Just finished and turned in Story #3 for critique on Wednesday. I figured I owed my classmates, since I’m not sure whether or not there’ll be enough stories in the queue. It clocked in at a very respectable 4700 words (I thought that I might have forgotten how to write a story that was less than 6000). While I was writing it I was extremely unenthused, but now I think its not half bad. If week one was an experiment in screwing up and week two was an experiment in plot structure, week three is an experiment in creating a story that actually matters. I tried to put in some emotional punch, who knows if I succeeded? But I figure there’s no way to succeed without trying.
In other news, Nancy Kress gave us an amazing 45 minute lecture today. In it she described the six most common errors she’s seen in our writing, which are as follows.
1. Starting too late – having too too much exposition and character development in the beginning and not getting into the meat until you’re way into the story.
2. Not enough dramatization – basically not milking scenes for what they’re worth. Michael touched on this too.
3. Insufficient foreshadowing of the ending – Introducing elements late in the story that turn out to solve problems. Basically having too many deus ex machinas and not enough Chekhov’s guns.
4. Writing vignettes instead of stories – Stories need to have some sort of point to them. They need to matter.
5. Things must cost – Even a happy ending comes with some sort of price
6. Failing to push the idea far enough – Not considering all of the implications of a particular technology or magical element.
This prompted more than one burst of editing amongst the group. At least I know it did for me. I think I’ve addressed some of these problems, but I guess I’ll find out on Wednesday. Nancy also gave us a great set of questions to ask ourselves while we’re writing our stories (which I am far too tired to write out).
Before I go to bed tonight I am planning on writing out critiques of tomorrows stories. I had to get Liz to email them to me since I foolishly lost the manuscripts after/during lunch.
All in all, I’m feeling good. I’ve traversed the weekly pit of despair that is turning a story in for Clarion. And, I finished a day early! More time to mope around looking under rocks for ideas for next week.
I’ve sort of become the sci-fi guy, along with perhaps one or two other people (although one of us conspiciously fell from the ranks with his last story…ahem ahem, you know who you are). I don’t know why that is. Actually, scratch that. I’m not sure why so many people are writing fantasy. To my untrained eyes, there does not appear to be that much genre fantasy in the short form (though literary magazines are full of stories with fantastic elements). Personally, I’ve never read very many genre short stories, so I don’t really know how they’re structured.
Incidentally, I was popular with Nancy Kress for about ten minutes after I managed to name-check a few science fiction writers (Tiptree is the stuff of gold!) But then another certain someone let slip that I also happen to enjoy L. Ron Hubbard (who is a fine writer and I stand by him, dammit!) After that, I could literally see my star falling. It hit rock bottom today when Nancy referenced LRH by name in her lecture today.
Damn you, person who I will not give the satisfaction of being referred to by name.