Tag: workshops

James Gunn’s online writing workshop is being offered again

Science fiction Grand Master James Gunn is once again offering his online writing workshop on science fiction. If you have always wanted to write science fiction and considered doing a workshop to improve your skills, you couldn’t pick a better online workshop than this one. I should know, I went through the workshop in the summer of 2008 and it proved invaluable to me.

Prior to the workshop, I’d sold a couple of stories, but I wasn’t always sure what I was doing right or wrong in a given story so it was very hit and miss for me. For instance, no matter how often I submitted to Analog, I always got their form letter rejection. After taking the 8-week online workshop, I submitted the story I wrote in the workshop to Analog. I didn’t sell the story, but I got a detailed, page-long rejection letter, encouraging me to send more stories. I did that and two stories later, I sold “Take One for the Road” to Stan, which appeared in the June 2011 Analog. I am certain that I would not have sold to Analog as quickly as I did had I not taken the workshop. The skills I learned there were practical and made me a better storyteller.

But the workshop is more than that. Despite being online, I met people in the workshop who became trusted first readers and critiquer’s of my stories. That has been invaluable and their feedback in the years after the workshop have made my stories even better.

I highly recommend the workshop. You can get all of the details over at Willis Couvellier‘s LiveJournal post: “James Gunn’s Online Workshop is Back.” There’s a bunch of information over there, but if anyone has specific questions about my experience in the workshop, drop a comment here or get in touch with me (see my Contact page) and I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Wedding prep

We’re one week away from the Big Day, and this weekend is all about wedding prep.  We were both tired last night and went to bed around 10 AM.  We were up shortly after 7 AM, after a good night’s sleep.  I had an appointment at Saturn this morning to get the alignment on my car adjusted.  It had been pulling to the right ever since Williamsburg and it was about time to get it fixed.  We are both skeptical about major repairs to our cars these days, both cars being well over a decade old.  Nevertheless, the price was as reasonable as such things can be so I had the work done.   Part of the work involved getting 2 new tires, but my car is so old, they don’t make the size anymore.  I had to get larger tires and that meant 4 new tires.  Only 2 were sent over so I now have to pick the car up on Monday.  When all is said and done, it’s not a big deal.  I don’t drive the car that much anyway.  But $700 seems like a lot to pay for a car that is slowly on its way out.

Back home and Kelly went off to some spa appointments.  I climbed on my bike and road down to a park just south of the Wilson Bridge.  Since the bike computer is still not working, I checked Google Maps and my best estimate is 6.5 miles one way, or 13 miles round trip.  I took just over 1-1/2 hours.  It was a good ride, a good workout, and this time, it didn’t rain.

When I got home from the bike ride, I worked on wedding itineraries for the wedding party.  I called the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner and gave them the final count.  I called all of my credit card companies and the bank and let them know I would be traveling out of the country for 10 days so if they saw activity on my account in, say, Cartagena, Colombia, the would know it probably wasn’t fraudulent.  When Kelly got home we ate some lunch and then headed to the grocery store to stock up on groceries for the week.  We’ve got a lot of company coming into town beginning on Tuesday and we wanted to be prepared.

Kelly has been doing laundry all day and tonight or tomorrow, we are packing for our honeymoon.  We’re doing it now so that we don’t have to do it when we’ve got a houseful of people.

In two-and-a-half hours, we’re heading over to a friend’s house to play Rock Band, or Guitar Hero, or one of those games.  The fun never ends.

I sent the next draft of my story to the workshop.  It had a bunch of changes that were suggested by the group.  I got comments back today, and sure enough, the comments are helping.  We’ve got a good group, and I’m anxious to work in the comments and get a final draft before I head on vacation  I’d like to get the manuscript in the mail no later than a week from today, if I can.

Very little time for reading these last two weeks.

On the other hand, I’ll I’m looking forward to seeing Andy and kruppenheimer  and strausmouse  and rmstraus  and stubiebrother and he11o_sunshine  and everyone else coming into town for the wedding very soon.

Today’s writing and reading

Was made up entirely of the first two critiques of full stories for the workshop.  A total of 4,600 words worth of critiquing.  Also I got some good feedback on my story.  Once I have the rest, I can move on to the second draft.  There are 5 more stories to critique but none have been submitted yet.  I may squeeze in a little of fiction writing before bed tonight.  First, we’re going to practice our wedding dance.

Only a few pages of reading today.  Maybe more tomorrow.

Met Kelly at Macy’s after work.  Then home to meet Leanna who is going to look after the cats when we’re on the honeymoon.  Ten more days!

First draft of the workshop story is done!

In what is by far my best marathon writing session of the entire year, I have as of two minutes ago, finished the first draft of my workshop story.  I just finished 4,100 words in a single writing session.  For my non-writer friends that’s the equivalent of about 20 manuscript pages.  It took me four hours which puts my pace at roughly 1,000 words per hour.

So far, I’m pleased with what I wrote.  It’s not quite the same story I started out to write.  It took on a life of it’s own, but I’m pleased with it nonetheless and I’m eager to find out what the workshop folks have to say about it.

So, in first draft, my story "If By Reason of Strength..," now stands at 11,100 words.  I have to do some proofreading to clean it up a bit, and then I plan on sending it out to the group tomorrow.

I should mention that Kelly was incredibly patient with me this evening.  Knowing that I wanted to finish this story up tonight, she made us grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, and then sent me upstairs to the office to work in peace and solitude for three plus hours.

I feel great right now.  There’s no high quite like that of finishing a story you are proud of.

Wrapping up

Today marks the end of the fiscal year and I more or less finished my part of a multi-year project in which we developed a sophisticated, web-based project portfolio management system for our research units.  6 of our 8 units are in production as of today, and that’s what we needed to meet our goal.  Beginning next week, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be working full-time for our Facilities department, getting their applications (which have been sidelined due to other projects) moving forward.  Anyway, I feel really good about the work I did on this project.

I did about 500 words of the workshop story at lunch today.  It stands at 7,000 words now.  I’m really going to try and tackle the remainder of the first draft this weekend.  I’d like to send it out to the group Monday or Tuesday.  At this point, it’s looking to be somewhere between 10,000-12,000 words.

Kelly has her flex-day today.  She got to sleep in this morning.  We still have a few last minute wedding items to take care of.  Yesterday I reserved us a limo to the airport.  I also confirmed with the place we are having our rehearsal dinner, and found out when they needed the final count.  We have our seating arrangement essentially done.  And I have some text I need to send to he11o_sunshine  that will be included with our program.  (I requires just a little clean-up, Jen, I swear, and then I’ll have it out to you.)  We are trying to get as much wedding stuff done as possible this weekend so that we have it all wrapped up.  Next weekend we need to cleanup the place and pack for the honeymoon.  I can’t believe that we’re only 15 days away from the Big Day.

Had a lazy TV night last night.  Kelly made mushroom-stuffed ravioli and we sat down and watched essentially 4 hours of TV, including Smallville and the season premier of The Office.  Season premier of Dexter is on Sunday.  Tonight, I’m planning on watching the first presidential debate.

Washington Mutual collapsed today–or was taken over by JP Morgan, whatever that means.  This whole financial crisis is fascinating in the same way watching a train wreck is fascinating.  I wonder if it will come up in tonight’s debate on national security?

Workshop progress

I did just over 1,200 words at lunch today, bringing my workshop story to 6,500 words.  The scene I wrote today, however, will likely replace a few shorter scenes so I don’t know what the actual total will be.  I still plan on getting some more writing done later this evening, but I’m pretty happy with what I got done at lunch today.

Workshop progress

Another good night’s sleep last night.  That’s two nights in a row!  Tonight, we head up to NJ and then tomorrow, we are in New York City for the second-to-last game at Yankee stadium.

Despite the busyness at work, and the various wedding-related items (only 3 weeks away!), I am pleased with the progress I’ve made on the workshop story.  The story currently stands at 4,100 words, and I managed to do about 1,800 words this week.  Given where I am in the story, I would expect the story to end being close to 10,000 words, but we’ll see.  I read through what I had this morning, and although there are places where some cleanup is required, I think the first 4,000 words read fairly well.  I can already see where the workshop is helping.  It’s difficult for me to identify problems in my own stories, but I’m learning.  I question every scene that I write, I ask what it is adding to the story, if the dialog is relevant, if the story is moving the reader along.  So far, I think it is.

I’ve got another busy day on the books today, but I’ve got 4 hours to kill on the drive up to NJ this evening, so I may be able to sneak in some writing.  I’m not sure I’ll have another chance until Sunday, but I’m eager to write, the ideas are flowing easy now, and writer’s have to take advantage of those opportunities.

Grow old along with me

We overslept today.  It was almost 7 AM before we finally crawled out of bed.   Once again, I had a pretty rotten night’s sleep.  The first half wasn’t so bad, but then, sometime in the middle of the night, an alarm clock went off that shouldn’t have gone off and that got us both restless for much of the remainder of the night.  I finally got to sleep sometime around 5:30 only to have to get up a little more than an hour later.

I packed my lunch and we headed into the office.  I was fairly productive today, and I’ve got a number of things to work on tomorrow.  I certainly felt like I put in a full day, despite the late start.  I left the office half an hour later than usual.

Once home, I did some chores and then picked up Kelly from work.  We had chef salad for dinner and lazed around for much of the evening.  She’s heading to the gym now but I’m too wiped to go tonight.

I did my week 4 assignment for the writers workshop.  This week’s assignment was on dialog.  I rewrote my opening scene and I ended up doing 1,600 words today, which is remarkably well for me, considering I put in a full workday.

Still haven’t finished Rainbows End, but I’m getting close.  I’m about 300 pages through the book.  It’s a bizarre read, but I’m far enough into it to want to know what the whole mystery is about.

We had some rain today.  It’s supposed to be "fall-like" tomorrow.

The roads must roll

Just finished up 4 scene critiques for the writers workshop.  Professor Gunn has us working on "setting" this week.  I think I have two more critiques to write, but those scenes haven’t been submitted yet so there’s not much I can do.

Very productive day at work today.  My Universal Importer for the Big Application we’ve been working on for the last year got it’s first trial run and was successful, which made me happy.  I spent all morning on it.  It was one of those days where I got into the office, disappeared in code, and when I came up for air it was 12:30.  I had to interview someone this afternoon, and then it was back to work on the Universal Importer.  I headed home around 4 PM.

Comcast called me early this afternoon.  They wanted to see if they could troubleshoot my phone problems now, rather than have me wait for a technician on Monday.  "Monday?" I said, "I was told he was coming today between 3 and 6 PM."  Turns out, when the Comcast rep said, "Tomorrow between 3 and 6," she meant "Monday between 3 and 6".  They called me back around 4:30 to do some troubleshooting.  They were going to remotely reset the modem or something.  They also told me that the phone number we’d been assigned was never "registered", whatever that means.  In any event, they solved half the problem.  I was able to make an outgoing call from the house phone tonight, but still not able to receive an incoming call.  So the Comcast tech will come on Monday.

Did some banking today, depositing various checks.  When I got home from work I found our engagement pictures on a CD in our mailbox.  There are 91 pictures, many of which came out really good.  Especially the pictures of Kelly.  At some point, we’ll make some of them available.  I also had a message from the concierge that they had a package for me.  I walked over there and would you believe they couldn’t find it.  They were very apologetic and asked me to come back tomorrow–they’d have it all sorted out.  Stay-tuned.

Paid the credit card bill and that means the honeymoon is paid for in full now.

Spoke to Mom briefly this evening.  Also spoke to vickyandnorm.  I did laundry when I got home from work.  It was my first time using out washer and dryer.  Kelly likes doing laundry, but I badgered her into letting me do some today.  She made us scrambled eggs with mushrooms, peppers, and cheese for dinner.  High protein.  We headed to the gym around 8:30 and I got in a decent chest and back workout.

I’m 172 pages through Rainbows End and it’s slow going simply because there isn’t enough time in the day.  Tomorrow we’ve got Poker Night; Saturday is the Think Tank softball tournament (if it doesn’t rain), and on Sunday we’re planning on wrapping up what’s left of our wedding to-do lists.

And if that isn’t enough, when I checked to see if Dad’s tux had been added to the list tonight, I discovered that it had–except they spelled his first name "Dan".  This is remarkable only because I spelled out his name when I called to have him added.  I’ll get it changed on Sunday when I go in to get fitted.

To shower and to bed…

Happy Birthday, Casey!

Bloom carries over 130 varieties of coffee*

Another weird night’s sleep last night, but better than the night before. We were up just a little late this morning and headed into work. I had anotherfull day of coding, punctuated by a meeting in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon. I felt pretty productive today.

At lunch, I finally wrote the next scene for my writer’s workshop, about 750 words, which is pretty good for lunchtime. Actually, the scene takes place toward the end of the story, but I kind of liked it. I think it works pretty well. I’m eager to see what the group thinks. I also got one critique written for the group and may get to one more before going to bed tonight.

Lots of mail today, mostly for Kelly. But I did get the October/November issue of ASIMOV’S today.

I managed a little bit of reading. I’m about 160 pages through Rainbows End.

After I picked Kelly up from work, we headed to the grocery store to do some shopping. Then back home and I made us French bread pizza for dinner. Doug called this evening and I spoke to him for a little while. Then Kelly and I headed to the gym. I did a half hour of cardio. It felt like a good workout.

I called Comcast today to have someone come out and check the phones. The phones haven’t worked since we moved in, but I never complained about it since we mainly use our cellphones. But since we’re paying for the service, it seems like it should work. So they are sending a tech over tomorrow afternoon.

* This was a line from a commercial that was playing when I started this entry and I couldn’t think of a good subject line so I appropriated it.


I was moody this evening for reasons I can’t really explain.  I’m rarely moody, but there I was this evening, with a little bit of inexplicable attitude.  Saturday too.  I blame it on the fact that I spent all day in "programmer mode" (I was in a lesser "programmer mode" on Saturday).  But still, that doesn’t really seem like an excuse.  The truth is, I have no idea why I was moody.  Maybe it was the meatballs I ate for dinner.

After dinner, Kelly and I went for a walk around the complex, and then headed to the gym, where I managed to get in a really good arms and shoulder workout, and in doing so, I seem to have worked out most of my moodiness.  We came back to the house.  he11o_sunshine  called and I spoke with her briefly, then it was into the shower and into the office to do some workshop stuff.  Mostly mind-mapping the story.  I’m supposed to be writing a scene focusing on setting, but the creative bug seems to have taken an extended Labor Day weekend.  I’ve got to get something sent out tomorrow, however, so I’m plugging away.

We got our first preview engagement photos from the photographer today.  They came out terrific.  Kelly, especially, looks amazing.  I don’t look too bad myself.  She also had some good news:  the memory stick from the original photo-shoot was not damaged beyond repair after all and we now will have two sets of engagement photos.  I can’t wait to see more of them.

We’re hosting poker night this Friday at our house, and then I’m playing in the Think Tank softball tournament on Saturday.  It’s a double-elimination tournament and our first game is at 9:30 AM.  Kelly and I decided that on Sunday, we’re going to wrap up what’s left of the wedding tasks so that we no longer have to worry about them being unfinished. 

Another all-day programming binge tomorrow.  Hopefully I’ll be in better control of my mood.


A character in my workshop story is a fan of D. D. Harriman, for purposes that become more clear as the story progresses. Anyway, I was doing some brainstorming tonight, some mind-mapping (since the writing really wasn’t working) and I decided to go back and read Robert Heinlein’s story "Requiem", in which Harriman is the main character. I read the story only once, way back in October 1997. But it was one of the more memorable Heinlein stories I’ve read. Tonight I read it again, with it’s brilliant, touching ending:

He sat very quietly, rubbing his hands against the soil of the Moon and sensing the curiously light pressure of his body against the ground.  At long last there was peace in his heart.  His hurts had ceased to pain him.  He was where he had longed to be–he had followed his need.  Over the western horizon hung the Earth at last quarter, a green-blue giant moon.  Overhead, the Sun shone down from a black and starry sky.  And underneath the Moon, the soil of the Moon itself.  He was on the Moon!

He lay back while a bath of content flowed over him like a tide at flood, and soaked to his very marrow.

His attention strayed momentarily, and he thought once again that his name was called.  Silly, he thought, I’m getting old–my mind wanders

–"Requiem", Robert A. Heinlein, 1940

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to write like that.