Sycamore Hill and the goal for the summer

In a few weeks I’ll be attending the Sycamore Hill writers’ workshop in Little Switzerland, NC. I went once a couple years ago, and workshopped my werewolf story, “Wild Acre” (appearing later this summer in Gary McMahon’s anthology Visions Fading Fast, he added in his best huckster’s voice). The story had been struggling to find its title until Karen Joy Fowler gave it to me there. It’s a friendly but intense environment, kind of like Clarion with brass knuckles. I’m looking forward to going back.

I’m racing to finish the new story on time. This is also the last story I have to finish before sending the manuscript of the collection to an interested publisher, so there is extra incentive to get it done. It’s going to be a watershed moment.

Also this summer I have taken up Theodora Goss’s YA challenge. Now, I’ll be honest here: I usually steer very, very far from this kind of thing. A friend of mine calls it a stunt, and I have to acknowledge that it has that veneer to it. I feel the same way about NaNoWriMo. I always thought that if you’re a writer you just write the damn thing and it takes as long as it takes.

But I took this up for a couple of reasons. One, this isn’t being done as a stunt. Not by Dora, and not by Livia Llewellyn or Alexandra Duncan (who are also taking part; Dora has the full list over at her site (I can’t speak for the others, since I don’t know them, but I will assume their intentions are noble (looking over the list again, I notice with some amusement that I am the only man represented there; do I care about this branch of literature more than most men because I’m a single parent? Hmmmm … (But I digress)))). I don’t think anybody gives a damn what the world at large things about the endeavor. Two — and for me this is the crux of it — I have always been an undisciplined writer, and I’m working to change that. While I believe an undisciplined writer can produce great fiction, it’s almost a given that there will not be much of it. Furthermore, it’s all but impossible to develop professional momentum without a rigorous work ethic.

I am very comfortable with the idea of letting the work stand on its own. At the end of a writer’s life, and afterwards, readers don’t talk about how quickly that writer produced, or whether or not he adhered to a daily word count. They could give a shit. What they care about it what’s on the page. The result is what matters. I believe that fundamentally.

That being said, I don’t like the fact that I don’t have books out yet. My ego wants that gratification. I want to do readings and sign books, because ultimately I am a vain man. All writers are narcissists on some level. And this will be a great stride toward that end.

Finally, and most importantly: I have this great idea. It’s been sitting in my head for a while. It’s perfect for a young adult audience, I think. It’s something I haven’t read before, and I’m excited by it. So what the hell. The pieces are in place. Why not take advantage?

So here I go.


6 thoughts on “Sycamore Hill and the goal for the summer

  1. Livia Llewellyn

    Your friend told you it was a stunt? My friend told me the YA Novel Challenge was a great idea, and a very smart way of publicly motivating me to get the novel, which I have been very lazily dithering over for a couple years now, finally finished. Frankly, I like my friend better than yours.

    1. Surely you mean your friend’s response? The context for that comment is not provided in this post. It was not said with any malice or ill will.

  2. Good luck, squire (and to you as well, Livia)! I’m of two minds about Nanowrimo et al, and since those two minds are obvious to anyone who’s given it much thought there’s no point in reiterating the positions here–but, really, the bottom line is words on paper, and I’ve always worked better with deadlines than in my own time. Or so I tell myself! Mostly, I’m just looking forward to reading what you come up with when time comes to pass…

  3. Nathan, glad you’re doing the “stunt”—-
    While NanoWriMo may be frowned upon, I have come up with a few gems from writing during that month. The speed does something to unlock my subconscious. This summer I’m putting finishing touches on a NaNo that I wrote three years ago. I think a lot of people diss NanoWriMo because they think it is something that it’s not. It’s not about creating a finished product. It’s about expression, creativity, and FUN. When quality goes out the window for the sake of speed, some interesting things start to happen creatively. Sometimes we get so caught up in the drudgery of sending stuff out, etc. etc. that we forget, oh wait, I did this writing thing because it is supposed to be somewhat enjoyable…
    SIDEBAR: An interview of mine in which I mention you as a writer who deserves a lot more attention is finally posted today. I think they linked to your blog. Here’s the URL:

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