Keffy

everything i do is so fucking amazing that sparks are going to shoot out of your eyes

Category: Writing (page 2 of 2)

The Clarion UCSD Write-a-What Now?

This was going to be some super long exciting post in which I talked about how much going to Clarion meant to me, etc. However, almost all of those posts read pretty much the same, and I’ve made a bunch in the past. Almost all of which are somewhere on my LiveJournal account because I didn’t bother reposting any of my stuff here. Because, come on! It’s the internet! It’s a series of links!

(And if you’re reading this from LiveJournal, I still love you! I even check my friend’s list. I’m just enjoying the WordPress ability to schedule posts.)

Anyway!

I am doing the Clarion UCSD Write-a-Thon. Which is great for me, because it doesn’t officially start until Sunday. I would already be muttering profanity under my breath if I was doing the Clarion West Write-a-Thon since it started last week, and I have done nothing.

The Write-a-Thon is pretty much what it sounds like (and since I’ve tweeted about it once or twice, I suspect everyone I know has already heard about it — but that has never stopped me from posting about something before). As a fundraiser for Clarion, I’m writing stuff and convincing people to donate to keep the workshop going.

Links:

Clarion Write-a-Thon

Clarion West Write-a-Thon

Incidentally, I have an intense and unreasonable dislike for the word “Write-a-Thon.” I mean, the event is awesome, but I always stare at the word. Capitalization varies. Write-A-Thon, Write-a-Thon, Write-a-thon, write-a-thon. …Yeah.

So, between June 24 and August 4, my goal is to write six short stories, since I currently don’t have any to send out.

You know what is the saddest feeling as a writer? When editors are like, “HEY, so… I have this magazine that pays pro rates, and you aren’t in my slush! You should send me something!” But you’re me, and so you’re like, “Yes! I will do this!” And then you remember that not only do you have no new, fresh, awesome stories, but even the trunk is empty because you were afraid that one day in a moment of weakness you’d send them out. So you pressed the giant DELETE FROM THE UNIVERSE button. But even knowing that those stories should never have seen the light of day doesn’t end the sad, sad, writer feelings.

My Write-a-Thon page is here. The photo was taken in the Bellingham Airport just before I got on the plane to go to Clarion San Diego in June 2008. I had no idea what I was in for. Heh heh heh. /huttlaugh

There are two options for donations this year. First option is a straight up sponsor, which is a donation to Clarion UCSD. The other option is a pledge. As of right now, I have a little bit over $100 in pledges. This means that so far, for every short story I finish during the Write-a-Thon, Clarion will get another $18. The higher the pledge amount the more terrified I will be of failure the more incentive I have to succeed!

If you’d like to participate, you can still sign up for the Clarion UCSD Write-a-Thon until June 24.

Some advice for people heading to Clarion:

At Wiscon, I was on a panel about workshops that was utterly remarkable in that the audience primarily consisted of people who hadn’t been to major SF workshops yet. This was a pleasant surprise, since usually when I’m on a Clarion and/or workshop panel at a con, I show up to discover that almost all of the audience has already gone to Clarion. I mean, at that point, we might as well just have a pan-Clarion bar meet-up. One person was an incoming Clarion West student, though, and she told me that one of the things I’d said on the panel was helpful. So, I’m fighting down my natural urge to go, “ADVICE BLOG POST? BLEEEEECH” and writing this.

When you’re at Clarion for six weeks, you’re supposed to write six short stories, one for each week. These stories will then be critiqued by your classmates and instructor.

You should write stories that require you to use techniques you’re unfamiliar with, in genres that you don’t typically touch, with themes and characters you’ve never considered writing about before. Stretch yourself. Challenge yourself. Learn some shit. Blah, blah blah.

Everyone says that.

Okay, so here’s the important part: Do not write these stories with the intent to publish them later. They should still be complete stories, obviously. It needs to be enough of a draft that it can be critiqued. But your goal for these six weeks is to learn how to write better stories, not to sell these six. I mean, if all you want is six weeks off of work to write short stories for publication and send those off? Shit, you can do that at home.

I’m not saying you can’t or won’t be able to sell those stories, just that you have every other moment outside of these six weeks to sit down thinking, “AND NOW I WILL WRITE AN AWESOME STORY FOR BLAH MAGAZINE.”

So… when I was at Clarion, I had not written very many stories. In fact, I had only written three short stories at that point (one of which was The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived, one of my application stories). Writing a whole SIX short stories in a six week period was going to be a huge stretch for me. I thought, well, at least I’ll have six more stories to sell later!

Sigh.

So. I did end up selling my first three stories. Two of them went out the door with fairly minor rewrites, one of them is completely unrecognizable from its original form. Which is good! Because the original draft sucked.

But weeks four, five, and six were pretty much unmitigated disasters. These aren’t even in the category of “Oh, I’ll just rewrite them,” because the shit goes all the way down to the premise. I got super stressed out while writing them which is why they were all written between noon and 3pm of the day that I needed to turn in my drafts (by 3!). I hated writing them. I hated that I knew they weren’t going to sell while I wrote them. I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it anyway. I mean, I could have just gone downstairs and taken pot-shots at Hugo Award Winning Authors with a water pistol. Or pick through the giant wad of glued-together action figures that GrĂ¡ found in a dumpster. Or go to the beach and wonder if it was the nude beach, and if it’s a horrible faux pas to be at a nude beach with pants on.

I turned the stories in, and I did learn some stuff from the critiques… but mostly I shot myself in the foot. I felt like crap because I knew that they weren’t going to sell, so no matter what the crits said, I couldn’t turn them around. So why bother. (Eeyore moment.)

AND. WORSE.

I knew that other people, better people, amazing people, had written award winning stories at Clarion! Because those stories were in the archives! And someone from my class had looked them up! So I knew that it was possible! But my stories weren’t that good yet. So, obviously, I had failed at some imaginary Clarion … measure. And by imaginary, I mean really super imaginary, as in, probably only in my head.

AND. WORSE.

You’d think that I’d have figured out that this was an unhealthy way to look at my Clarion experience as of, oh, August 2008. But no. It kind of dragged along behind me for a few years like a string out of a cat’s butthole. That part probably won’t apply to you unless you’re similarly neurotic (or a cat). But I felt for a long time like those unmitigated disasters from weeks 4-6 were proof that I’d wasted at least half of my Clarion experience, and someone else would have been a better choice for my spot.

Phf. I learned plenty from those stories. Like, how to not write something that sucks the same way again.

But, my point isn’t that you can’t write salable stories at Clarion, or that you should write crap on purpose. I’m just saying, if you get stressed out, remember that you’re ONLY writing for the workshop and to learn some shit. It’s okay. Just write some stories, try some things. Worry about your Duotrope stats when you get home.

At least that way if your Clarion stories suck, they’ll suck in new and interesting ways.

 

(This is one of the blog posts I’m writing as part of my participation in the Clarion UCSD Write-A-Thon.)

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