I’m back from last week’s Boot Camp and had an amazing experience. I was going to post about it earlier, but I have been trying to catch up at work and on all the sleep I missed (but not at the same time). It was a long and tough week, with 12+ hour days, but it was definitely worth it. I feel like I learned more about what makes for an effective story in that week than I had in the past year.
The first two days were Uncle Orson’s writing class. He covered a lot of the topics that he goes over in Character and Viewpoint and touched on a few things from How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I had read both books multiple times, but hearing him talk through the topics and answer questions really helped solidify the concepts.
On day one he did his 1000 ideas in an hour session, and that night we had to come up with three story ideas based off of some assignments he gave us and write out a summary of each story on a 3 x 5 card. On day two we spent some time in groups going over the ideas and using some of the tools from the 1000 ideas session to develop them even further.
The Boot Campers then spent all day Wednesday taking one of those story ideas and writing out the complete story . I had heard about this from previous Boot Campers and I was really worried that I wouldn’t a) come up with a good idea, or b) be able to write it out in a day. But after going through the process to get the basic outline down on the card, the writing was much easier than I had thought it would be. My story was just under 2800 words and was one of the shorter stories. Some of the stories were 9000+ words.
We then spent the rest of the time reading the other stories and critiquing them. Getting practically instant feedback from fifteen readers on a story I only had a day to work on was really intimidating, but ended up being a great experience. The feedback from the group was very helpful and listening to OSC analyze the stories and give his feedback was amazing.
Despite the long hours and hard work, it was a lot of fun. We even had one person laugh so hard she choked on her water and then threw up. OSC confirmed that as a first in his Boot Camp.
If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.
It sounds like a great experience. I keep hoping that someday I'll get to do that, too, but I don't know if I'll ever have the combined opportunity and money. Still, it is great to hear about it. Thanks for sharing it
It was great. I have been wanting to do this for YEARS and this was the first time that it wasn’t scheduled during a family reunion or a big project at work. All the stars aligned, so I took the opportunity and ran.
Franc li – She’s related to you and Survivor? That's too funny! She was great to have at the Boot Camp. After she threw up it became a sort of running joke throughout the day and every time she laughed, the guy next to her would quickly move his bag away, causing her to laugh even harder. She was a good sport about it.
Spaceman – You are right on about Scott. When it was his turn to critique, it was amazing to hear the things he noticed that none of the rest of us did. Listening to him analyze everyone’s stories was one of the most valuable parts of the whole camp. He was able to put a language to the issues that helped me better understand what does and doesn’t make for a good story.
Kathleen – I am very much looking forward to being part of the super secret Boot Camp Forum! At this point I am assuming that when it is ready, we will get an email telling us how to register/log on. If you have a direct line to the Powers That Be and can speed up the process, all the better!
Actually, in 2005, we were all amazed at Scott's critiques on thursday. By saturday, our critiques started to sound like his. We had an amazing class--very talented people with many names you will recognize of you follow the short fiction markets closely.
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I'm finally rested up from that crazy week, and just wanted to second WobblyG's comments.
It was an incredible experience. I have a much deeper understanding of story and character now that I would never have imagined.
The frustrating thing is that now I go back and read stuff I've written and I know it is all utter drivel
And, I can't enjoy bad fiction either. Ever since I've been back, I can't enjoy the horrible novel and the online magazine I had been reading previously. Of course, I am taking the opportunity to learn form their mistakes, but now I need to find new reading material (at least until OSC's next book comes out)!
We actually got to hear snippets of his current WIP during the workshop - so that was totally cool.
You guys are so nicely incognito - oh well, that's what I get for not lurking more (or listening to my own family members...) before registering.
As the groundbreaking boot camp vomit queen, it is ironic that I've never hurled in relation to pregnancy or sea voyages. Especially the voyage between Sardinia and Rome in a storm when everyone around me was throwing up (we were traveling cheap, so were sleeping on the floor in the game room next to the ladies loo).
OK, like the best neatest perk (IMHO) of doing Boot Camp (besides entre into codexwriters and the prestigious 'former boot camper' flag on IGMS submissions) is Card's offer to sit with us (if we are ever in the same location) and critique the first 10-ish pages of a work on which we haven't written anything more.
In order to avail myself of that offer, I decided to junk the 100,000 previous words I'd written on my novel (it was starting in the wrong place and not taking advantage of the POV opportunities anyway).
Turned out when I e-mailed to find out when might be a good time to travel to Greensboro that Card was actually on business only 30 minutes from my home. So I whipped up 9 pages and drove over.
Well Meg, I’m glad you came forward and admitted to being the “Boot Camp Barfer”. I was trying not to name names in my post, but since you publicly admitted it…
So, you already got feedback from OSC on another story? That was fast! I guess that’s one of the perks of being on the east coast. I’m assuming that this time there was no regurgitation involved in the feedback process?
Incognito... I've never been able to do anything under any name but Meg - except for the folks who see my legal name is Margaret and call me that (ick) or call me Maggie (blech). Megan just leaves me non-plussed.
When I took French in college, everyone got to assume a french name. I was all ready to style myself 'Marguerite.' But when it got to me, none of my classmates would let me call myself anything other than Meg. Meg's not even remotely French sounding...
quote:So, you already got feedback from OSC on another story? That was fast! I guess that’s one of the perks of being on the east coast. I’m assuming that this time there was no regurgitation involved in the feedback process?
I figured carpe diem. I didn't regurgitate, but he sent me an e-mail that was a joke, but I wasn't sure and interpreted it literally. That was way more embarrassing, actually.
I ended up writing 7 of the 9 pages in a two hour marathon in my car (after learning he was in town). So I didn't feel as threatened (kind of like how it was hard to feel to defensive about the stories we'd tossed off in that single day of Boot Camp). But I also realized that a lot of what he was criticizing I would have still done even if I had polished the thing for a couple of weeks.
I went into my word version and annotated his comments. Part of my problem was that I am starting my story earlier with characters that were two dimensional in my original version. And he called me on things that were artifacts of the reality that I don't know these people yet and couldn't flesh them out. On the other hand, three of the characters I knew so well that I forgot to flesh them out for the reader. I was writing the beginning the way I've been able to write the later chapters (that I'm discarding), where you already know what these people care about and how they react.
The most valuable thing for me is getting the clarification on what works and what is awful. Which he is uniquely qualified to give, since he is the only living author to treat this subject and timeframe/location in a work that has been published by a mainstream house (my desired aim). So he was able to tell me personal habits of one of my characters, tell me what part of town the cabin was located in, argue with me about what I have certain people doing, and tell me how to keep it from being relegated to a niche audience.
One thing that was perversely gratifying was to tell him what happens to one of the characters, and have him look at me with sincerity and say, "Oh, I'm sad."
Hee hee hee
[This message has been edited by meg.stout (edited August 30, 2007).]
[This message has been edited by meg.stout (edited August 30, 2007).]