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Write-a-thon 2014 wrap-up

The Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon is over, but it’s not too late to donate to the cause! Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon This year, my goals were to 1. Write every day, 2. Stay away from social media except on Sundays and in general spend less time dorking around on the Internet, 3. Try to goof off in the evening less in order to get both a morning and evening writing session going. My unexpressed, super-secret goal #4 was to get a rough draft of the sequel to Waking up Naked in Strange Places…

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What did I learn at Clarion West [6]: The lifelong workshop

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Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

My final essay is about the most important and career-changing thing that I learned at Clarion West: how to approach my own work from the meta direction. This lesson is still working for me today. It’s what allowed me to read a book like Save the Cat! and use it to improve the structure of my novel in progress, or how to get a series of really excellent editorial critiques from Anne Mini and improve every sentence I’ve written since then. (Not to mention that I finally figured out how to write a novel synopsis.)

I learned how to learn.

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What did I learn at Clarion West [5]: Everybody gathers in the kitchen for a nice cup of tea

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Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

Did you know that the essence of story is conflict?

I mean — I probably knew that, actually, even before Clarion West. I’m sure I’ve (correctly) identified the central conflict in a story on a multiple choice test as “man vs. nature” “man vs. man” or “man vs. himself.” And even before Clarion West I probably had some dim notion that if you get a story idea, like “I want to write about a werewolf in New Orleans,” it’s not really a story idea until you have given that werewolf a problem to solve. “Going around being a werewolf” sounds cool and everything, but it’s not a story.

Before Clarion, the big problem I needed to solve (other than my submitaphobia) was the sophomore novel problem. I had cleared the first important hurdle: I had succeeded in producing a thing of novel length that more or less resembled a novel. (It took four or five years, uncountable hours of typing, and three computers.)

Every piece of advice said pretty much the same thing: while you’re trying to sell the first novel, work on the next novel. I think the idea is that you probably won’t sell the first one, but eventually you’ll have a second one, plus a better idea of how the selling process works, and valuable feedback which will improve the second one, and maybe you’ll sell that second one. (Repeat process as many times as necessary, accumulating “trunk novels” along the way.)

This seemed totally reasonable.

But I couldn’t do it.

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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.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

(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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What did I learn at Clarion West? [3] : Unlearning English Lit

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series. Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon There’s this thing they used to make you do in school — maybe they still make you do it, I don’t know — which involves reading a story, and then writing about what it means. We call this activity English Lit,. This will shock absolutely nobody, I know, but I happen to be naturally good at this thing. It comes so easily to me that, as a kid, I was vaguely astonished that they bothered to give me a grade for…

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What did I learn at Clarion West? [2] : The difference between plot and story

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series. Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon One of the most important things that I learned at Clarion West was the difference between story and plot. It’s not really intuitive to separate them, because they’re so closely linked in a successful finished work. I’m sure there are many writers who never bother to consciously make the distinction. You might think it would be the sort of distinction that an English Lit degree would have taught me to make, but no. Even from a critique standpoint, the plot and…

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What did I learn at Clarion West? [1]

We were having lunch at Elliott’s Oyster House for Father’s Day and talking about the upcoming Write-a-thon. Mom asked me, “so — did you get anything out of Clarion West?” I goggled at her for a moment, then said, “of course!” The conversation moved on, but I determined that one of the things I needed to do during this Write-a-thon was a “what I learned at Clarion West” series. This was a slight conflict with the other thing I needed to do during this Write-a-thon, which was a daily writing, less dorking around on the Internet, pledge. Because, probably the…

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Write-a-thon: final week!

Yes, you can still support me (or anybody else) in the Clarion West 2013 Write-a-thon. If you support me, I will give you a cookie! Well, not actually a cookie. You get a book that I wrote for Nanowrimo in 2008, plus groovy illustrations. Personally, I would rather get a book than a cookie, but it is entirely possible that I am a freak. And now I’m sad, because I imagine your little faces lighting up at the possibility of a cookie, and then I told you it was going to be a book instead, and you’re all disappointed. In fact,…

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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 2012

I signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon this year, mostly to help them reach 200 people, and also because I can’t help myself. My page is here: http://clarionwest.org/writeathon/juliemcgalliard Of course, I already changed my mind about what I want to do, but IT'S TOO LATE NOW. Oh, well. Say, does anybody out there want to come along and visit the arachnology collection at the Burke Museum with me sometime?

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Write-a-thon ENDAGAME!

What?!? Final Friday already? All right, it’s time for an update. The second short story is still in edit mode. I still feel like it’s just missing something. Okay, tomorrow I must send it somewhere even if I still think it’s not all that. Who knows, maybe I’m not the best judge of these things and I should really be sending off the stuff that I’m not that happy with. Maybe that’s the secret to overcoming submitaphobia — send out only stuff that I already thinks sucks, then it doesn’t matter if it gets rejected. Argh, that can’t be right.…

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Angst torpedoes

All right. It’s Sunday and the last couple of weeks were kind of a miserable failure write-a-thon wise. Naturally, I am duty-bound to tell you the whole pathetic story. For my life is nothing if not a big weepy pile of self-caused angst. My plan for this was: 1 week to write a story, 1 week to edit the same story, pick a market, and submit. But I went most of the week before last just not getting anything to take off. I poked at some of my ideas in my idea file, but it was largely a dispiriting and…

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