Sunday, August 3, 2008

THE ORSON SCOTT CARD WRITER'S BOOT CAMP: DAY SIX

At 9:00 we started with “V-8” about a boy in the 1970s trying to change out an engine even though his father forbid him to do it. Then it was “Kings at the Amigo Spot” about ghosts haunting a hotel. Then lunch. “Round Trip of the Soul” was next. A man in the future uses technology to try and retrieve his wife’s soul and inadvertently puts it in a body already inhabited by another soul. Next was “Blue Mass: A New America Story.” This dealt with health care in the future and an interesting idea involving people who would stand in line for you if you paid them. The last story of the workshop was “Busking,” a literary story about a man who goes with his uncle, who is dying of cancer, to play music on the sidewalks in Washington D.C. one last time. There was an inadvertent twist to this story in real life. The guy next to me started the commentary. Then I went, and after I mentioned several things that I liked, I said I thought that the story ended too abruptly. Then the girl next to me took her turn. She agreed with me and said that it ended too abruptly. It was then that Card asked the author if that was really the last page, because it did indeed seem very abrupt. Sure enough, it turned out that somehow the last six pages of the story were missing on everyone's copy. But it ended up really cool. Card took the author’s own copy and read the rest of it out loud for us. He did it with a pretty good Irish accent (appropriate to the plot). To top it off, it was a great story and obviously emotionally significant to the author.

I think we finished the last story around 5:00 or 5:30.

Then we went outside where Card’s other daughter took group pictures of us.

Then, believe it or not, most of us went back into the conference room. Card had said he would be glad to sign books and do Q & A. Little by little, people left, saying goodbye to everyone. We knew we would all be in contact. The plan is to keep a forum going for all of the 2008 bootcampers. Card signed two books for me. We then sat there, about seven of us, and asked questions and talked until 9:00 p.m.

It was mainly about writing, but often veered off into politics, and even Mormonism. I was able to ask several questions about writing that were a great deal of help to me. Is it a good idea to try out an idea for a novel first in short story form to see if it can fly? If you get 100 pages into a novel and realize you need to toss those pages and start over (which is more often the case than not with many writers) do you try to salvage any of it, or do you just flat-out toss it all? On Monday, he said one of two of the greatest living writers was Anne Tyler. Who is the other? On the average, after your brutal real first rough draft, how many drafts after that? I also got to ask him about the piece he wrote on the extra features on the I AM LEGEND DVD. He said that it was originally meant to be shown at ComicCon, but never was. He told me he has never actually seen it. I said, that it was the best of the bunch (and I wasn’t saying it just because he was in the room). He said thank you and that it was the first review he had gotten on it.

Some other bits and pieces he covered during this time: He basically writes one really good first draft and then gives it to his trusted readers for tweaking. Dean R. Koontz taught him to not write rough drafts. Just write a really good first draft. (I’m still processing that one.) He told us we could mention we were in his bootcamp when we write query letters. We don’t need an agent to get into scifi. In fact, he recommended we don’t ever have one. He gave us some contract pointers and left an open offer for us to fax him any contracts we might receive so he could look them over for us. He also said he would be glad to do a blurb for any book we write if time allowed. He basically writes two times a year and then just keeps up with his weekly column. He has several pending contracts to meet, including screenplays. The best writers are immigrating to fantasy. Telling a tale is a moral assertion. The writing inherently contains decisions that can inevitably influence the morality of the reader. Storytellers are the civilizers. Being a good writer is a balance between thinking you are writing something Shakespeare would be jealous of and believing what you’re writing is junk, and being able to believe both of these at the same time.

Several times, I almost went ahead and left, but I kept thinking that I might miss out on something. I was really glad I stayed. At one point, everyone in the room was asking who wrote which excerpt (the original entries that we all sent in, in order to get into the bootcamp—the one I wrote being the one that got first and thoroughly blasted). So when they asked me which one I wrote, I cringed and told them. They asked what the story was about, so I gave them the basic idea. Card made my day when he said, “That’s a really cool idea.” So what was blasted might be resurrected, now that I know a little better what I’m doing.

At 9:00, I shook everyone’s hand. I told Card I had learn a lot. He said, “I really enjoyed having you in class, Bret.” So feeling a great deal like a writer, I went back to my room and then did some laundry. Now the hard part—writing.

3 comments:

Mark said...

Congratulations on surviving boot camp! Now, out onto the fields to the real fight...

Jarud said...

Yes, congratulations! Your writing has always been rich with character development and Bretisms. :) I can't wait to see what comes next.

We're all excited to see you again. I think it has been almost a month since we last saw you.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the Day Six entry, Bret. I had to leave early 'cause of a flight, but I like the update. By the way, who IS the other greatest living writer?

Ric