Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cross Post and Minor Updates

On Monday I wrote a longish essay in response to Jess's Writer's Weekly Question. I posted it on my LiveJournal rather than here, because that's supposed to be where I write about my writing process and related subjects. Besides, I hadn't posted anything there in many weeks. I had to do something.

But when I displayed the result, nearly everything I'd written was missing - gone forever, not saved anywhere except in my head. So I wrote it again, a little less ambitiously than before.

I don't know whether anyone's even read it.

Anyway, Jess is at it again. My Harlan Ellison story apparently inspired the following question:

Writer's Weekly Question #15:
Name a few famous writers you have had an up-close-and-personal encounter with. Did the encounter have an impact on you and your writing in some way? If so, how?

I wrote my answer in my LJ again, but I'll post it here too, mostly to get out of writing another long post tonight:

I could write a whole series a posts answering this, and probably have. Heck, I haven't even exhaused the subject of my experiences with Harlan Ellison yet. But yes, I've met other writers over the years, and yes, they've had an effect. In brief:

  • Robin Scott Wilson co-founded the Clarion SF Writer's Workhsop. He taught the first week of Clarion '77, the year I was there.I actually don't remember anything specific that I'm sure he said and nnot somebody else, but it was all very informative and encouraging at the time. He may habe been the one who said that "The truth is no excuse." The fact that something has happened in real life doesn't make it believable in fiction. You have to make it work dramatically. Good advice, that. There were a numbers of good bits like that at Clarion, catch phrases encapulating little principles, traps and techniques. 29 years later, though, I can't be sure which writers were behind which bon mots.
  • Peter S. Beagle taught the third week of Clarion that year. Aside from Harlan, he was the writer I most wanted to meet. This was because a) I loved his books, and b) he was a fantasy writer, and I was already at work on my own fantasy novel. You know the one. But crushingly, Beagle didn't like my opening chapters of The Tengrim Sword, as it was called then. Worse, he couldn't even tell me why he didn't like it! He couldn't tell me much of anything, really. He was mostly an instinctive writer,not a technician. He had no advice for me, no encouragement. I did enjoy hearing him read from his work, though. And it was a bit of a revelation to know what someone can write that well without having specific, objective techniques to pass on to others. On the other hand, I heard that at least one other Clarionite learned a lot from him. Why couldn't I do so, too?
  • Algis J Budrys (shown at right) - writer, reviewer, critic - taught the fourth week. We called him Ayjay. One of my favorite bits of plotting advice comes from him, I think: "Get your protagonist up a tree; throw rocks at him; get him out of the tree." He liked what I'd done so far on the novel, which did a lot to repair the damage to my confidence that Pete Beagle had caused. Another interestiing thing about him was that he'd written a book I liked, called The Falling Torch. What I like about it was that the protagonist spent two thirds of the book trying to decide what to do. Once he finally decided to go to war, I turned the page, and the fighting was already basically over! I loved the idea that the decisuion was the important thing, not the actual battle. But Ayjay told me an editor had cut a third of the book!
  • Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight (he's the guy with the beard, right) taught the last two weeks together. I don't remember a darn thing Kate taught, but she cooked a great London Broil for John and me one night. in aid of our Atkins diet. Damon seemed to contradict a lot of the writing advice we'd had to that point, even some of his own. He also discouraged the heck out of me when he said he had theimpression that Mâvarin ended "ten feet beyond the road." I disagreed strongly, but the truth is that I wasn't big on concrete detail in those days. I've worked hard over the years to overcome my talking heads syndrome, in large part because of Damon's remark. Damon also taught about the business side of writing, which I found more helpful at the time than the actual writing advice. Oddly, though, I've since bought a book of Damon's writing advice, and it all resonates with me, nearly thirty years later.

I'll probably come back to this subject later. I have more to say, but I'm very sleepy now.


I have a few updates related to last night's posted bits of real and fact news about happenings in my life:

  • One of the true items has since been proven just slightly false, and it's all my fault.
  • My beloved husband skimmed last night's entry today, totally missed the one-false-item and two-true-items premise, and assumed the false item was true. He even told someone else about it. I am aghast and agog about this. He's blaming me for "lying" in my blog.
  • Today I planned what to do next if the false item were to become true.

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1 comment:

Kev said...

Odd really for me reading your post here, because it made me reflect that although fantasy is my choosen patch of ground to do my thing, I have hardly ever met any writers in the field. Then again, I hate crowds and conferences where I guess many people meet these sorts of people, have never been my thing.

I did meet Jack Dann at a signing in Australia in the late 90s and later at a session about fantasy fiction at a writer's festival which I was dragged to despite a shocking hang over. But to be honest, although his credentials are impressive and his achievements many and he seemed like a lovely chap, he was man who seemed to have very little to say in person and nothing that left an impression on me.

Perhaps it is just my luck. My best friend interviewed Dan Symmons and chatted with him for hours over coffee. My ex girlfriend hooked up with Neil Gaiman and his mates one night after a comics conference and spent a fantastic night talking into the small hours about comics and books and god knows what else she wasn't willling to tell me.

But me, no earth shattering encounters. except perhaps one, when I was about 14. Lynee Reid Banks, ordinarily a writer of social realism, wrote a book called The Indian in the Cupboard, which was made into a hollywood feature quite a few years ago.

She visited my school as part of a writer's week. She came in, sat at the back of the class and started to chatting to me, because no-one else was near. I told her I wrote and that I loved to listen to music while I worked and she whisphered in close and said, "Music, I couldn't possiblity write without it."

The funny thing about this experience, being my only christmas magic story when it comes to an encounter with a 'fantasy writer' is that music is the most important component of my imaginative process. I think, in a way, hearing an established writer at a young age tell me it was important to her too, gave me just a little bit of recognition and confidence that went a long way.