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15 October 2007 @ 11:08 pm
Viable Paradise, One Week Later: Where Am I, Now? And Where Am I Going?  
Summary: Now that I'm starting to absorb the VP lessons, I work on what they mean to me, and what my current plans are towards getting where I want to be.

So, it's been a little more than a week since I got back from Viable Paradise. Admittedly, it's been a rather busy week. I had to hit the ground running at work, and was gone the entire last weekend at my 20th college reunion with my good friend and ex-roommate Bert. So this is the first time I've had to do some serious reflection on what VP currently means for me, now that I'm done with the blog entries that recounted the events of the week.

Overall, I feel good about VP and I'm very happy I attended. I know I learned a lot. Some of those lessons might not actually emerge for quite some time. But there are things I realized right away that are the immediate lessons.

Most of those things center on an idea I heard someone mention in conversation, the idea of the "wide, shallow bowl". This concept says that a work is very wide and has a lot in it, but no depth to it. This was a concept that really rang true for me. As I mentioned last week, there are many things I seem to be able to solidly do. Those things create the "wide, shallow bowl" that is representative of any of my stories.

Now it's time to make the bowl deeper. The way to do this is to get farther into character: what makes my characters tick, what are their wants and needs, what are the details of their being, how the world around my characters physically affects them. I think I'm being too nice. My characters need to have tougher problems, bigger stakes and harder situations. When talking to Elizabeth Bear, I described some stories of hers that I really liked as "hard women, hard metal, hard choices." It's a good basic model for a story.

I think I just need to put more of myself into my stories. I need to take those chances with a story that make it more meaningful. I know that my stories all have some meaning to me because the question of "why this story, what does it mean" is always forefront in my mind. But it's time to explore that meaning and bring it more fully into a story. I'm lazy. I take the easy way out. I keep my characters too likable and don't want them to have flaws. But they need to have flaws! This Is what makes them human and endearing and touching and meaningful. They also need to take action and not let the world happen around them.

I also think I need to write more. To cause this, I'm going to go to a "two stories a month" model. I will be pretending that I have a new story due on the 15th and 30th of each month. I also need to keep critiquing and getting more crits, so I'll make sure to keep my Critters and OWW SFF queues full and my status current.

I've already finished my story for October 15. It was "Now and Then" now sub-titled "Crow and Samoset". I actually finished it early enough that I could run it through SacSpecFic. They had some good comments and I'll be revising the story before sending it to Bear as my VP homework.

"Padre" just went through Critters so I need to gather all the email, thank the Critters, and pull out the common themes and ideas. I have "Fly, Boy" now in the Critters queue and it will come up for critique in mid-November.

I'll be going to Orycon in Portland, Oregon in mid-November. There I'll participate in the Writers Workshop and "Samsara" will finally receive a critique from a trained professional. I'll be interested to hear the response. It's an older story, but I'm fond of it and what it means and says. At Orycon, there will also be "open reading and critique" sessions. I'll bring "Now and Then" and "Real Space" and anything else that strikes my fancy as fun to read out loud.

Until Orycon, I'm going to concentrate on writing. I have several stories I want to work on so those will be good for trying to apply lessons learned at Viable Paradise. Specifically, the current brain queue looks like this: "Real Enuf 4 U", "Real Space", "My Night with the Picture Lady", and "The Second Alien Battle of Mackey's Irish Pub".

After Orycon, I'm going to make sure to do a lot of revising. I want to get a bunch of stories into good shape before 2008 arrives. That's because the theme of 2008 is going to be "Until Hell Won't Have It". Stories are going to be submitted to places and eventually, they hopefully will not come back (at least not for long).

So that's the current plan. I feel good about it. I realize now I'm not as good as I had hoped or wanted. That just means I have more work ahead of me to get to where I want to be. But I'm willing and eager to do the work. It's time to get started.

As my second personal motto goes: Keep moving forward. Don't look down.


Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Details - Frou Frou
eljaydaly on October 16th, 2007 08:54 am (UTC)
Sounds ambitious and inspiring. I'll be looking forward to the updates!

By the way... TNH made a comment somewhere that Jim Macdonald's lessons have a way of exploding into focus years later. And I have to say, just last week, a full year after VP, something he said made sense on a whole other level. (I understood it fine at the time, but then a year later... WHAM.)

I love our VP. :)
jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 16th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
I can definitely see how the things Jim talked about in the "Plotting by Example" lecture could take a while to fully emerge inside one's mind. That lecture was jam-packed full of usefulness...

- yeff
Dorothy Winsordawtheminstrel on October 16th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
Holy cow. That's a lot of work for a guy with an actual life. But it sounds like you've identified some ways to move to the next level, and to me that's what workshops are all about.
jeffsoesbe: mountain k2jeffsoesbe on October 16th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Well, it might seem like a lot but it is at least 2.5 months (and beyond) worth of effort.

And, for me, it all boils down to: write, critique, revise, send it out Till Hell Won't Have It!.

After all, I did take the Oath and I need to live by it.

- yeff
pxcpxcampbell on October 16th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)

I'm still waiting for the explosions, myself.

Writing a wide, shallow bowl sounds like a better starting point than deep, unfathomable abyss -- it's easier to make it deeper and embellish it with lovely fruits and vegetables. Climbing out of the hole is a whole other beast.

Good luck and keep us posted.
jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 16th, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think it's one of those "grass is greener" items - a deep bowl, full of substance and meaning, sounds like a marvelous thing to shallow ol' me.

I'll definitely keep posting, and I expect all the other VPers to do the same! That's what our VP tribe and its artifacts (like LJ blogs) are for - to keep each other informed and motivated!

- yeff
pxcpxcampbell on October 16th, 2007 02:08 pm (UTC)

I'm still waiting for the explosions, myself.

Writing a wide, shallow bowl sounds like a better starting point than deep, unfathomable abyss -- it's easier to make it deeper and embellish it with lovely fruits and vegetables. Climbing out of the hole is a whole other beast.

Good luck and keep us posted.
writerknvwriterknv on October 16th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
These are great goals, Yeff. I find goals extremely motivating, although I know that many people don't.

I LOVE the title "Crow and Samoset." I'm so intrigued.

Onward! Until Hell won't have it! :)
jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 16th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
I find I definitely need some goals to keep me going - some things that I am striving for. In a secret document, I have the Full Set Of Dream Goals but those stay hidden away and get parceled out a bit at a time.

Actually, I posted the 1500-word first version of "Crow and Samoset" on the LJ here. It should be LJ-friend-accessible. If you read it and have any thoughts, I'll be happy to hear them.

Hell's way down the submit list, thank goodness. Quite a few stops before I send it there...

- yeff
Pam: snailtopayz4 on October 16th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
Goals are good. I have a few myself, though found that some of them had to be tweaked upon my return from VP, which I didn't feel guilty doing at all. I hope your goals march forward as desired.

Now you've got me wondering what sort of bowl my novel is. Maybe it's more of a salad plate :D

jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 16th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
I like goals. Goals give me something to work towards and an indication that I actually got there :-) And as you said, they should be regularly checked and revised.

The size of your work's bowl is enterly what works for you. But I will say that (for me) the deeper the bowl, the more that can put in it (and guarantee it will stay there).

Bowl away!

- yeff

Mark Teppomarkteppo on October 17th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)
You know, deepening that wide shallow bowl? That sounds like "novel." Just saying. :)

I'm going to differ on the last bit there. That "I'm not as good as I had hoped or wanted." I think we are little fish who have discovered the ocean. We're still capable little fish; it's that the scale had changed.
jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 17th, 2007 05:13 am (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder if I'm a novelist who writes short fiction - big world, big theme, small story. I don't have the stamina for a novel...

Actually, what I really meant by that "not as good" was that I wasn't as far along as I hoped/wanted. I do think I can get to where I want to be. It's just going to take more work!

- yeff
Mark Teppomarkteppo on October 17th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)
Ah, yes. I agree with that. Much work to be done. Definitely. I'm having that reaction too.

I have noticed that my efforts post-VP are certainly "sparser." I seem to have gotten better about overwriting. A little.
Steven Gouldstevengould on October 17th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
wide versus deep
These two things don't have to differentiate successful verses unsuccessful works.

Cory and I (last year at VP X) talked about the difference between two of our own books. He throws a lot of different technologies and weirdness in but doesn't deal with them in depth. I threw in one weird "what if" concept but examined it in great depth.

Both of these are published and successful books.
Mark Teppomarkteppo on October 17th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Re: wide versus deep
True. But I think Jeff and I are realizing that we need to get better about providing some depth, versus lots of crafty skimming. I would bet that the book Cory referenced had depth elsewhere. I would hope. :)

(Very cool trailer for Jumper, by the way. I'm one of those who are late to the party, and I'm going to wait to read it until after I see the film, because I want to try to understand why they made the changes they did, in retrospect. But they've managed to hook me good with that trailer.)
jeffsoesbejeffsoesbe on October 17th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: wide versus deep
Yup, what Mark said. I think the realization I had is not so much "wide versus deep" but "shallow versus deep". I take the easy way out and make a lot of surface stuff without any personal conflict or growth. But I'm working on it!

Yknow, after seeing "Resident Evil" (and "Bionic Woman" and about everything else), I'm thinking "Jumper" needs some hot gal in tight leather pants who kicks butt. Maybe that's the movie's plan for Millie?

- yeff
Steven Gouldstevengould on October 17th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re: wide versus deep
You can never go wrong with the tank-top of power.
Christopher Kastensmidtckastens on October 24th, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC)
Am I late to the party? (again) Would you believe I've already traveled twice since VP? Life is nuts...

I finally got around to reading this, and I have to say--THANKS! Great write up. So many memories...
jeffsoesbe: vpxi bite welcomejeffsoesbe on October 24th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Hi Chris --

You bet! I had a great time and it was a fantastic experience that I'll be processing for a long time to come.

I also need to get my butt going back at Critters. I've got a story coming up for crit next month. And I still need to thank people for the crits on the story I previously sent in (20 crits and much useful feedback - wow!)

Back to work!

- yeff

Christopher Kastensmidt: wizckastens on October 24th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
Ping me when it comes up (in case I don't check the queue that week), and I'll make sure to give you the thrashing of a lifetime!
jeffsoesbe: vpxi tentjeffsoesbe on October 24th, 2007 05:13 pm (UTC)
Chris --

According to the current schedule, it will go out in the November 14 batch (due Nov 28). It's called "Fly, Boy".

I'll ping you when it's up. Make sure to do the same for me when you're in the queue. I'm going to try to keep the Critters pipeline full. In fact, I'll ping the VP yahoo group and see if there's any other VPers on Critters or SFF/OWW.

Thank you, sir!

- yeff