Ok, I’m nearly back on schedule.
The Writers of the Future workshop week was wonderfully educational. We had two amazing primary teachers, Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers, and a plethora of secondary speakers who all gave their take on different aspects of writing fiction professionally.
When I arrived I was picked up at the airport at the same time as Stephen Sottong (Author of Planetary Scouts), who along with Tina Gower (Author of Twelve Seconds and our Gold Award winner!), was my quarter-mate. Tina ended up being my roommate for the week, which was fantastic. After long evenings in the hotel lobby talking to night-owl judges, we’d often go back to the room and stay up a few hours more talking.
The group stayed at the Loews hotel, and walked a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard every day to the Author Services building. The writing workshop was taught on the fourth floor, while the illustrator’s was taught on the first in front of the stage for the L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theater (where live radio plays of Hubbard’s works are preformed. We got to see one on the Monday before we left, and it was very well done).
The ASI fourth floor is beautiful, and the area we were taught in is basically one big library (the majority of which is devoted to Hubbard’s works, but there is one wing devoted to the works of WotF winners). There, Tim, Dave and company instructed us on the ways of the professional. We received both lessons in craft and in business.
The most amusing thing about the workshop was the constant intrusion of the photographers (who were very nice). Those pretty pictures you see on the WotF website and newsletter? They didn’t get that well composed by accident (most of them, anyway). We were constantly having our table tops rearranged, papers hidden, and drinks removed. This constituted a bonus lesson in photography.
The most stressful thing about the workshop was by far the twenty-four hour story. We were given an object, a trip to the library, and a stranger (ok, we had to find the stranger, none were given to us) to inspire a story, then we were expected to produce a completed story(as in, written to the end, not necessarily submission-ready) in twenty-four hours (that’s twenty-four hours writing time. The inspiration points happened over the previous forty-eight hours or so, so we did have time to think and digest before having to produce words).
On our first workshop day we received our objects. I was given a box of who-knows-how-old raisins out of Tim’s grab bag. A few of the other objects included a floppy disk, a magnifying glass, and a hotel room key.
For me, the stressful part came not when we were given the go-ahead to start typing, but when we had to go talk to a stranger. As a confirmed introvert, striking up a conversation with a random person is not my thing. But I did it. Thankfully my stranger was a very nice sunglasses salesman from Turkey (Alisa Alering [Author of Everything You Have Seen] also spoke to a sunglasses salesmen from Turkey–oddly enough, they were not the same person). A few other people (ahem, Tina) had much more awkward encounters.
The actual writing part went smoothly for me. I think this is because I’ve had some practice writing stories in a day. We started writing at 4:00pm and were expected to have our story printed and turned in by 4:00pm the following day. I was able to write ‘the end’ on a 4,000ish-word draft at around 12:30 or 1:00am, while others were up most of the night. The next day I edited at my leisure, making sure to strengthen themes and descriptions– other people did not have the same opportunity to rework.
Again, I don’t think writing the story went well for me because of any extra craft skills I possess. I think it had 100% to do with having written that way multiple times before. I was able to plan and pace myself accordingly. If there is one piece of advice I’d give to future workshop attendees, it’s to practice this method ahead of time.
After we turned in our stories, Dave and Tim chose three for us to critique as a group. For some people, I think this might have been the most stressful part of the twenty-four hour challenge. A few seemed to dread the thought of their story being pulled from the pile. Tim and Dave could of course chose whichever stories they wanted by whatever method they wanted, and they joked about throwing the manuscripts down some stairs and picking the ones that flew the farthest. Apparently mine was quite aerodynamic (a fine quality in a story), as it was picked along with Tina’s and Chrome Oxide’s (Author of Cop for a Day).
I got some very insightful feedback, and have since reworked the story a bit more. I submitted it for the first time on Tuesday. If you get a chance to participate in this workshop, do your best to make sure the story you write isn’t a throw away. Don’t complete the challenge just because you have to–aim to get at least the beginnings of something submitable out of it. Every story you write is practice and the Big Game all at the same time. So, it’s ok if you try something and it doesn’t work for you (like writing a story in one sitting), but always do your damndest.
I will return next week with Part 2 of my recap. There might end up being a Part 3, we’ll just have to see.
If you’ve got any questions about the workshop or twenty-four hour story in particular, feel free to ask!
P.S. I’ve sold another story! Details soon.