Category: Odyssey


It’s been a month since I’ve last posted. Sorry about that. What am I doing?

Well, I’ve been trying to get my writing life organized. First priority has been finding… no, making… time to write. My success has been mixed. I have made more time to write. I’ve been writing (or revising) every day. I’ve completed a new short story draft, my longest ever at about 7200 words. I’ve been working on revising stories I wrote at Odyssey (or before). My standards are higher now than they’ve ever been, but I have one story that is getting close to as good as I can make it and therefore ready to send out. I’ve also been doing a little bit of critique work, both for fellow Odyssey students and out on OWW.

But, this search for writing time has played havoc with all the other aspects of my life, all the things that are being sacrificed to make that time. So, the struggle goes on. The adjustments are not done yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What else? Revision is hard! It wasn’t so hard before Odyssey, but like I said, my standards are higher now and I didn’t really have any idea what revision was until the workshop. Now, that last 20% of getting a story ready for the world is excruciatingly difficult. I’m no longer satisfied with ‘good enough.’

I’ll be headed to ChiCon, a.k.a. WorldCon, next weekend for four days. Looking to have fun, meet people, and hopefully learn a little bit. I’ll try to give a report when I get back.

I’m reading a couple of things. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, 30 short stories edited by Sean Williams. I’m almost done with it and the stories have been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed this book. I’m also making an effort to step out of genre a little bit and so I’m currently also reading the Collected Stories and Novels of Shirley Jackson, including “The Haunting of Hill House” which is what I’m currently in the midst of. I have the collected works of Flannery O’Connor next in the queue which I’m stoked about as I’m a huge fan of O’Connor. Her short story, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” is my favorite short story of any genre.

Hopefully, as things begin to settle back to normal, I’ll be posting here again more regularly. If not, feel free to poke me!

 

The Odyssey experience

I’ve failed. I promised to try keeping my blog updated over the course of Odyssey, and that just didn’t happen. But, there’s good reason.

300,000 words – That’s how many words I read of other people’s writing. Twice. As in 600,000. And line edits for every single bit of it.

40,000 words – Written critiques of other people’s writing.

150 hours spent working on critiques.

30,000 words – written for my own stories, six of them. That’s just first draft. I don’t even want to think about the time spent here, subtract the critique time, 5 hours class time per weekday, and 4 hours sleep per night, and the rest was writing/revising.

20,000 words in revision of my stories.

10,000 words of deleted scenes and aborted stories.

Not to mention classwork, exercises, social get togethers, and finding time to eat (13 pounds lost) and sleep (will I ever not feel tired, or stop waking up at 5am?).

By the last two weeks, it was an effort to respond to text messages, let alone email, or to even think about blogging.

So. Sounds terrible, right?

I’d go again, right now, without a second thought. I’ve learned so much that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. I learned that I wrote on instinct before Odyssey. Oh sure, I knew some basic things, and my instincts (I think) were decent, but I had no idea how to tell if I was on the right path with a story, or wildly off kilter. And if I was off, I had no way of knowing how to understand where I went wrong or how to fix it.

I can look at writing in a completely different light now. I’ve kept my instinct (I hope) because it is a great tool, but now it’s tempered with knowledge. Once this MBA’s worth of learning completely sinks in and settles in my brain, I will be a writer and not just a guy who writes.

If you ever get a chance to go to Odyssey, you’ll be exposed to one of the smartest people I’ve ever met–Jeanne Cavelos. She won’t pull punches, but everything she’ll tell you will be delivered kindly, with your writing future in mind and everything she points out will be dead on. There’s no question about writing she can’t answer, and there’s very few of them where she’ll not only give you an answer but also one or two other things that you hadn’t even thought about.

And I haven’t mentioned the friendships. I’ve made friends that I’ll have for life. I’ve changed as a writer, (<– I would’ve missed that comma before Odyssey) and I’ve changed as a person. For the better in both aspects.

If you’ve ever thought about applying for Odyssey, do it. If you have questions, feel free to ask me and I’ll try to answer them.

Enough gushing. I’ll try and post more specifics in the next few days, but no promises this time!

 

Odyssey – Day 13

Okay, I haven’t been posting as much as I’d hoped. It’s not because I don’t have the time. I don’t have much but I do have moments here and there. It’s because every time I think about blogging, I think “Ugh, not more writing!” We were told early on in the first week, “If you’re not writing, you’re not writing.” And that mantra is starting to take over. Every time I get up to take a break, I think to myself, “I should be writing.” The group went to dinner tonight and I found myself thinking that before the meal was even served.

But, I don’t mean to make it sound worse than it is. I love it. The people here are great (I have to say that, they stalk me) and it is so refreshing to be constantly having conversations that revolve around writing.

So… this week, I got feedback from the class on my now infamous “Serial killer” story. I think it was received pretty well, but had some (what should have been) obvious problems. The worst was, just because you are having fun with the main character doesn’t mean you should forget about all the others.

I also met with Jeanne (the instructor) on Friday and we went over my first three stories. My strengths seem to be plot and interesting characters, so that was encouraging. My weaknesses: I let my protagonists off the hook too easily, I short change my characters and setting when it comes to description, and I break almost every grammar rule there is because I’m an instinctive (read: lazy) writer. So those are the things I’m working on this week.

We also talked about getting ideas that excite me, i.e. that I want to write about. After brainstorming a bit I think we figured out that I get most of my story ideas while I’m driving home from work. In other words, I need a menial task to occupy the analytical part of my mind so that my subconscious can talk to me (or come as close as it ever does). It should have been obvious, but it took someone else to point it out. And no, don’t suggest exercise. All I think about when I exercise is how much I hate exercise and when will it be over?

One of the stories that Jeanne critiqued was 26 pages with a twist at the end that I thought was pretty clever. I looked through her line edits of my manuscript and on page 6 (PAGE 6!) she wrote a comment in the margin that completely nailed the ending. On Page 6. That’s what I’m up against! Ha ha, I was beyond impressed.

My next story will be given to the class on Tuesday for critique on Wednesday so wish me luck!

Odyssey – Day 2

Today I learned that I don’t know much about revision. What I’ve always considered “revision” is actually polishing. Actual revision involves things that horrify me, like starting over.

I learned that I can spend three hours working up a critique and still miss obvious things.

I learned that if you aren’t writing then you’re not writing (Unless you’re revising).

I learned that lack of sleep at Odyssey can begin to effect you on Day 2 (unless you were already affected on Day 1).

Odyssey – Day 1

I’m here!

I spent Saturday night in Vermont (oh my, what a gorgeous state) and then arrived here on Sunday morning. The residence where we are staying is very nice, better than I expected. Essentially, it is a big house, much more welcoming than the ‘dorm’ experience I was expecting. The weather has been great as well, a little hot during the day but nice and cool at night. I’m told that that will change.

Obviously I am not supposed (nor would I have anyway) to talk about specifics of things that happen in the classroom or specifics about my fellow classmates. I will say though that they (and the Odyssey staff as well) have been incredibly friendly and helpful. There has been very little in the way of opening jitters.

So far, the thing that has struck me the most is the conversation. If you’ve read my bio, then you know I’m a software developer. An office full of engineers is where I spend most of my time around people who are not my family. A typical conversation there might go like this.

“So, you’re going on vacation for six weeks, huh? Where are you going?”

“To a writer’s workshop.”

At this point they stare at me as if a horn just sprouted from my forehead. “Ah, technical writing?”

“No, fiction.”

Now, they are starting to back away. “Really, what kind of fiction?”

“Speculative fiction.”

“What is that?”

“Science fiction, fantasy, and horror.”

At this point, the horns are popping out everywhere. “Oh, look at the time, I have to get my TPS report done.” And they move away as quickly as possible.

Here, not only do the conversations not happen that way, but instead of the typical introductory “Where are you from? What do you do?” the lead-in question tends to be “What do you write?” which is as refreshing as hell and brings a grin to my face every time I hear it.

Tonight was an easy night, I only spent about 6.5 hours on homework needed for tomorrow. I’ll post more as I can.

 

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