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December 27, 2009

Shameless Commercial
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:08 PM * 21 comments

“My golly,” I can hear you say. “What wonderful writers’ workshop, concentrating on commercial fantasy and science fiction up to novel length, that’s held every year on Martha’s Vineyard, should I go to?”

Fear not, gentle Pilgrim! I have an answer to your question. You should apply to Viable Paradise!

Comments on Shameless Commercial:
#1 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2009, 07:51 PM:

Some day, I will not have full-time classes running over the same week as Viable Paradise. Some glorious, beautiful day.

(Week. Year? Metaphorical day, anyway.)

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2009, 10:18 PM:

This could have been the year...if I weren't being laid off. Maybe it still could if I get the right job in time.

#3 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2009, 11:30 PM:

To Xopher @ #2:

If you weren't being laid off you'd have the money, but if you had the money you'd be working and couldn't go?

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Pure coincidence: I just put up a VP-canonical Particle, Techniques for maintaining audience focus in haunted attractions, before checking to see whether there were any new main entries.

#5 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 01:29 AM:


I want to attend this workshop. BUT

I've been out of work for two years now, as of 12/26. I have a good prospect for work with the government but that doesn't start until Feb. 1.

And our furnace has rolled craps big time, we're hoping they don't have to replace the whole thing (it is circulated hot water....). And I don't want to talk about our roof...)

And I've hit a writing wall because first we had someone break in, steal our change bowl and my Mac laptop (June 26) AND someone kindly loaned me an older laptop whose hard drive shot craps two weeks ago. My handwriting sux now, and while I've outlined the novel I'm thinking about. I am not sure I have the nerve to try to start it writing in longhand.

I've had enough now. I want to get on with life but it really sucks right now.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 02:29 AM:

Ursula: No, though getting the vacation time might be tough. My problem in past years has been lack of guts, not lack of time.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 05:11 AM:

Paula, I'm so sorry to hear that. I had no idea things were so bad. If I had a spare computer, I'd send it to you this minute.

#8 ::: Terrintokyo ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 06:32 AM:

sending best wishes for unlooked-for great luck to Paula.

girding my scattered loins (eww) and crossing ganglia (ouch) to attend. will have to start saving now. will have to write more on either of the 2 stories I've been mired in for some years now - or use this momentum to start something entirely new.

but I'm heading into my 52nd year determined to make writing fantasy one of my answers to the question: why am I here?

so, thanks for the heads up. hopefully P will be V for me this year.

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 07:33 AM:

Even if I had the available resources:

TSA Goon. "Purpose of visit?"

Me: "Taking part in a course on writing Science Fiction."

TSA Goon: "A science fiction writer, eh?"

Somehow, I doubt I'd take the chance. Lesser breeds without the law, and all that.

#10 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 09:21 AM:

VP has always sounded like a wonderfully fun thing to do. However I'm not terribly interested in becoming a published author, so it would be silly to take the course just for fun. I shall leave the spot for people who will do something with the knowledge.

#11 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 10:52 AM:

I would dearly love to attend Viable Paradise. But...sigh. I'm a teacher, and we don't get time off for such things, especially in my subspecialty at that time of the school year. If I taught English, I might could find a way to justify it. A special ed teacher? Dream on. Right now, I have the money, but not the time. Sigh.

#12 ::: Aimee Kuzenski ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 11:14 AM:

I drool copiously over this workshop every time I hear about it.

Someday, I swear. Maybe next year - I have a new job now after more than a year of unemployment, and by then I'll actually have vacation time.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 11:27 AM:

Terrintokyo, what we would tell you at VP is that continuing to work on stories that aren't working for you is probably not the most productive thing you could be doing with your writing time.

I'm about to give you a piece of generic advice that's proven helpful for a lot of students, especially those who've gotten stuck doing multiple rewrites without moving the narrative forward. I haven't seen your writing yet and I can't guarantee that what follows is the right advice for you, but you may find it useful.

Start by carefully putting aside the stories you've been working on. Later, if you want to go back and look at them with new eyes, they'll be waiting for you.

Now start in on your next story and get it moving, writing loosely and sloppily if that's what it takes to get up to speed. Don't try to make the component parts perfect before you know the shape of the whole. That's a trap. A perfect scene is one that's perfect in the context of that book or story. But if you don't yet know how the story works, how it gets where it's going, you can't tell what constitutes perfection in one of its component scenes.

Later, when you've got a working 1.0 version of the story, it will be easier to see that no one needs to know where the Maltese Falcon was between 1539 and 1941, and that you only need to mention in passing what Bridget O'Shaughnessy and Floyd Thursby were doing in Hong Kong. You take the interim history of the Maltese Falcon, which was formerly the preface of the book, cut it down to a fraction of its previous length, and relocate it to the latter part of the midbook, where it functions partly as ornamentation -- the midbook being a good place for ornamental expository set pieces -- and partly to establish the character who narrates that history in the course of a conversation.

#14 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 11:38 AM:

The tuition is $880 and is due on July 15th. Upon acceptance, please make out your check or money order (US funds only, please) to MVSFA for $855 ($880 minus the $25 submission fee)"

Just the tuition is 880 dollars. That doesn't cover transportation to get there and back, hotel or food. To give you a general view of my finances, my monthly disability check is $968, from which I must pay all my bills.

*sigh* I'd love to go to a writing workshop. I just wish that I could find a good one that I could afford.

#15 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 12:06 PM:

#14: Tuition includes dinner for all nights except one, IIRC. I'm mentioning this not to deny your point but so that misconceptions about what tuition includes don't spread.

Any workshop is a serious financial as well as time commitment. VP isn't unusual in that respect. Since it's only one week long, I suspect that VP is actually one of the cheaper workshops (and more than worth every penny). But if you can't make the finances work, then that doesn't matter.

Do you live near a con that has a writing workshop as part of the program? That would drastically cut down the travel and hotel expenses. Since you'd be living at home, your food expenses would be approximately what they usually are. Moreover, most con memberships are cheaper than writing workshops. (However, they also don't last as long and are not nearly as immersive.)

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2009, 12:11 PM:

#14: *sigh* I'd love to go to a writing workshop. I just wish that I could find a good one that I could afford.

Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

#17 ::: Terrintokyo ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:31 PM:

Teresa: Wow! thank you so much for that. it only whets my appetite to try to make VP financially and writeristically viable this year...

(shakes head and puts aside the old stories...gently)...

#18 ::: E.F. Kelley ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:07 AM:

More fuel for Terrintokyo's fire. ;-)

#19 ::: Terrintokyo ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 04:37 AM:

#18 ::: E.F. Kelley more wow here - didn't realize this unofficial guide existed, thank you!

#20 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Jim, I just wanted to thank you for your posts on writing. On another board I read at, a woman posted about going through her old notebooks and trying to put together a novel from what she's done, and I was able to inform her of Yog's Law, as well as point her to your "Learn Writing with Uncle Jim," so hopefully you've at least kept one more would-be writer from disaster!

#21 ::: Tim Keating ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2010, 12:00 AM:

#16 Second the recommendation of Uncle Jim's site, but I can't endorse Critters. I know it works for some people, but I found the structure of the service actually discouraged me from wanting to crit. That, and the fact of the technology, which is state of the art ca. 1998.

#14 The tuition is *only* $900. Clarion's tuition is $5k and it lasts six weeks. That's what the "Viable" is for.

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