Thoughts on workshopping and the Campbell Conference

There is a morning session today to wind up the Campbell Conference and everyone will be going off in our own directions early this afternoon. It’s been a busy and fruitful two weeks. Something of a paradox, as well, for it seems as if they lasted forever AND came to an end much too quickly. I meet so many great folks here and made a couple of friendships that I think will become long-term.

The workshop, which ended Friday afternoon, was everything I had hoped it would be. I brought three stories and I’m taking them home as three completely different tales. Better, I believe. The first that was workshopped, A Prayer to Saint Barbara, has become Fat-Bottom Girl.  That name is a misnomer. It is slimmer and tighter than it was two weeks ago and it is ready, I believe, to submit to the professional markets.

Jim Gunn thinks so, too.  Thursday, at the completion of its second critique, he suggested that I send it off to Stan Schmidt at Analog.

So Tuesday, when I have settled into place in Seattle, it is going in the mail. I most likely will change the title before that; I don’t even want to think about a Fair Use lawsuit from the folks that hold the copyright to Queen’s big hit, but whatever I wind up calling it, I have hopes for this story.

I think I’ve made a breakthrough in my writing, thanks to Professor Gunn. He has a comfortable but incisive style of teaching and he is such a gentleman.  When he wants to make a point, he begins his remarks with, “It seems to me ..”  I figured out quickly that when he said that, something worthwhile would follow.

The story-telling style he suggests is deceptively simple. Write in scenes of 800-1000 words. Start the story with the crisis situation from which the protagonist escape. Decide what the story is about and remain true to that theme throughout the narrative.  Of course, it’s not the only way to write a story but it is one successful way to do so and I think I got it.  We shall see.

My second story, As A Wind Among the Reeds, has morphed into Stuff of the Old Gods, using the same techniques.  It has become a better, stronger story, too. It needs just a bit more polishing, but I expect to have it in the mail to Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine within the week.

The third story, which I’m now calling Fractal Jack, is going to need more work. Only 5,000 of it’s 9,000+ words survived critique, but I believe I see the path that it must follow, too. It will be in the mail, too, before the end of the month, along with Being Abednego, which I was able to plot from its new beginning to the end, using Gunn’s suggestions.  It’s earmarked for Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

The Campbell Conference, so named to honor John Campbell, long-time editor of Analog, was a worthwhile experience, too.  There were some great round-table discussions (and casual evening chats, I met a ton of people who are involved in the business of writing and publishing science fiction and I had a chance to talk with published authors James Alan Gardner, who won the Sturgeon Award for his short fiction, Raygun: A Love Story, as well as Ian MacLeod and Cory Doctorow, who shared this year’s Campbell award for best novel. MacLeod for Song of Time and Doctorow for Little Brother. Great fun.

Tomorrow morning it is back to real life but I’m taking so much back to Seattle with me.

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