Friday, February 29, 2008

Clarion caul

It's done. I've just submitted my application for the Clarion writing workshop in San Diego, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will recall that I also applied to Clarion West last month. I'd be happy to get accepted to either one.

Because it's specifically a short story workshop, Clarion requires every applicant to submit "two complete short stories, each between 2,500 words and 6,000 words in length. The stories should represent your best fiction work to date." I didn't have a lot of time, so I reworked two existing pieces.

The first story was "Ghosts of Earth," based on a piece of flash fiction I had previously submitted to 365 tomorrows. At 500 words, that wasn't really a complete story, but it intrigued a lot of people--I got at least three inquiries about when I was going to write a sequel. In the process of fleshing out the premise, I changed a lot of things from the 500-word version, including the identity of the narrator and the details of first contact with the aliens.

The second story was "Working Graves," which started out as a dream I had in 1999. I've written several versions of it, including workshopping it at BayCon one year and later attempting to turn it into a screenplay, and at one point the narrator--Griffin--had all kinds of crazy magical superpowers. I ended up dialing all that back. Six thousand words is not very long.

There's a saying that you can never write a perfect novel, but you can write a perfect short story. On the other hand, Voltaire said that perfect is the enemy of good. On the gripping hand, if you never actually finish anything, quality is irrelevant.

I am hugely grateful to my wife, who is an excellent reader and always gives unforgiving but helpful feedback. The geek in me wishes I could have kept the "you're doing it wrong" line in "Working Graves," but D was right--it was too flippant for the moment, a little too action-movie-quippy. She helped me whittle both stories down to their essential elements, which meant discarding a lot of potential subplot which might have been interesting, but was ultimately irrelevant.

I'd also like to apologize to her for the horrible pun in the title of this blog post. Sometimes I just can't help myself.

~CKL

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