I produced a lot of work at Clarion West. People were often joking about it, but the funny thing is, it’s really all about opportunity. During semesters, I haven’t necessarily produced anything like the wordcounts I pumped out during the workshop. There’s something about not having anything else to do that’s more pressing than writing that just gets you going, if you know what I mean.
Week 1: 5,800 words of exercises with Paul Park
Week 2: 7,200 words
Week 3: 10,000 words
Week 4: 8,600 words (a short story and a somewhat terribly clunky but salvageable draft of another set in the same world but centuries later)
Week 5: 11,700 words (almost three stories, including the flash piece I handed in at the beginning of the following week and most of a superhero story I didn’t end up handing in because I was tired of handing in Korea-related stuff, but nearly finished)
Week 6: 13,300 words
Total: 56,600 words
If only I could produce like that normally. That’d mean a novel every holiday, or, if I were writing fill time, well, Stross-like rates of production (though probably not Stross-quality).
Or, perhaps I can and do, but pour it out into my blog? Well, that question suggests something really important: I shall have to scale back the blogging a fair bit to see what it does to my during-semester productivity on the creative writing front.
As for idea-usage, I showed up with six pretty-workable ideas for stories, or maybe more like even or eight, but I only used two, and even those only in a limited way: one story got split between setting and the central tech — genetically very-modified food ended up in the Canadian prairie, and life-extension was the technology I used to explore a future Confucian society in Korea (though I think I’ll reset it to Shanghai).
And the idea of writing a story about jazz, which occurred to me on the plane, and about which I drafted a near-future character sketch on the plane — and a plot outline in Week 1 — that was discarded except for a couple of lines thrown into my Week 6 novella).
Something about being around a bunch of writers, and reading a bunch of stories, made me think of all kinds of neat writing ideas in rapid succession. Or maybe it was the deadlines that made me think of those ideas. Or maybe they’d been bubbling down in my mind somewhere and waiting for a chance to spill out? I don’t know, but I do know that I know now what people meant when they advised about attending Clarion West with story-ideas and a mind open enough to use none of them if the occasion presents itself. I only used my ideas in the most sketchy of ways, and still, I’m relatively happy with what I produced.
Other attendees have mentioned their feelings about previous work which is now in circulation; luckily, I have nothing in circulation, or perhaps that is unlucky. In any case, I have some serious reworking waiting for my workshop stories, all but one of which don’t necessarily need comlplete rewriting (the dog story, though, probably does). But works from before, I just don’t know about them. I shall have to look at them again, but when I glanced through things during one impromptu reading, I was aghast to see how repetitive and badly-drawn some of the writing in my older stories actually was.
Which, I suppose is good. When you start seeing your own propensity for mistakes, it’s never fun, but being a better critic of your own work is a decidedly good thing, as long as it doesn’t silence you.
While cleaning out my Mom’s garage and sorting books (I allocated 5 boxes of them to be donated to the local Symphony booksale, leaving only 8 or 9 more of mine to stay and await my attentions), I found a couple of books that I was hoping to stumble upon — it turns out that about 5 of the 7 boxes believed lost turned up at the back of my Mom’s garage, including scores for a bunch of my musical compositions from the old days! (Including a piano piece I’m bringing back for Lime and a choral piece I’m planning to rework for string ensemble, and which I’ll also bring back if I have room for it.)
Anyway, the books I found were the Autobiography of Malcolm X and the Autobiography of Miles Davis, both of which will be of use to me in redrafting my Week 6 novella. But as usual, I also have piles of other books I’d like to bring along but probably won’t be able to bring. Unless, well, maybe I’ll box them up and bring them to Seattle to be sent to Korea via media mail. It’s very cheap, and Canada Post for some reason doesn’t have an equivalent to it… no book rate, no media mail, nothing.
So anyway, I think I’m down into blather, when I ought instead to be discussing Week 6 with Vernor Vinge. On to that in a new post.