Session 4 was just about perfect. I really just loved it.
First, the workshopping, while it still took an hour, did not overtake the class. Cat even got to talk about horror, which is a rare opportunity in the class; people tended to prefer non-horror F&SF. The closest I could come to appreciating a horror piece in class was, “It was like an episode of Doctor Who.” This is not entirely unfair, since Doctor Who does cover horror, sometimes quite elegantly in a psychological way despite the show’s inherent cheeziness.
Second, I think we have the right idea now with sharing the now-longer exercises on Google+ rather than waiting for class, because we just don’t have time to read them out, and this way everyone can admire (really! Peeps here are talented) everyone’s work. Everyone was so worried about the expository lump exercise (from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft), and it turned out well after all.
Third, Cat got to talk about the class’s topics in detail: dialogue and description. I appreciate this a lot; much of what was discussed was new to me, even though I’ve read quite a few writing books. For instance, neurolinguistic studies as applied to dialogue, and what description needs to accomplish. I must admit I’m also pleased these days to see misleading advice from various sources get mythbusted—not that Cat does this on a regular basis, but there are writing books out there that tell you to use dialogue as infrequently as possible. This was busted via many examples, including Terry Bisson (who has written pure dialogue stories) and Connie Willis (whose dialogue carries many of her stories, and very well at that).
Fourth, the homework terrifies me: take a piece you’re not satisfied with, rewrite it, and think about how you’re rewriting it. I think this is a great thing, because homework that terrifies usually takes you places, like the expository lump. I’m noticing that the exercises are getting harder with each class.
The thing about me is that I really do revise a lot; I revise while I’m writing, which is supposed to be a sin, but hey, if it works that’s all that matters, whether or not people tell you that it shouldn’t. I think this is actually how the folks who produce “perfect” first drafts work, as discussion after class seemed to point out: if they get stuck, they go back and revise.
I’ve just never really thought about what I’ve been doing.
I really need to start thinking about what I’m doing more often.
I’ll add another thing: Cat’s classes seem to have unblocked something in me. Probably because of the exercises, I’ve been writing stories other than what is tentatively called Seal Tales. I’ve even been writing with an eye towards publication.
After class, I took a walk. I stopped by our bookstore and bought Steering the Craft (it’s not available for the Kindle), and haven’t regretted it thus far.