Friday, August 7, 2009

Day Five: Uncle Orson's Literary Boot Camp (More Critiquing)

Today has been another hard day. It's been critiques all day long. Story after story, reading, letting people talk, reading, letting people talk. It's great in one way, because we've all reached the point where certain subjects and observations (some that hadn't even occurred to me before this week) have become so elementary that they are groan-worthy if mentioned. Even Mr. Card has gotten a little impatient with revisiting some of the same things over and over. The group developed a few bad habits and patterns yesterday, and today, Scott kinda set us straight. He was doing something that had to be done, and he wasn't a jerk, but he was firm. "Don't talk if you have nothing to add" was basically the point of it. But it was kind of one of those "Teacher is on edge, so be good" kind of moments.

We're all tired. Today, it seemed like feelings got hurt a little easier. Some of the insecurity was back. The defensiveness, the preoccupation with praise, etc. I felt it too. The desire to explain, to defend my story or my ability, was really strong and I had to fight to keep things in perspective. All in all, today was less nourishing "spiritually," but the value was still there. It was more about pushing through, doing the work. Endurance, perception, discipline. Equally useful, but not as "fun." But even in the less friendly, happy, yay-boot-camp attitude, Scott's critique's and suggestions were right on.

The encouraging part today was just how much better at seeing problems I am. Point of view, invention, exposition: HUGE. And I wasn't nearly so good at recognizing this stuff before. And I'm a lot more focused on my career as a writer. The urgency is almost unbearable (if it weren't for the fatigue, I'd be writing every chance I got, on breaks, lunch, etc). I look at my perspective before, and I was just throwing my time away to whoever would take it. "Collaborate with me, please, just acknowledge that I'm a writer. PLEASE." I should have been writing. Rusty, Tim, Couch, David, and db readers: this does not mean I'm abandoning all my projects, but it does mean writing career-advancing material is first. FIRST. After Lynna and Lex, there is the writing. It's how it has to be. I haven't been acting like this is what I really want to do, and I haven't been acting like I believe I can do it.


Like I said, today I've kinda felt like a grape in a press. I feel really serious and tense, but it's useful. I just don't have any fun stories for you, really. Except, let's do this:

Here is the beginning to a story I started up here and abandoned for reasons of difficulty and length. If you really need more to read after this blog, check it out HERE.

It's worth pointing out that I wrote this BEFORE all the learning, so it won't be much (if any) better than my previous stuff. Beyond that, I'm sorry I can't be bubbly. I'm running out of steam. It's exhausting to be confronted with mistakes over and over and over and to just WANT them to be right (in others' work and in my own). I know how editors feel now and how Orson Scott Card must feel. And it isn't a good feeling. But that, the fact that I'm at that point, that it hurts...that's good. :)

Gotta go. Gotta read five stories before I can sleep.


  1. Steve, I'm really proud of you.

  2. Keep on Keepin' on. You are a trooper. Lex is learning new things everyday. Thanks for sharing her with us. I am extremely pleased that you are pushing through. It has been an interesting week. So you guys tried to push Scott over the edge' huh? How many times a year does he do this?

  3. You know, it's cruel of your to put up the Riverbed God story and not finish it. Because now I want to read more... :)

    Thanks for your Boot Camp write-up. I was at the writing class with you that year (I remember you too :) ), and this year I got into Boot Camp, so I'll be there in about 3 weeks. Exciting and nerve-wracking all at once! If you have any advice, I'd certainly be glad to hear it...

  4. SJeanne, I just now found your comment. You would think blogger would alert me or something, but nope, nothin'. I assume by now you've already gone to boot camp, learned a ton, and had a great time. My advice wouldn't have helped you much with that, but if you happen to time travel back and do it again, be sure to read fast. :)

    I'm glad you enjoyed the Riverbed God excerpt. So far, the story remains incomplete, and now that the drawnbad site is down, the link on this site is forever broken. Maybe I'll pick it up and finish it one of these days.