Archive for June 17th, 2008

6/16/08: Taos Toolbox, days 8-9: Magic, wizardry, and big dinners

Word count: 5830 | Since last entry: 2026

I should really be asleep right now, but I don’t want to get too far behind on the blogging.

Sunday was largely devoted to writing. I wrote 2000 words and did a couple of editing passes to complete what I am now prepared to call “the magical lesbian plumber story.” I like it. We’ll see what the rest of the gang thinks in a couple of days.

Sunday night Stephen R. Donaldson came to give a guest lecture. I thought we were only going to dinner, so I didn’t bring a computer or notebook. Fortunately, one of the other students agreed to share her notes with me. He talked about various forms of writer’s block and a variety of literary techniques. Interesting tidbit: he only works on one thing at a time, ever since he took a little time off to write a fantasy novella between books 3 and 4 of the Gap series. That effort drove so much of the Gap universe out of his head that, when he was halfway done with book 4 and proofread a copy of book 3, he discovered he’d completely forgotten half the plot threads from the earlier books. Never again, he swore.

We all went with Donaldson for a very nice dinner at the Apple Tree restaurant in Taos. He didn’t talk much at dinner, but just as we were getting up to go I asked him if he was familiar with Northrop Frye’s theory of modes. He was (he was working on a doctorate in English Lit when he stopped to write full-time), so I asked him to comment on my idea, which I had way back in high school, that Thomas Covenant is an Ironic character in a Romantic world. He replied that that’s a valid way of looking at it, but his original concept of Thomas Covenant was as the inverse of King Arthur: where Arthur was a perfect man brought down by imperfect people around him, he wanted Covenant to be an imperfect man raised up by perfect people around him. Glad I asked!

A full day of classes today: three manuscripts critiqued, a lecture on synopses, and another lecture on contracts. Right after class I had my one-on-one with Walter. I didn’t really have a lot of questions, but he did say that I am a “very talented writer” (gawrsh). I wish I had had a novel ready for this workshop, because we’re mostly focusing on novels, but novel #2 has already gotten plenty of feedback and novel #3… well, I don’t even know what novel #3 is going to be yet. But based on my conversation with Walter about how careers work, it should probably be SF rather than fantasy. Although I have a more fantasy ideas, it seems to be my SF stories that sell more consistently and attracts more critical attention.

We had only a couple of hours free in the afternoon, with two manuscripts to critique for tomorrow and a brief exercise to write (describe an office three times: from the perspective of a character whose mother has just died, a character who has just had a proposal of marriage accepted, and a character whose rival has just been promoted over his/her head).

After dinner (spare ribs and corn on the cob) we got together for readings and movie night. Everyone was asked to prepare a three-minute reading of their own work. They were all astonishingly good! Then the movie, which was Trouble in Paradise (1932). I had never even heard of this movie before, and the only actor I recognized was Edward Everett Horton (the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales), but it was delightful.

After the movie, hot tub. We talked about agents and conventions and solved the problems of the world. And so to bed.