Now that it’s week two, we’re critiquing new submissions that are 6k words instead of 10k words. We started off with analyzing Suzanne Palmer’s story “The Secret Life of Bots,” particularly how to raise stakes and tension: for lack of better words, keep dumping sh-t on characters. Three critiques today: Suzanne Walker (prequel/backstory to her secondary world fantasy from Week 1), Seth Chambers (trope-aware tavern fantasy), and Gio Clairval (continuation of her trippy sushi novel from Week 1). During Suzanne’s critique, Nancy brought up something interesting: it can be an advantage to start out with what the reader needs to know (ex: GRRM starting out with just the direwolf scene in mind, despite the complexity of the plot and scope of his world), and on the other hand, it can be a disadvantage to write with knowing too much of the world. Nancy also said that writing requires being three people at once: the person putting words on the page, get into the mind of the character, and the reader (the hardest part). The task of a writer is to translate a multimedia event into a linear one on the page. She also offered a math formula (if that’s even possible in writing): Pacing equals number of events divided by number of words. Increase pace: put more events.
After class, I had my one-on-one meeting with Nancy at 4 PM. She helped me work through a few problems on my Week 1 submission, and gave me advice on having a consistent writing schedule and being a more proactive reader of current SFF. She also gave me feedback on my application story, “Our Pact.” I thought I made it obvious that the setting and culture of my story was heavily derived from Mongolia. I used actual Mongolian words and folklore, like “khan,” the names Tarvaa, Uudam, and Chuluun, and based my main character on the Mongolian seer of the same name. I don’t know how I can make it any more obvious. So I was very surprised to hear from Nancy that the setting wasn’t clear to her.
At 7 PM we had movie night featuring Casablanca and commentary on plot devices from Walter. Post-movie hot tub with Brian Hinson lasted from 9:10 to 10:15 PM. After attempting to decompress in the hot tub, I read critiques for tomorrow and did last-minute writing my Week 2 submission that’s due tonight! I ended up sending an old, complete fantasy short story that hasn’t sold yet, because I just couldn’t bring myself to finish two scenes for the beginning of SEAL Splintered (superhero sci-fi novel) and didn’t feel confident about the synopsis. I went to bed feeling pretty bleh. Considering how everyone was flying/writing on the seat of their pants this week, I probably wasn’t alone in that.