Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back from Writing Boot Camp

Here it, the official Clarion West 2009 post. A lot of people have been asking me lately how my "writing thing," as I started calling it, went. In summary, from mid-June to the end of July, I lived in a sorority house with seventeen other writers. Each day, three or four of us were scheduled to e-mail a story to the group (and to Kinko's, who printed copies and delivered them). The group then had a day to read the stories, and the following morning, we would critique them. The story length varied from just under a thousand words to over ten thousand words.

It's been difficult coming back after such a demanding and foreign routine. Before Clarion West, I was used to squeezing writing and reading into small cracks in my day. Suddenly, not only being permitted, but expected to spend huge amounts of time on both, was disorienting. Now, being back for a couple weeks, I'm experiencing the opposite. I don't have 20,000 words to critique by tomorrow at 9am, but I do have a normal day job I need to get to. And writing needs to find its little place in my schedule again. I do believe, though, that while Clarion West was a wonderful experience, it's something that has to be built on. A professional writing career is not made better by locking yourself in a room and doing nothing but writing. Strong writers need to have a wealth of life experiences.

A couple other things I learned on my trip:
1. The Writing Business is really, truly, we're-not-saying-this-just-to-make-you-feel-better, a subjective business.
2. Fellow writers are a valuable resource, and one not to be wasted.
3. Writer's block lasts as long as I want it to.

One of my biggest fears when I went to Clarion West was that I would only be able to write maybe four stories. I wrote seven, including a small flash fiction piece. I still think there really, truly, are bad times to write (running on three hours of sleep is one of them). I still think that one week is an insanely short period of time to finish a story in. But I also think that a serious author always has something she can be working on, even she doesn't know what it is yet.

Thanks, everyone, for being so supportive while I was away. I'm working on setting up a Clarion West '09 links page. I'm also really looking forward to a new school year starting. I'm sure it will bring lots of great memories, and hopefully some great stories too.


P.S. If you plan to make a career out of writing speculative fiction, I would definitely consider applying to Clarion West, even if you're not sure you're writing is "good enough" yet. The workshop is about improving as a writer, not for proving how wonderful a writer you already are.

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