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What did I learn at Clarion West [4]: When in doubt, give everyone superpowers

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Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
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(As a side note — I’m not sure my “avoid social media except for Sundays” thing is going to work, when I ended up spending most of my Sunday seeing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay at Book-It Reperatory Theater, which was awesome, but that’s why you’re not seeing this until today.)

Each week of the Clarion West workshop — well, 5 of 6 weeks — you’re expected to write a fresh story. The expectation is that these will be new stories, written during the workshop, and not something pulled off your hard drive. The workshop is structured so that you typically have quite a bit of time in your schedule for crafting that story.

But if something isn’t coming together, you don’t have a lot of time to get on with your life, let your subconscious do its thing, and get back to the story later. Part of the pressure of the workshop is that you have to confront that story RIGHT NOW. Forget your life. This IS your life. We’re even going to cook your meals for you. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of your brain power can and should be going to figuring out how to make that story work.
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The little story engine that could

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This recent Slate article [Save the movie!] suggests that an over-reliance on the beat sheet from Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” books is ruining Hollywood movies, but I think it’s completely wrong. The problem with dull blockbusters isn’t that they are following Snyder’s beat sheet — it’s that they aren’t following it.

I admit, when I read the first book, I was a bit skeptical. Sure, the dumb “family comedies” that Snyder was talking about, and that represent what he himself liked to write, follow that formula to the letter — I had observed this ages ago. And I certainly believed he was giving good advice for people seeking to write spec scripts, where we can assume a studio executive will flip to a particular page, hunt for the “correct” element, and toss the script aside if it isn’t found.

But good movies, especially movies in their final form after editing and rewrites, those were surely more varied… weren’t they?

(break for length)

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Write-a-thon: Week 1

A mixed success. I successfully wrote every day for at least half an hour, except for Tuesday — I was still busy setting up the new website, and so the morning got away from me, then I went to the Elizabeth Hand reading, which then turned into an emotional farewell to the Continental, a long-term Clarion West staple, so I didn’t get any writing done after that either. Where I failed was that I wanted to finish a story for Heroic Fantasy Quarterly in time for their June submission window, and didn’t. The story simply took longer to put together…

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Write-a-thon: Day 14

Internal dialog on a Saturday morning Hey, it’s Saturday of Clarion West Week 2 and you know what that means! Fourth of July weekend? No, you have to submit that story you wrote. Oh. Right. I… I promised to do that, didn’t I? Yes, and you have to. But — But what? Nothing. Of course I’m going to do that. But first I — First nothing! Just submit it. First I have to make and drink coffee. Otherwise I’m likely to misspell my own name. …all right. Coffee can always come first. And wait for my vision to clear, I’m…

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Write-a-thon: Day 9

I have successfully written a brand new short story that I don’t (yet) think is entirely horrible. It’s science fiction but it could be fantasy. Victory 1! But I have not yet overcome submitaphobia. That’s okay. My goal is to, over six weeks, write and submit three stories. I haven’t failed yet. Right now, I think I am entering the cycle of wallowing in the abyss of my own suckitude. Not as a writer, no. As a functioning adult-type human being. I mean, honestly. There are people out there with real problems they are dealing with, and what is my…

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Write-a-thon Days 1-3

First failing: writing a post every day of the write-a-thon. I was totally going to do that. Then I didn’t. Second failing: getting much writing done. Actually that might not be a failing. I have been in novel-writing mode for a couple of years and am trying to switch gears to short story mode for a while. Someday I might be able to keep both modes going at once, but maybe not, I don’t know. I think that I need to get kind of obsessive-compulsive about writing in order to do it and being OC about a particular novel feels…

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