Summing up the Short Story Craft workshop is tough because the most important parts of the workshop can’t be summed. It wrought a transformation in how I look at my own work and how I look at short stories in general.
I have a tremulous butterfly of knowledge beating in my chest now that I want to capture before it flutters away. And yet as transformative as this experience was, I suspect it would be even more so if I were in Las Vegas with the other participants and doing the craft exercises Kris didn’t do over video.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I want to fly out right now and take every single craft workshop Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith offer.
It’s not a beginners workshop, largely because the workload is pretty high. You need to be able to write a good story from idea to finished draft in about two days. You need to be able to read a large amount of stories in a short amount of time. If there are issues that stop you from writing, insecurities that you haven’t found a way around, this workshop will be extra hard or even devastatingly upsetting to you.
You need to be able to accept critiques, which has never really been a problem for me, but I put this here just in case it is for you. Kris Rusch offered an editor’s critique of every short story we wrote. It was amazingly on-point. She saw things that I didn’t see in my fellow writers stories. Listening to her I figured out why I got bored or why I got confused or why I didn’t care sometimes reading the other stories. And her critiques of my own stories were crystal clear. I had actionable recommendations at the end. Also, she was very kind.
Two years ago when I first contemplated taking a craft workshop from Dean and Kris, I was discouraged when Dean said that you had to get permission and qualify to take the course from him. I am so very, very glad I was discouraged because I simply wasn’t ready for this course two years ago. I wasn’t ready for this course a year ago. It would have broken me.
But doing the Great Challenge taught me how to write in a variety of difficult situations, including while depressed or suffering writer’s block. I fell back on all the emotional lessons I learned from Dean in previous online workshops and I am extremely grateful to him.
Many of my fellow participants were published novelists and short story writers. I felt a bit inadequate next to them, but as Steve kept pointing out to me, I had Dean’s permission to take the class. He thought I was ready. I could do this. Many of their stories blew me out of the water. I only wish I could have mingled in the halls and classrooms with them and perhaps eaten dinner with them.
The Short Story Craft Workshop (Covid19 Edition) by the numbers:
- Watched 101 videos short videos, mostly by Dean but some by Kris. If we were actually in Las Vegas, Kris would be doing all the teaching and Dean would do a guest lecture on making a living with short fiction.
- Watched Kris Rusch’s 70 minute lecture on the basics of writing short stories.
- Wrote 3 short stories — one before and two during the workshop (two contemporary and one SF or Fantasy)
- Read 28 short stories during the five day workshop
- Read five books of short stories for a total of 93 short stories (2,358 pages) before the workshop.
So that’s it. I am exhausted, but excited to write this week’s story for Dean. Through Kris’ kind explanation of how to do SF with depth and her discussion of my own short stories, I think I finally have a way into SF that might work. And I think I have a way in to make all my maritime stories better.
Should you take this course? Maybe. Take their Depth course first because it’s critically important to this course. Then consider taking one of Dean’s courses on how to deal with things that stop you from writing.
I hope this week’s blog on the course has been useful to my friends who requested it. If not, let me know what would be more helpful to you.
Give their workshops a look:
If you are looking for a free short story course taught by major editors/writers, take a look at the new course offered by Writers of the Future taught by Dave Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card. It looks quite different from the way that Kris and Dean teach writing. I plan to take it as soon as my brain settles down a bit from the short story intensive.
Be well, friends! And stay well.