I foolishly signed up for the upcoming Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, to be held next Saturday in
The TC people are a bunch of cruel, inhuman monsters. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Jayme and Chris and Jessica and Lawrence. You’re monsters, don’t think we don’t know it. Monsters.
I therefore need to finish the best story I know how to, in order to keep them from sucking the marrow from my bones.
For those of you unfamiliar with
Close examination of the Wiki will reveal that I’m not cool enough to be listed as one of its alumni. However, someone has kindly inserted my name on the Turkey City Home Page that Lawrence Person maintains.
Everyone brings one new short story, in the sf-fantasy-horror genre, which is read at a maniacal pace, along with all others throughout the morning. (The advent of e-mail has changed this dynamic a bit, but many of us are still finishing our stories on Friday night. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.) Pause for lunch. Then the savagery begins. Your story is disassembled in front of you, as it passes around the circle, by some of the sharper minds in the craft. No holds barred. Every flaw is exposed ruthlessly. Your shiny prose is scuffed and farted upon. You sit silently and absorb it all, whether you agree with the comments or not, until you are allowed to reply at the end of the critique. It’s not for beginners who still take critique personally, and I know pros who find this sort of system wounding for them. Sometimes the critiques are on-target and useful to you, sometimes not. Them’s the breaks.
Over the decades, some remarkably good stories have emerged from this crucible.
Also infamous in our circles is the Turkey City Lexicon, which is so cool that it lives at SFWA. If you can tell a story without committing too many of the sins that it lists, you might have a shot at publication somewhere, some day. The Lexicon also gives you a handy short-hand jargon for understanding and dissecting story structure. (Oh, yes indeed, I was thinking about Caroline’s Jargon Monkey post well before I started writing this tonight.)
Here’s an example of how tough TC can be. I attended one of the early TCs, and was privileged to be present at a legendary Chad Oliver moment. This is how I remember it, though others may recall differently: Somebody, I forget who, had brought a story that drew a LOT of vociferous criticism on many levels. The person who brought it argued constantly throughout the critique, saying that his story was being misunderstood, that everyone was missing the point, that he was being personally attacked (…eventually, that was true, actually…). And so on.
After one particularly heated exchange, the manuscript passed into
Then he passed the manuscript along. Owww.
I know people who think
But workshopping, including TC, serves some important and quite twisted purposes for me. I get to hang out with people I like a lot, whose writing skills I respect; the social beast in me is fed quite well. The party afterwards that evening is just whipped cream on top of the cheesecake. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and it’s good to know that you aren’t just masturbating when you do it. And I get to do something extremely intense for a long, long day; the adrenaline junkie in me loves that.
Worst of all, doing workshops effing forces me to write fiction, whether I want to or not. Dammit.
It might even improve the story.
See you there, Maureen.