Publication Process: My First Workshop

I admitted last week that I’ve written most of my life, but the change from writing for pleasure to writing for publication is a pretty drastic one. You’re no longer writing solely what you like. You’re trying to write things that editors will like enough to pay you for.

So my first step in that direction was the summer workshop at The Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 2002. I’d never been to a workshop before, but I whipped out three ‘short stories’ and went. I arrived in Kansas, clutching my newly-completed first novel (153K) to my chest.

Turned out no one wanted to read it. ::gawps:: But…but…

OK, so I had a lot to learn.

In the following two weeks, we went over each others’ work, trying to find a good balance between constructive and destructive criticism. Dr. Gunn had provided a framework for our critiques of the other writers’ work, which I tried to use. I wasn’t as diplomatic as I should have been in a couple of spots. I hope that I’ve gotten better about that, but…well, it’s harder than it sounds.

So what did I learn that I was doing wrong in my writing?

1) My short stories tended to be novel starts.
Yep, I have always had trouble keeping those characters and ideas under control. I want to run with them. For short story purposes, it’s hard to quell that urge.

2) Too passive.
Before I went to the workshop, I didn’t know that passive was a problem. But passive doesn’t sell too well.

3) Too many squirrelly words
If you read up about my personality type*, the books say that we have the ‘greatest precision’ in language. That means we tend to qualify every darn statement. One of the things I still struggle with in writing is finding those qualifiers and rooting them out: almost, nearly, practically, very, just, slightly, at least (my agent commented on that one), somewhat, perhaps, probably, likely….
Well, you get the idea. This will -always- be a struggle for me. It’s how I think and even how I talk. Second nature. But I am working on it.

4) I needed to learn about the market and the ‘culture.’.
I had never been to a con and rarely read short fiction. If I were going to suceed at all in this business, I needed to go out and find out what was going on, who was who, and what was what. Me then = clueless.

Those are just a few of the things I learned in the first workshop I attended. It was an invaluable experience, and helped set me on the path toward publication. I still visit Lawrence in the summers when I can to attend the Campbell Conference…a trip that’s well worth your while ;o)

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* My personality type supposedly has trouble finishing things, one of the reasons that ( in their book “Please Understand Me”**) Kiersey and Bates claimed that INTPs don’t become authors. We’re too busy having new ideas to write them down.

I read this when I was 12. It -really- annoyed me.

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**This claim only appears in the first edition. By the time they put out their second edition, enough annoyed INTPs had managed to finish and mail letters of outrage, I suspect.

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