Thursday, July 31, 2008

Boot Camp -- Day 3

Well, yesterday was the first day that I actually thought I was going to die.

But that was because it was the day that I spent all alone in a hotel room trying to write an entire story.

It's finished now. It feels like a good story weakly told.

But part of the point is that it's worthless to go in and edit for language when somebody may say something about an event on page 4 that would make everything after that worthless. So you don't "polish" the story when you're still getting straight the "story" part of it, the who did what and why.

And in this story, with the exception of a couple of weak spots, I kind of like my who did what and why.

But I'm really excited about how much better than this it will get when people smarter than me get the story in their hands.

I'll tell you--getting it down was sure hard. Wow.

Since that's the first story I've finished since "Fifteen Minutes," I actually feel like a huge monkey has been shaken off my back. I woke up this morning feeling more relaxed than I have in months.

So, onwards and upwards. Time for the critiques to start. I have to be ready to discuss the first two stories by 10am.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Boot Camp Day 2

Well, day 2 of Boot Camp with Orson Scott Card was also great.

Today we DID do the story openings, and he DID get to mine and I DID make the same mistakes as everybody else.

The main mistake comes down to this:

As fast as you can in your story opening, have something happening, and have it be clear what is happening.

Don't do anything coy, like not name a character (calling him "he" or "she") or doing some weird thing with no explanation of why people are doing the wierd thing.

The example he used was a car chase--imagine a car chase at the start of a movie. Two cars chasing each other around for 5 minutes. It would be boring.

It's only in the middle of the movie, when you know who is in the cars, that the car chase is interesting. The suspense does not come from asking, "Who is in those cars?" The suspense comes from wondering, "Will the car chase come out the way I want it to?" Do I want the guy in front to get away? Do I want the guy in back to catch the guy?

If you don't understand, you don't care.

So no vauge openings where you see a strange scene the reader doesn't understand, be it a place or an event or an act--the less clear it is what is happpening, the less engaged the reader will be.

Nearly every manuscript opening had some variation of this problem.

Then we reviewed the cards we all wrote for homework last night with complete story ideas. It was amazing. The process he was trying to teach us--the idea that we need to be open to the fact that there are a billion ways to write each story, and how to spot the holes in a story--was so easy with other people's ideas that it seems bizzare how hard it is with your own ideas. But doing it with other people's stuff is great practice and great fun. I honestly now want to write some version of every story my group talked about today (not saying I will . . .).

We also did another 1000 ideas an hour session on the price of magic. And the implications of the price of your magic. And how to find a character with that. And how to make that into a story.

Now is dinner, and then the Q & A on the business of writing. Then--

Well, then I have to write a story. By 10:00 am on Thursday morning. Done, ready to be photocopied by 10:00am Thursday morning.


Wish me luck.

You may not hear from me for a while.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Wow. I'd forgotten how much I love to research.

Did you know that the huge effort to get all the troops home after World Ward II had a code name? It was called "Operation Magic Carpet." That is such a great name.

Did you know that Canada had a code name for the project to get all the European war brides to their Canadian husbands? They called it "Operation Daddy."

Getting war brides over to the US and Canada from Europe was a huge deal, and Britan even comissioned the Queen Mary for it in 1946--salons and such on the giant cruise ship were changed into impromptu nurseries and materity wards for the trips.

In fact, the fastest ever crossing of the Atlantic the Queen Mary ever accomplished was when it was filled with moms to be, moms who had just delivered, and babies.

Read into that speed record what you will.

Day One Of Orson Scott Card's Boot Camp

Well, Day one is down.

We didn't get to the story intros, or to the other part I've been really looking forward to--the "1000 ideas an hour" session on the rules for magic. That would have helped with tonight's story assignment: Write 5 complete outlines for stories in about 300 words. (Each has to fit on the front and back of an index card.)

He gave us specific assignments for how to get the ideas--some had to be from observation, just from walking around, some had to be from research, and one had to be from an interview with a stranger.

We were paired up for safety's sake, and my partner and I interviewed a man with some fascinating stories, and a man with a fascinating personality, so that went well. I'll probably end up using ideas from both interviews somewhere in the five stories.

Oh! Almost forgot. After lunch we came back and read the stuff we wrote during break, and he called me up first. I ended up getting complimented on handling point of view flawlessly, which made me feel pretty good, but then every single person he called on handled point of view flawlessly, and it was like every person's sample just got better and better. I'm in a really smart class of people, looks like, which is fun.

From there, we talked about story structure until 5, when he turned us loose to go do our homework and have dinner.

I still have to do the research portion of the homework assignment, grab some dinner, and then figure out five whole stories so I think that's it for tonight. Hopefully I'll sneak over and blog some more tomorrow.

PS Hey Marci, thanks for the comment. You're a sweetheart. For those who don't know, Marci and the girls went to a ton of trouble to make this week special for me, including wrapping a present, complete with a separate card, for me to open each day of the six days I'm here.

I have the greatest wife and kids in the world.

Marci, I love you. Seriously.

Mia and Emma--I love both of you, too.


Well, on lunch break now, with homework, but I finished it early.

Session started out with us creating a character (a 60 year old woman) and then creating story possibilities by asking lots of "why" "how" and "what result" questions about things.

This led into a discussion about "causality" and how to create, craft, and revise stories based on who did what, why, and what it made happen.

After that, lots of talk about viewpoint and character.

Homework was two parts, one part being to write a little anecdote in 3rd person limited veiwpoint, and the other being to read the story samples of all the bootcampers (including my own), thinking about what we expect the rest of the story to be like.

More to come . . .

T Minus 90 Minutes to Boot Camp

Well, 90 minutes from now, I'll be starting Orson Scott Card's Writers Class and Literary Boot Camp.

I have no idea whether I'll be able to drop in little notes like this every day--we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, you can be sure that I'm having a good time.