I came. I survived. My head hurts.
I’m still processing much of my Taos Toolbox experience, but I’m feeling inspired, if overwhelmed, by all the information and feedback that was crammed into fourteen days as well as all the new writer comrades I made.
Every workday, we met in the common room at 10am for a morning lecture by Nancy Kress. That was followed by critiques of people’s work, which usually straddled lunchtime. Then there was an afternoon lecture by Walter Jon Williams. The rest of the day was reserved for critiquing, assignments, and drafting a new story for Week 2.
Critiques followed the Milford model, where the authors must remain silent as the rest of the writers take turns sharing their thoughts on the story. It was an intense process but ultimately very helpful as I start to contemplate revisions for the projects I shared at the workshop.
We also had a frank and informative guest lecture by Daniel Abraham on what it takes to have a successful career in SF/F. Hint: Multiple brands (ie, writing in different genres with associated pennames) to hedge against the quirks of the marketplace.
Weekends, I took every opportunity to hike in the Taos Ski Valley during the day and at night I drank my share of New Mexico made Gruet Blanc de Noirs champagne and discussed the writing life with my fellow participants. After all, this workshop was a celebration of sorts—rewarding how far I’ve come and acknowledging future opportunities, so long as I’m in a position to capitalize on them.
For some participants, this was not their first workshop, but there were others like me who had no preconceived ideas what this experience would be like. Though there was a range of experience levels, everyone was dead serious about perfecting their craft and learning what it takes to be a professional writer. And I’m proud my fellow attendees will be my publishing peers to come!
For more insights into the Taos Toolbox experience, check out fellow Toolboxer Catherine Schaff-Stump’s evolving collection of interviews and links of participant experiences.
Finally here are some tidbits I gleaned from the lectures over the last two weeks, which are hopefully as helpful to you as I found them:
- Sometimes it’s more important to be interesting than clear when writing SF/F
- You can almost always cut “locomotion” writing that gets your characters two and from the real scenes
- Exposition works so long as you’ve earned it
- If scene(s) don’t build towards the explosion at the end of an act or the book’s finale, cut them
- The end of a sentence, paragraph, section, chapter, book is the power position
- If you get stuck, ask yourself what else can go wrong
- Attach emotions to observations
- A writer’s only job is to set reader’s expectations and then meet them
- Readers shouldn’t be worrying about what is happening in your story—they should be worried about what happens next.