Viable Paradise – Monday

If you are here, it’s because you are in the top 2 – 3% of the slush pile.”


The day started early with a forced march – 6:30am, MacDonald led a 3 mile walk along the coastline.  I opted to join so that I could stretch my legs.  The island is beautiful in the rising sun.  Wish I had taken my camera because I would have gotten some glorious shots.  I got this one a few days later.

0830 – We meet in the downstairs room to go over how the week works.  The night before, we’d been given packets with our schedules and all the stuff we were supposed to read.

We then separate out into break-out groups.  The break-out groups work like this – 5 to 6 students will read and critique your work, each one getting five minutes.  Then the 2 instructors in the group will critique your work. Then you’re given a few minutes to respond, but not before.

I’m not sure if I was fortunate or not, but my work (Genie Memories) was up on Monday alongside Irina’s ‘Brief Horizons’.  The critiques were interesting.  If anyone came to the island expecting to be coddled, this was the moment they’d be broken of that belief.  We’re all of professional level and we should expect professional critiques.  That said, it’s not like we tore into each other.  Every critique had a purpose and I’ll be damned if not one of them wasn’t on target.  It also exposes you to a larger, more diverse audience.

I had Patrick Nielsen-Hayden (PNH, Editor at TOR) and Steven Gould (SG, author of Jumper) as the instructors. Leah, Cath, Miranda, Christian, and Irina were the students.  How’d it go?  Fairly well. PNH compared it (favorably) to Zelzany.  It was called a spy thriller meets superheroes.  The second chapter slowed it down.  SG pointed out a few errors in my technology.   Theo was an exceptionally strong character.  A few other things, all of which I noted.  In the end, I was extremely happy.

After the break-outs, we had a lecture on Plot by MacDonald (JMD).  Very interesting, especially when the chess board came out.  I’d read about using chess in relation to plot via the Absolute Write boards, but until I saw it in front of me, it never made sense.  Lecture was followed by lunch, then another lecture by Elizabeth Bear (EB) on Structure.

We then went into a series of writing exercises with Laura Mixon (LM).  That’s when we found out what we’d use our toys for – the writing assignments, due Thursday.

The highlight of the day?  My One-on-One with JMD.  This was one hour alone with a master of plot as he dissected my story.  This was damned cool, eye-opening, and all that.  He spent the first twenty minutes tearing it apart, pointing out errors, exposition that wasn’t needed, etc.  Then he told me “Theo is not your main character.  It’s Abbott.”  Probably could have picked my jaw up off the floor.  But it made sense.  Abbott was the one that had the wants and needs.  Doesn’t mean he’s the viewpoint character, just that he’s the one that has a lot riding on this.  So JMD and I spent the last forty minutes plotting out a new outline that I think will make the story transcend into the kick-ass territory.

Dinner that night was fun.  There was a lot of chatting and sharing what we learned through the day.  Someone told me of SG’s 48/12 rule – write for 48 minutes, then you can reward yourself with 12 minutes of stretching or surfing the web or whatever.  Useful tidbits like that were all over the place.  It’s hard to drag yourself away from the conversations, but in the end, I did and went up to read tomorrow’s pieces.  I didn’t finish til 2:30am.