Hello, friends of Clarion! Today marks the beginning of the 2011 Clarion Write-a-Thon. The Write-a-Thon is a way for writers who are not able to attend Clarion to feel part of the team and to take several weeks out of the summer to focus on their own writing goals. For the next six weekends, the Clarion Blog will be featuring posts aimed at our 127 officially participating writers, as well as anyone else who wants to join in the fun. We will give small writing and fundraising challenges to spur you on, as well as giving you space in the comments section to talk about your progress toward your own individual goals.
For over forty years, the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop has been a renowned rite of passage for ambitious writers of speculative fiction, and in tough times the Clarion Foundation has risen to the challenge of preserving the tradition with the help of its alumni and other supporters. Last year was our inaugural Write-a-Thon, and its success cemented our plans to use this as a yearly event to replace funding lost to the California budget crisis. Clarion has always survived on small donations from a large number of people, and the Write-a-Thon has focused that effect by using matching grants and other strategies to magnify the impact of even the most modest donations. A huge thank you to all of you who involved yourself this year or last year. Clarion owes its future to you!
Week 1 Writing Challenge
For those who do not yet have concrete writing goals of your own, we at the blog would like to offer you up a series of goals to focus you over the summer. Next week Monday through Friday, we’d like you to turn your attention to that novel you’re writing. Not writing one? Well, now you are. As memorable as short stories can be, the economic lifeblood of science fiction, horror and fantasy is the fans’ continuing love affair with novel-length fiction. Whether you do or do not have a novel in the works at this point, this challenge applies to you! Please answer the following questions regarding your novel, and if you’re not too shy or territorial, why not share them with other writers in the comments section? This questionnaire is meant to focus your writing and give you the basic structure that even the most outline-phobic needs to shorten the time between first draft and finished manuscript.
- Who is the character whose actions and decisions most drive your novel? (We will call this person the hero.)
- Describe your hero in five words or less.
- What has to happen for your audience to know that the novel is over? (We will call this the goal.)
- Describe this goal in ten words or less.
- What is the one most profound or pervasive reason that your hero cannot accomplish the goal right away? (We will call this the primary obstacle.)
- Describe the primary obstacle in ten words or less.
- What person most clearly drives, creates, or causes the primary obstacle? (We will call this person the antagonist.)
- Describe your antagonist in five words or less.
- Look at the answer to question 2, and find three other sf&f novels whose hero could also be described in these exact or very similar words.*
- Look at the answer to question 4, and find three other sf&f novels whose conflict could be described thus.
- Look at the answer to question 6, and find three other sf&f novels with the same basic primary obstacle.
- Look at the answer to question 8, and find three other sf&f novels whose antagonist meets this description.
- Which novels appear more than once in your answers to questions 9-12? List them here by name.
- List the ways in which your novel stands in stark contrast to each of the novels listed in question 13.
Having trouble with this questionnaire? If so, you may run into trouble selling your novel. Bring your problems to the table and let’s look at them. Perhaps the solutions are closer than you think.
*If you can’t do this as is, rephrase the answer slightly to remove any proper nouns or universe-specific details. If you still can’t do it, ask yourself why this hasn’t been done before in a century or more of speculative fiction. Might there be more to it than “I am the first person to think of it?” These are only questions – only you know the answer. But be certain you are honest with yourself.
Week 1 Fundraising Challenge
Send a message to every blood or “in-law” relative whose email address you have on file. Ask them, as a group, to support you in your summer writing goal. Let them know that $5 is more than enough to spur you on, and provide a link to the Clarion Write-a-Thon donors’ page. Be sure to let them all know exactly how your name is listed on the site, so they can find you more easily!