Thursday, April 19, 2007

Random Notes and Yay for Writing Workshops!

Before I get onto the joys of last night's writing workshop, I want to know something: What attracted all the new, obscure people to the site? The Dark Knight or The Time Traveler's Wife?

Also, notice as we take another step closer to Orwell's 1984, 59 years after the year he satirizes and 23 years after the year his publisher wanted to predict: Student Arrested After Talking About [Virginia Tech] Gunman. I'm not a sympathizer of this gunman (as my upcoming short story will attest -- come on, Lex, finish it and get it published!), but neither do I agree with the government arresting someone exercising their First Amendment rights before investigating further. . .maybe someone's trying to making up for not looking into the VT gunman with all the telltale signs he had broadcast (come on, finish your story and publish it!).

And another stray thought: The death of Kurt Vonnegut pushed me to finally start reading some of his work. Picked up Galapagos the beginning of this week. Published in 1985, makes me think the writers of LOST were heavily influenced by Kurt Vonnegut and Galapagos. Hmmmmm. . .?

Writing Workshops

Last night, went to the monthly Chicago-SF writing workshop. So happy I went. This and the other workshops I've joined really have become the monthly event that I looked forward to. . .after spending time with the fiancee and family. This recent one really live up to the anticipation.

We had a lot of fun beyond just critiquing our works, too. Fun and stimulating conversation without things becoming argumentative or trying to force someone's world view on someone else, except for maybe a minor little thing when I confused details about an institution that two of us acquaint ourselves.

Other than that, good stuff. I think an easy chemistry with other members of a workshop becomes key. We, after all, expose ourselves to these people in ways that we don't to the rest of the world. Yes, some of us may have publishing as a goal, but we show the people in our group stuff in development, not publishing-quality. It takes some degree of courage to say, "Look at this incomplete thing that may suck. Tell me what you think, no matter how negative your thoughts." In a world that makes us feel that we have to do everything right the first time, this kind of workshop can take a lot courage. . .similar to the courage to get stuff on paper in the first place (in other words, the courage to possibly suck).

We also talked about some interesting technical matters when we got to the meet of the meeting, critiquing. I, for one, am immensely grateful for the other two people pointing out that one of the characters in my novel prologue didn't stand out as much as other characters. The ironic thing, he's supposed to stand out and tends to do so after this part. Will need to work on that.

The meeting also got me to re-read that section of the novel. I had a lot of the same feelings as my "associates" about the mechanics of the piece. For a piece written something like four or five years ago, it somewhat passes the test of time. It mixes a lot of bad writing style that I had back then trying to "write properly" (still working on that one) but had a great "innocence" that imparts a certain excitement that I don't seem to have in my current writing. I'd like to channel that energy while keeping the more recent enjoyability of the grammar and other technical matters.

I won't get into any detail about the other people's works, since they own them. Nonetheless, we got into some very interesting conversations about point of view, first- and third-person narratives (make sure to visit Tightrope Girl's blog for some great writing geek ruminations on that topic), how to transfer information about a world without overwhelming or boring the reader, the potential of flashbacks and starting a story earlier, later or on certain notes of tension or excitement and the artifices allowed in literature (narrator, characters only in there for commentary, events and social codes in there or not in there, etc.) but wouldn't happen so much in real life. Unfortunately, I can't really articulate much of the conversation or my thoughts, mainly because of my executive dysfunction.

The workshop experience last night really reminds me how much I'd like to express my process and craft geekiness rather than just talk about things in general or the "courage to create." The geek stuff of writing fascinates me, a ton, especially with how useful it becomes to make a good story.

I love Tightrope Girl's and Denis McGrath's blogs when they get deep into technical and craft topics of narrative. Even Alexander Epstein and Will Dixon can have some great stuff, even if they can get more involved in the movie/TV technology side of things. On that note, Denis McGrath's seems to be losing his emphasis on the narrative craft side of things and moving onto the Canadian TV business and more of an emotional response to his experiences in the biz. In the end, though, I enjoy the narrative/storytelling craft type stuff and would like to expound more on that stuff, if I can get inspired and have the chance.

Maybe if someone had any questions about narrative craft. . .?

EDIT: Jane Espenson also writes some great stuff about craft, just in a not so geeky way. She writes in much less technical terms. Quite a lady, with her great advice.

EDIT 2: Forgot to mention two other things for the workshop. I don't think there's necessarily enough discussion nor do I feel like my gets enough criticism. The latter issue could be that I simply have submitted some good stuff (see this discussion for my changed mind). In regards to the discussion matter, I think the low attendance contributes to it, but the newness to fiction writing and workshopping could be a matter for some of the people. Not trying to criticize. . .I just enjoy discussion of things. Could just be me.

And I do still receive a lot of value from the workshop.


Allan said...

Jane Espenson ? Her weblog is really oriented towards writers who might be submitting spec work to established TV seres, however most of her advice about craft is good and it's generic to all prose.

The_Lex said...

Unfortunately, most of the crafter bloggers I linked to fall into that category. The generic stuff can be quite helpful, though.

Reminds me, though, that I do need to expose myself to more "literary" blogs.

Chuckling said...

Since you asked, I did a google search on Frankl and Vonnegut and got your site high on the list.

I picked up Man's Search for Meaning yesterday and read it pretty much straight through. I've read most everything by Vonnegut, but couldn't remember if he had written about Frankl. I'm thinking that he did, using him as an example of someone who had similar, albeit worse, experiences and came to opposite conclusions. Maybe not. The search shows I'm far from the only one to connect the two philosophically.