More or less Human

Hello everyone. My name is Yves Hacault, and this is my second time participating in the write-a-thon. I’ve been writing for years now, and though I’ve worked on a lot of projects, finished a few short stories and almost finished novels, I’ve never been able to finish a novel. I always get distracted by editing.

I’ll write a chapter, then go back to another and change something, then change something else in the next because it no longer works, and then it’s a never ending circle of editing.

Last year I wrote over 60 000 words in the time of the write-a-thon, this year I’m trying for twice that amount. I’m trying to write an entire novel in the time it takes this write-a-thon to end, and i’ll worry about all the editing later.

Well, that’s it for now, until next time.


Another Piece of Team More Than Human

So, a bit about me.  My name is Jason Heitkamper.  I live in St Petersburg, Florida where I was born a solid 34 years ago.  I’ve moved around quite a bit when I worked on the road but I ended up back here.  My intent is to be in Seattle by the end of next year, finances permitting.  I am currently employed a surgical technologist and an instructor of surgical technology, jobs that I deeply enjoy (and it is so nice to be able to say that).  I am now published author as an anthology containing a (very) short story of mine recently hit the electronic shelves.  It’s a strange feeling to have something out there with my name on it, half hopeful and half terrifying.  I owe that to my wife’s constant support and willingness to let me pursue this whole writing thing.  I am not at the point where I am willing to cut out my day job but I know that I have the option if I ever feel the need to dive into writing full-time.  Support at home really takes the pressure off, you know?

So, what am I doing for the write-a-thon?  I am working on a novel-length piece of fiction about a woman who offers up her soul to save her young son from dying after a car accident only to discover that having no soul has horrible consequences that force her into isolation.  The story follows her efforts to solve a series of mysterious killings that seem to target soulless like herself.  It’s urban fantasy in the vein of The Dresden Files or Blackbirds, both of which I highly recommend.  Beyond that I’ve been toying with a few short pieces dealing with monster-hunting teenagers and a derelict space freighter.

I have only recently learned of the Clarion workshop and write-a-thon through a writer’s blog that I follow.  I am always looking for things to help keep me on task with my writing and I’ve been struggling recently with a severe lack of time due to understaffing at my instructor job so this seemed like a perfect fit.  I have every intention of applying to the workshop next year, as an opportunity to work in that kind of environment would be something of a dream situation for me.  I am looking forward to interacting with the other members of team More Than Human, both giving and receiving advice.  There is a social aspect to writing that I’ve never really focused on but having people to bounce thoughts off of is a great asset.

Emma is More Than Human

This is my first year participating in the Clarion Write-a-Thon. It could not have come at a better time, as I am in the process of completing the manuscript of my first novel, tentatively called “Adore”. The Write-a-Thon has given me a tangible deadline to finish writing and revising before I move on to seeking representation and, hopefully, publication.  If I complete the manuscript but haven’t met my word count goal I plan to work through a couple of short stories that I have started and outlined. I am proud to be part of Team More Than Human, where I hope to support and be supported by my fellow writers-in-arms.

Adore is the story of a young woman with a violent and mysterious past who learns she is part of a race of ancient, powerful beings living among the humans of earth. As the pieces of her life begin to fit together and the clouds shrouding her past dissipate, enemies begin to emerge from the shadows and she realizes that with great power comes great, and deadly, responsibility.

In crafting “Adore” I have drawn from my longstanding interest in Norse and Greek mythology, Roman history, and the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have crafted a new race of fantasy beings set in a modern world where “there are no gods… no monsters. Only [them]”.

I am currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, though I have also called Idaho, New Jersey, and Texas home. I share my house with dogs, cats, a guinea pig, and a long suffering human husband. I have worked as a veterinary technician, bouncer, shop girl, and in the buying department of a successful retail furniture chain. With “Adore” I hope to add “published author” to that  illustrious list.

How Much You Should Try To Write

[First in a series of rambling, disconnected thoughts on the writing process.]

You should write a little more than you think you can.

I can’t remember which member of my wonderful 2011 anchor team, John Kessel or Kij Johnson, said this, but it was one of those sentences that turned my mind 90 degrees from where it had been.

What they were talking about, in that particular conversation, was the question of how many stories you should try to turn in over the course of Clarion. And the advice was the above: think of how much you feel like you could write without too much sweat, and then write a little more than that. If you feel pretty confident that you could get three stories done over the course of the workshop, aim to get five stories done. Even if you end up writing four stories, hey, that’s still one more than you thought you could.

There are two important pieces to this advice, depending on which part of the sentence you accent:

Write a little more than you think you can.

Push yourself. Find the edges of your comfort zone in terms of time or length or subject matter or speed or whatever and consciously push past them. For one thing, that is the very definition of how you grow as a writer. For another, that is where the good stuff happens. Really. That is where the wobbly stuff appears where you’re not quite sure if it’s genius or insane. Where you’re a little scared to show it to your writing group. The stuff inside your comfort zone is safe and skillful and that is good too, but the thing that pushes your writing into excellence is going to be finding a way to live in that wobbliness just beyond what you already know how to write.

Write a little more than you think you can.

Be gentle and kind to yourself. Set yourself small, realistic goals and then sincerely celebrate them when you achieve them. This is harder than it looks. It’s a weird aspect of human psychology that many of us are capable of kindness, compassion, and patience when teaching other people, but when teaching ourselves we become cruel, impatient, punishing taskmasters. Fight that discouraging voice by choosing goals about which your confidence level is “well…maybe I could…I could try, anyway….” Things that are not quite within your grasp now, but could be with some strenuous stretching. A very easy way to punish and discourage yourself is to decide that you are going to start writing this novel right now, and you are going to write 5000 words a day, and then you discover that you can’t, you can write about 1500 words a day on average, and so you give up because you can’t write 5000 words a day. It sounds silly presented that way, but we play this stupid trick on ourselves all the time. Slow down, be kind.

If you were teaching writing to someone with your level of practice and experience, what would you assign as homework?

Midweek Check In

So how is everybody doing so far?

I noticed that we have 2 challenges this week from Clarion. 1 is to check in with our teams. Done! The other is to start fundraising, which I’ve sort of done. Anyone else?

Just curious, have y’all actually read More Than Human? I need to find a copy.

Btw, if you’ve logged on within the last couple of days, then you may have noticed some new features. The biggest one is the Badge Matrix. It’s been there all along but it’s now filling up with badges. Soon we’re going to add a cheat sheet on what each badge is, along with some tips on earning them. But for now, there’s an easter egg – hover over the badge and you’ll get a tool tip on how to get that badge. Some are progression badges (the badge changes depending on how successful you are) while others are single badges (like for filling out your Write-a-Thon Goals).

I also added a new button that says “I Wrote Today”. That’s directly tied to a couple of the badges and also a simple way to track writing consistency.

I want to hear from you guys. What’s up? How are you doing? What’s happening?

What is Clarion?

What is Clarion, anyway? Why is it something that would be good to support?

The Clarion Writers’ Workshop is something of an institution of science fiction and fantasy, a selective intensive training for new and up-and-coming writer in the genres. It runs as six weeks of intensive masterclass study with some of the genres’ best authors, and is well-known among its alumni for using those six weeks to completely disassemble its students’ brain and then rebuild them better, faster, and stronger writers. It’s been running since 1968, and it’s had several homes, but currently it’s housed at the University of California at San Diego.

Such experiences do not come cheap, unfortunately, in our heartless world, but the Clarion Foundation gives out a large number of scholarships and financial aid to support students’ ability to attend the workshop. The worlds of SFF would be drastically different without the existence of Clarion, and those of us who love fiction and the fantastic are doing our best to keep it going onward into the ever-uncertain future.

[NB: there are several sister workshops to Clarion that run separately, among them the confusingly named Clarion West, the Australia-based Clarion South, where attendees are expected to walk upside down and most of the mammals have pouches. These are separate entities from the Clarion Workshop and not connected with the Write-A-Thon, but they run in the same style, many instructors have taught at more than one of them, and we like them a lot.]

Introduction and Welcome

Belated greetings! Welcome to Team More Than Human, one of the eight teams of writers taking part in this year’s Clarion Write-A-Thon.

It should be pretty clear what a Write-A-Thon is: it’s like any other -a-thon, but with writing. Or, in slightly more lucid terms:

It’s just like a walk-a-thon. But instead of walking, we’re writing, and instead of making pledges per mile, we’re making pledges per word, chapter, or story. Writers get support, encouragement and motivation, and the option of joining a team with a writing mentor! Those who care about the writers in their life get a way to show their support.

So starting Sunday, June 24, our team, five members strong, will start writing their little hearts and guts and minds out, and right on this here blog they can introduce themselves, talk about their goals for the summer, and let their sponsors know how they’re doing.

I’m Joshua Lewis, Clarion Workshop alum from last summer, 2011, and I’ll be heading up the team this year. I’ll be using this space to offer encouragement, nagging, and thoughts on the writing process. Along with my own updates, of course.

Per Theodore Sturgeon’s original More Than Human, our team’s ultimate goal is, of course, the blending of our consciousness into a single super intelligent gestalt; failing that, we hope to generate some tens of thousands of words of fiction. Whichever is easiest.