My ideas for stories are not so much building blocks as they are bait. I hold them out in some wild corner of my thoughts (the palm at the end of the mind) and wait days/weeks/months while the stories flitter at the edge of sight, and (readiness is all) hope for one to alight.
I’m working on two stories inspired by the “Did you know…” section of Wikipedia’s main page, which I use as a homepage. One is based on the medieval hunting ritual of Unmaking crossed with an article on the Glass Delusion of Charles VI, and the other is based on the phenomenon of the Prisoner’s Cinema. I honestly ain’t give a damn if Wikipedia is accurate: it’s a wackypedia grab-bag of story ideas…
I’ve been thinking about the non-trivial differences between a writer and a would-be writer—the trivial differences being writing anything at all, finishing that thing, and letting someone you wouldn’t trust with your life read it—and I think perhaps one such difference is: would-be writers find something of themselves in every character, and writers find something of every character in themselves.
The second week of my Clarion Write-a-Thon effort was somewhat the reverse of the first week. My first week story at Clarion 2010 had seemed like a complete loss at the time, but last week I stripped it down to the basics of motivation and conflict, and found what feels like a way forward. My second story at Clarion 2010, titled Goner, was perhaps my favorite at the time, but I’ve really struggled with revising it over this last week.
For the Clarion Write-a-Thon, I am revising the six drafts I wrote during Clarion 2010. My first week story is titled “The Last Cup”. I came up with the idea Saturday while driving down to San Diego with Clarion-mates Jennifer Hsyu and Dallas Taylor, and wrote it up over the next two days for my first critique that Tuesday.
Because Delia Sherman and special guest Ellen Kushner were the first week instructors, I went with a fantasy: just my second attempt at the genre up to that point. And for reasons that surely made sense at the time, e.g. delerium, I decided to go for comedy, which was entirely new for me. But the real test wasn’t the genre, it was the deadline: I had only written six stories ever up to that point, and each one had taken many weeks to complete. I got myself in a bit of a panic, and started just typing wildly; as it turned out, both the panic and the wild typing would continue for the next six weeks…!
I was going to post about the fantastic success of my Clarion 2010 classmates—the stacks of brilliant new stories, the furious take-no-prisoners Rejection contest, and most particularly the recent sales from Tamsyn Muir, Kali Wallace, Karin Tidbeck, John Chu, Tom Underberg, Adam Israel, and Leah Thomas—but Dustin Monk has already done so with style. And that’s just since Clarion: add in pre-Clarion sales and fully half of the class has been published; I have absolutely no doubt that you’ll be seeing stories from the rest of the group in the coming years.
Why am I so certain? Read on:
Six weeks, six stories, 152 pages, 31,000 words. Not to mention five one-on-ones with my writing heroes, three significant rewrites, strange and challenging writing exercises, over 2800 pages of personal critiques, and something like 80 stories from my Clarion-mates to read. Oh, and did I mention twenty-odd friends for life?
We’re entering our second week here at the Clarion 2010 Writers’ Workshop, with Delia Sherman passing the baton to George R.R. Martin, and… that’s all I am allowed to say. We are under orders not to blog about the workshop while we are here. As if we would have the time, anyway… So, all I will say for now is “wow”.
I am leaving this Saturday for the Clarion Writers’ Workshop! I can’t wait to meet (in person!) my co-Clarionites — Stacie Brown, John Chu, William Farrar, Erin Gonzales, Jessica Hilt, Jennifer Hsyu, Adam Israel, Dustin Monk, Tamsyn Muir, Laura Praytor, L.M. Redding, Dallas Taylor, Leah Thomas, Karin Tidbeck, Tom Underberg, Kali Wallace, Kai Ashante Wilson — and the instructors: Delia Sherman, George RR Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff Vandermeer, and Ann Vandermeer!
A friend in the film business was alarmed by my about the future… page. “Aren’t you worried someone will steal your ideas?”