July 20th, 2004

Farewell to all that

Final thoughts about Clarion and writing:

1. It's hard to have ideas, strange ideas, exciting ideas, novel ideas.

2. It is even harder to write good prose than to have good ideas.

3. It is hardest of all to tell a good story. Story—the mysterious alchemy of plot arc, character arc, thematic integration, atmosphere, and all the other story-like values—is very, very difficult. It may be the most difficult part of writing to learn and perform successfully. At Clarion, lack of story was the most common flaw I saw. Lots of folks had great ideas. Lots of them could write prose that was smooth, exciting or even both at the same time. But the commonest failing I saw was lack of conflict, excitement, tension, suspense, risk, or the failure of these at some point. Writers, as Nancy Kress said, can't be reluctant to *hurt* their characters. You don't have to have physical conflict, or physical risk. But your characters have to have something at stake, something the reader must care about. It's *tough* to tell a compelling story.

All the instructors said I wrote well on the sentence level. My problems are with story. They may not be insurmountable problems. All the instructors were quite positive. But storytelling is what I have to work on.

That having been said, I can *still* write better prose than I am writing, and have better ideas. There are no laurels to rest on.

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Learned just before I left that one of Amelia Beamer's stories in particular was smiled on by Kelly Link, who suggested sending it to Major Market, with Kelly's blessing to Big Name Editor. Yay! I haven't seen the story, it was written pre-Clarion, but Amelia writes some very good prose, about big ideas and edgy themes, and I'd love to see something of hers in print.

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And that, folks, is that. Last post to the Clarion blog. If I have anything more to say about Clarion (and I probably will) I'll post it as slithytove, my usual LJ. st_at_clarion will remain up indefinitely, but probably receive no more posts.
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