Post-Viable Paradise


Last week’s blog silence was different from the regular silence that has been the norm around here because I was at Viable Paradise–a week of writing madness in Martha’s Vineyard. Yeah, don’t get too excited. I spent most of the week down in the basement of the Island Inn getting broken down and rebuilt. Me, and 27 others.

It was quite the experience. I’m familiar with (okay, I thought I was) what goes on at writing workshops, but this one was . . . well, I was really ready for it, I guess. It’s been a long time since I’ve hung out with a bunch of other writers in that sort of environment and, while parts of it were very draining (I can do without a full day of lectures on craft for a little while now, thank you very much), most of it was completely invigorating.

Okay, so here’s the quickie rundown. 10 Things I Learned at VP:

1. Shut up and write the fucking book already.

2. No, really. All that research you think you need? That’s called stalling. Zip it. Get a-typing.

3. There’s no such thing as a stupid idea if it helps you finish the first draft. Those are called Stupid Writer Tricks, and if your friends spot them, then you need to fix ’em. Otherwise? Clever enough, monkey boy, move on.

4. While it is good to have a successful and impenetrable strategy as a scientist when playing Thing, it is even better to have some plan (any, really) for what to do when you get Thing’ed.

5. You will get Thing’ed. This applies to more than just role-playing games. This is called “being knocked out of your comfort zone.” This is what your instructors call “forcing growth.” They will smile at you when you whine about it, and they will smile at you again when you come back later and thank them. One of those is because they love you, and the other is because, well, you really were whining (see #1).

6. I will, forever more, laugh like a 12-year adolescent at very inappropriate moments during the last two Acts of Richard III. As will everyone else from VP XI. The rest of you will not be in on the joke. It is probably best to just ignore us when it happens. Or leave the room.

7. You cannot control the things you cannot control. No, really. No, stop it. You just can’t. Trust me.

8. Cory Doctorow is the Internet, and he still sleeps 7 1/2 hours a night. The secret is “multi-threading,” and I need to learn it. ‘Cause this 4 hours of sleep a night, 12% caffeine by volume thing? Not a good long-term solution.

9. I went with three chapters, an outline, and the aggregated weight of several years of half-finished scenes. I came home with two lines, and a better idea of where the book is going. This is called “cutting for clarity.” This is also called “trust.” As in: you know what the fuck to do (again, #1 above).

10. The last night, we all gathered in room 50 and told “origin” stories. The heckling was full of jokes about storytelling craft, interconnected world-building, and plot structure (as well as rolling archetypes that flitted from tale to tale). And the stories were all completely true and outrageously exaggerated. This is what we writers call “fun.” It is also what we call “home.”

Miss you guys.