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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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Shame

This is actually a post about writing, but I’m going to start out talking about Bikram Yoga. There is a pose, called standing head to knee. It’s supposed to go something like this: 1. Lift one leg and balance on the other with a locked knee. 2. Reach down to grab under the lifted foot with a firm, locked grip. 3. Keeping your hands locked under your foot, kick out the lifted leg so that it is at about 90 degrees from the standing leg. 4. Curl your torso down until your forehead is on your lifted knee. 5. At…

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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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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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Victory! Ish.

I did more or less meet my goal of having the rewrite done by World Fantasy Convention. I say "more or less" because I was still monkeying with the climax yesterday, and I was hoping that the version called "done" for today would be an even more polished version. I have a pitch, kind of, and a synopsis, in a way, and I almost typed synapse just there, which makes me laugh. I have a synapse! Just one. Really, I do have these things — a novel, a pitch, a synopsis — what I don't have is confidence in any…

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A conversation I had with myself while I was working on the synopsis

You just wrote a novel? What is it about? A werewolf. And…? There's a serial killer. And she's worried it might be her. Sure. Then what happens? She stops the serial killer. But she has to defy her newfound wolf pack to do it. So who is the serial killer? Spoilers! It's somebody close to her though. Okay. Why does she want to stop the serial killer? Is she a cop? No, she has to stop the killer because she's worried it might be her. She feels connected to the deaths. And she has werewolfy superpowers like the ability to…

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Oh no! Not another rewrite!

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So, I thought I had the werewolf novel all figured out, then I stepped away from it for 6 weeks of write-a-thoning. When I went back to take another look and get on the finding-an-agent thing again, I realized OMG! The protagonist doesn't want anything! She is totally protagging insufficiently!*

Before I bugged any more agents, I decided to do a rewrite in which I fix this problem. That rewrite is now mostly complete. So, if you guys aren't too sick of me yet, check out the new query:
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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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