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.