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Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp—Monday

(Note to self: next time bring a stadium seat or wear padded biker shorts. I’ve been sitting for what must be about 16 hours. Can your butt get carpal something?)

The day was worth the price of admission. OSC is an incredible teacher and has surpassed my expectations. He tends to bash more holistic conferences and really was up front that this was going to be entirely craft-driven.

We examined different story types and combinations: milieu, idea-driven, character-driven, and event-driven. We critiqued some of our submitted stories then dove into deep exercises, breaking down the pros and cons of various POVs. All practical, fundamental stuff, but taught in a fresh way.

One of the best parts of the day was about training someone to be an ideal reader. Giving someone you trust the tools to point out the symptoms (problems) in your writing––without worrying about the diagnosis. This was extremely helpful to me. (I’ll post more on that next week).

My submitted story was one of the handful chosen to be put through the critiquing gauntlet––a dubious honor. For starters my story was in first person, and I knew going into it that he wasn’t a big fan of that POV––especially for newbie writers. The other worry was that it was mainstream fiction, and 75% of the folks here are die-hard Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers. I’m here because I consider myself a character-driven writer, and Orson Scott Card, in my opinion, is a master at making you ache for his characters.

That being stated, he hated that I wrote it in 1st person––but said it was very well written for someone trying to handle it that way and couldn’t find the normal flaws that he expects to find when newbie writers work in 1st person—namely flip-flopping tense. So I guess I pulled it off. (Barely).

The other feedback was that it was too literary. He said it had a style that was appropriate for certain literary magazines––none of the ones he mentioned I actually read––but I knew what he meant. That’s a hard compliment. I don’t really consider myself a “literary writer”—I think I’m painfully mainstream. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Dunno? Self-examination is a killer. See, how can I be literary when I use the word Dunno?

The day was packed. So was the evening. We were given stories to critique during lunch, and also had to come up with five story ideas based on today’s exercises plus write a one-page short story on ourselves.

I’m done. It’s about 1:00am. Going to bed. Other folks are still working.

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Reader Comments (4)

Wow, they weren't kidding when they called it boot camp, were they? The critique sounds tough. If my stuff was chosen I would have curled up in the fetal position and cried right there. But it sounds like his feedback was overall positve. I mean for him to say you handled first so well is huge.

Sounds like a tiring but enlightening week for you.

June 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJaye
Congrads on your review, Jamie! That is indeed an honor. I think, though, you have to remember that just because one person says something about your writing doesn't mean that's what everyone will think. So I wouldn't worry about whether or not you're mainstream.

When you have a chance to post about it, I would love to hear more about training readers. I'm having a hell of time with getting my first readers to do a deep read, so some pointers would really help.
June 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterC. Rooney
I believe it's called Carpal Buttal.

Okay, that was cheesy.

But at least you're having fun!
June 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDana
Jaye--before I came out I inquired about any historical sites to visit while I was in the area. They laughed. This is all work. But at least I'm getting my money's worth. I would recommend this to anyone.

Rooney--I'll definitely post about training an ideal reader next week. It's so simple it will blow you away.
June 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie ford

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