Session 3 in Cat Rambo’s F&SF Workshop

Workshopping, critiques: I am still not good at this. Some folks give out beautiful, insightful, helpful critiques; I tend to give out short ones, doing my best to balance out the good and the bad (not difficult at all with this class’s talented writers). Like any skill, it can be honed, and I’m going to need to do this as I’ve rejoined the Online Writing Workshop (Fantasy & SF version). I actually don’t know what the hell is blocking me; it’s not like I can’t write good book reviews.

If it turns out that I write in small chunks but think critically in big chunks….

Oh well, irony, it’s part of my self-discovery diet of late, I suppose.

We didn’t get around to showing our homework in class; but we have been posting it to our Google+ circle so that everyone can take a gander, and I like that we can go around commenting on these, too. Definitely an advantage over rushing through them, but I miss Cat’s input. But we can’t do everything in the time frame that we have, even when Cat kindly extended class time by 30 minutes.

That extension, by the way, made a real difference: there was actually a lecture. This week was about world-building, which isn’t just sprinkling in details or doing information dumps; it’s also about choosing tone—which is especially established through sensory detail, a connection I never really thought about. It’s about a certain kind of style: motifs, structure, theme, figures of speech, politics. One of the reasons the character-doing-something-mundane exercise was so powerful is because it got the character to interact with the world, changing it in some fashion.

There were more details, like taking idiosyncratic details and extrapolating from them. Cat talked about a story about a world with three moons with different cycles and different colors, reflects in the world’s concept of time: a red week versus a white week, a 15-day week, a system of coinage based on 15.

We even did a tone exercise, a timed writing about the shopping mall where we would try to establish a tone but not directly let the reader know (nothing like “this is a humorous piece”, a description which often turns out to be woefully wrong anyways). Man, everybody hates malls, except me, and even for myself I’ve got a relationship where I see the bad along with the good. I did not manage to establish much in the way of tone, not like the MALL OF DEATH piece someone wrote, which was actually damned good at tone.

Something I’ve been discovering as I read through pieces: we badly need to cover dialogue, which we didn’t get to do in the previous class.

Next week’s exercise is to take a lump of exposition (I’m sad we couldn’t choose something from each of our stories) and reshape that lump of details into a scene. “Tell it so that the reader doesn’t realize they’re learning anything. Include enough of it that the reader can fully understand the situation the queen is in.”

I’m not sure that this will be candy for me, and I’m going to be carrying a pager for the next five days.

Also, I took Cat’s Flash Fiction class as well. Who knew that timed writings could be so merciless? But we wrote and wrote and wrote, from all sorts of prompts, and I’m really sorry about creating the “If cows were wishes” one. Under pressure, I write insane stuff. But… despite the insanity, this is the first time when I’ve not wanted to share my works with the world, not because I won’t do it eventually, but because I want to sell stuff.

Although I’m not sure the story about the turnip superhero—no, really, a superhero who’s a turnip—is going to go anywhere.

I am still very tired from it all. I may nap some more.