Five Things I learned at Clarion West: Part 2

I meant for this second installment to come sooner. The cold germs had other ideas. So writing is not a competition. What’s next? Write outside your comfort zone. You’re not going to Clarion West (or any other workshop) for business as usual. No writing habit you’ve developed is going to survive this experience unscathed. You’ll be writing stories at a breakneck pace without all the usual ideation and warm-up time. There will be enormous pressure to perform (which sometimes means just finishing the damn story). Be prepared to throw out all your old crutches. Embrace the fact that you might be writing at 11pm. 1am. 3am. I arrived at Clarion West with a handful of ideas. I ended up writing on only one of them. I found myself so caught up in the play of new concepts and exchanges of ideas with my fellow classmates that none of my canned … Continue reading

Your Story is Your Story

I was neck-deep in revisions on the latest WIP when one of my beta readers said to me, “You know, this reminds me a little of another story I read.” I was then beset by apocalyptic visions of two months of work wasted, and a dawning realization that I’d read the story he’d mentioned, too. It made me intensely uncomfortable to think I may have inadvertently lifted anything and doubly worse to feel like maybe I didn’t have anything unique to add to any of those conceits. I spent a few days moping, I’ll admit. Then some friends and mentors shook me out of my stupor. Your voice is unique, they said. Even with similar conceits, your characters and your plot will be different. This is something I heard again and again at Clarion West: Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Write what moves you, no matter what anyone else … Continue reading