This past weekend I had the opportunity to go attend a writing workshop in Lincoln City, Oregon intended to help writers better develop the knack of writing short fiction. It was taught by Denise Little (Executive Editor, Tekno Books) and Dean Wesley Smith (author/editor) with pointed and insightful comments from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Mr. Smith and Ms. Rusch are no sloths – they’re extremely well-published with close to 200 books between them. There were approximately thirty-five professional writers-in-attendance either who were just breaking into publishing or who had seen a good amount of publishing success, and every level in-between. Ms. Little and Mr. Smith were eloquent in their critiques. After reading nearly 900 pages of stories by the thirty-five writers in attendance submitted before the actual class started, they read another 35 stories, an assignment we had to write within a six-hour timeframe. Needless to say, we all, students and instructors alike, were dragging by the end of the four-day workshop. What stands out most – the lesson they wished to impart on us – was that hard work and constant effort is what it takes to become a prolific writer as well as a prolifically published writer. They made this point stick with me.
I arrived in Portland around 12:30 in the afternoon and met up with a fellow writer who had just flown in from Colorado. With my flight originating in Seattle, my flight was nearly one-third of the time my (soon-to-be) friend’s was. My friend, I’ll call him Steve, had rented a car and offered me a ride. He had attended several of these workshops in the past and I jumped on the offer because I knew I could learn much about another upcoming class I wished to attend through these fine folks. After two hours and an 80-mile drive west toward the winding and bucolic road to Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, we arrived. We split up and met later when our classes began that evening at 7:00.
After that, it was a blur. We read each writer’s work, listened to constructive criticism, wrote, talked about writing, wrote more, developed a Table of Contents for an anthology, and listened to lecture. Basically, they were training us to meet each stringent deadline. Time faded between hours, then minutes and flew through the seconds. I know for a fact none of us got any more than four hours of sleep any night spent there. Before I knew, it was Sunday at noon and we were all bidding our old and newly-found friends adieu, and Steve and I headed back to Portland. We talked as we drove in exhilarated fashion, bubbling with the surge of using their long-used methods and tricks and doing so with a more critical eye for developing the short story. It was well worth the money I spent in airfare and for the workshop itself.
I came away from that workshop a changed person – a more professional writer – a writer who respects and understands the publisher’s time constraints. Publishers want to find talented writers, that one who can describe a setting, character and emotion like no one else. But, they also want to find the one who can step up to bat, swing and hit a home run and get the job done and on time. In fact, the mantra for the weekend was, “On Time & On Target.”
I hope you can appreciate what I’m saying. One thing I’d like to close with is this: no matter what stage of writer you are, emerging or highly-published, learning should never stop. Attend workshops. Keep seeking out new and better ways to do things whether that is in craft or in business. Never stop learning. Hunt it down as if you were a blood hound by writing with your nose down and to the grindstone.