This past weekend I participated in an online intensive short story workshop taught by Mary Robinette Kowal, who’s written some of my favorite stories (including “Lady Astronaut of Mars“, which is a beautiful story and you really ought to read if you haven’t already). It was amazingly educational — I took pages and pages of notes — and very inspiring. I used to participate in the writers’ workshops at various science fiction conventions, but I haven’t done that in awhile; I ended up getting nothing but positive comments, and while that was certainly good for my ego, I felt like I wasn’t actually learning anything. In this workshop, I learned to recognize two of my major flaws as a writer:
- Character motivation. Some of my characters lack consistent internal motivations for their actions, and this is definitely something I need to work on in order to develop as a writer. The other flaw is this:
- Tone consistency. The story I wrote for the class started out as a horror story, but ended up as a buddy comedy. This was not my intention; I had always meant it to be comic, but the opening scene with the main character was just too dark. I have the opposite problem with another story I’ve been working on for years, “Burying Uncle Albert”. I have ideas on how to fix this.
So there’s that. The workshop was intense; Saturday’s session was twelve hours long, and Sunday’s was fourteen. And during each break, we would have homework: write something, then critique two other students’ output. We didn’t have any more than an hour at any point during the course of the workshop when we weren’t learning.
I highly recommend this workshop to you the next time she offers it.
In other news, I’ve decided on a fiduciary goal with regards to my writing: by the age of 50, I want to be earning enough with my writing to be able to cut back on my hours at work without loss of income. I think it’s a doable goal, but it’s going to require some hard work on my part.
I can do it, though. I’m sure of it.
Of course, I’d love to write full-time someday, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe when I retire.