowler's book Sweetheart Season where the dad is explaining about sex to his daughter. And she also told us to watch out for those clear cogent discussions of how we feel in dialogue, a la Dawson's Creek.

Jim also said every conversation should have a non-sequitor in it.

posted by chance 11:11 AM
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