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Clarion West, Week 5

Week 5 was great. We’re staring to get tired out, but it’s not a fatal kind of tired.

Ellen’s feedback was very interesting, sometimes surprising and sometimes not. I think it’s a sign that our class is still doing pretty well with crits that she often agreed with the bulk of ideas that were floating around; I think it’s interesting that she also often advised us to ignore the more radical advice and be careful to preserve the heart of the story for any given work.

She was great in one-on-ones; unflinchingly honest about what she saw in my work, and quite willing to answer questions such as where I would be likely to find myself in her personal slush pile, etc. It was quite a shift having an editor instead of a writer in, and a very revealing one. I also learned something about how important it is to submit the right pieces to the right editors — the piece I thought was my weakest, personally, was the one she ranked most highly, which was a surprise. Anyway, she was much less harsh than I think many of us anticipated, and we had a great time.

I also managed to pick up a hardback of her anthology Alien Sex from her, which she kindly autographed for me with a very amusing quote referencing one of the stories contained within it.

Friday around noon, Terry Brooks dropped by and gave us a talk about writing, self-marketing, and the business. I’ve never read more than a tiny bit of his writing, but you know, it’s hard not to like the guy personally. He seems like a really nice guy, and he knows something about making a living writing; he drove away in a Porsche, after all. He also brought copies of his autobiographical book on writing for the whole class, which was generous of him, wasn’t it?

We also met someone from Tor who had some interesting things to say about submitting novels and so on. That was at the Tuesday night interview of Ellen Datlow by Eileen Gunn.

I spent much of Friday and almost all of Saturday drafting, except for a brief visit at the Friday night party, and here I am now in the basement, among all the others who are working on their last scheduled stories. I’m about to hit the 10,000 words mark, probably the longest story to be turned in during this final 6th week, during which Vernor Vinge will be our instructor.

And speaking of that story, here’s the first line of the alt-history novelette about 50s jazz musicians and space travel that I’ll be turning in on Sunday:

His first night back on planet Earth after his gig on the green ships, Bird showed up at Minton’s cleaner than a broke-dick dog with a brand new horn and a head full of crazy people music.

It’s the longest piece I’ve written so far while at Clarion West, and uses the word “motherfucker” way too much (last count 38 times), but, well, I’m going for authenticity with the voice of my narrator, whose voice is something like (but hopefully not identical to) the voice of Miles Davis in his autobiography.

Right, gotta go: got about another 2-3000 words left to go, by my guesstimate. Oh, they’re gonna kill me.

UPDATE (9:35pm): Word count is now 11800 words, and I have a couple more scenes to go.

UPDATE (10:15 am the next morning): Word count is now approximately 12,750 words after my edit. Just a little name-swapping left to go, then a baseball game this afternoon and this evening we’ll meet Vernor Vinge!

UPDATE (10:30 am): Hey, and I was actually present for a few of these things that Tina posted about, like the bad beer and the trip to Fremont, but I only half-remember some of them. It’s been an intense week. And it’s hot. And ice cream sounds like a gooooood idea.

UPDATE (12:30 am next next day): Word count is now 13,300 words. That’s practically a novella. Every time I cut something, I found other things that weren’t clearly explained. Anyway, it’s done for now, no more revisions: it’s handed in.

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