Just finished up a craft workshop; specifically the WMG Anthology Workshop. It was my first in-person workshop with it the second one that focused on craft (the first being a depth workshop that was done by WMG online). It was amazing, and I ended up with some great news.
Not that most of you care. 😊 It did mean that I haven’t written much for Stars Asunder just yet, though I expect to start writing on it in a focused manner after next week. Hopefully, some of the things I’ve learnt will creep into my writing and make it even better.
The Workshop’s Structure
I really like the anthology workshop, though I’m not sure I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. Basically, the workshop has us write a series of short stories; once a week for 6 weeks for 8 different anthologies. These were themed anthologies, with word count requirements (often ranging from 3-8k). All in all, pretty standard for craft stuff. Write a bunch of things, have people evaluate them. To get the most from it, make sure to read your fellow attendees work (to understand the various editing comments). In this case, we had around 1.2 million words or 240+ stories I believe. A LOT of stories.
As I said, standard.
But, here’s the difference.
The anthology’s we were writing for are ‘real’ anthologies. From Pulp House & Fiction River to the new (soon to be released) Fantasy Quarterly, they are all real anthologies, with real budgets which will be released for readers.
That means the editors were using a real budget and had wordcount limits they had to worry about. They had to consider how the anthology would read, the tone of the anthology (and the stories individually) and all that jazz.
It was basically a behind the scenes look at what went into creating an anthology; while at the same time allowing us to sell our stories (at pro rates or higher!); and allow them to offer editing and genre advice.
Musings on the Workshop (Before)
So, how’d it go? Well, one of the biggest concerns (for me) was how I’d handle the criticism. I don’t like reading reviews, because it affects me and makes me grumpy while I argue with the people on the other side of the monitor. Also, let’s be frank – the vast, vast majority of people offering reviews don’t know how to offer critical reviews. They aren’t trained.
These editors are. Hell, Kristyn Kathryn Rusch has won a Nebula for her editing. She’s that good.
And that, probably, what made it easy for me. I had very low expectations going in, expecting to sell nothing and figuring I’d learn a lot about my writing. I haven’t ever been ‘taught’ how to write fiction, so I knew I had gaps. And while I can tell where some of them were, I’m still swimming in the dark a bit.
Anyway, long story short (har!), I expected to not sell much and learn lots. Especially after reading the stories submitted and putting together my own anthologies. The level of writing overall was just staggering.
On the other hand, while I didn’t expect to sell anything, I wasn’t NOT going to try my best. So, one thing I did, after reading each week’s anthology guidelines, was cheat.
Well, okay. It’s not really cheating. Maybe better to call it write to market.
In a number of the stories, I chose to write things that I knew about, that I figured were not likely to be dealt with. I set my stories in other parts of the world from North America, I pulled upon my knowledge of Asia and China, and all that jazz. I made the work unique, because; well… I figured it’d help sell.
At the Workshop
When the workshop started, it was… interesting. The first day was the ‘worse’ for me, mostly due to the slow rising dread as I waited for my story to arrive. Constant refrains of ‘setting’ and ‘information flow’ issues, of endings not being right, etc. made me twitch. I could tell, I could hear, how my own work didn’t fulfil the criteria.
When the reviews from the editors came, it was both bad and good. Instead of being rejected outright, it was put on the Maybe pile – because it did something that none of the other stories did, but there were still mistakes (as the editors helpfully pointed out).
And the day went on. 8 hours of editorial comments on stories, a 2 hour lunch with the editors to pick their brains on craft and the industry, and then later in the evening; a social time to chat with everyone.
The writers were great, fun to speak with as they are dedicated writers. We weren’t allowed to talk about the story or the anthologies, so we had to find other things to discuss. Not a hard thing, with such a strong series of connections.
The evening discussion was interesting, some business, some craft, some just plain social time. It was great to hear some stories of past conventions, about the history of scifi & fantasy; of writers past. And it was good to connect.
And the days went on, with all our stories getting reviewed. We watched how anthologies got put together, how Maybe’s were shifted to buys as they filled gaps in anthologies, and how some GREAT stories were discarded because they missed the point of the anthology or how they just didn’t fit or how they already had 3 of the same kind – so really, yours was great, but just not great enough or short enough or…
Or just didn’t fit the editor’s taste. Which was the other thing. I saw multiple stories get yes’s from every editor except the one putting the anthology together. And since this wasn’t a democracy…. Those stories got set aside. To likely live on in some other anthology.
And I learnt, a lot.
I learnt a ton. I have a long, long list of things that need fixing, that I learnt or will be implementing (or trying to). I made a few business / social connections, we’ll see what happens to them. That’s a bit in the air (the business, not the social); and I’m excited to get back to writing.
As for my stories? I wrote 6 of the 8 that were on offer. Of those six, I sold 2 (for sure); have requests to rewrite 2 (which will then be bought if I hit it right) and the other 2 were rejected. For good reasons. My Patron’s on Patreon will get to see those stories, and they’ll eventually be shown to others via the newsletter or maybe stuck in my own anthologies (or submitted to others!). I’ll definitely release at one, and then do something with the other one. We’ll see.
And that’s about it. Overall, I loved it. And I’d recommend it to any pro writer to go. Just, you know, realise it is tough emotionally to have people say your stories needs work. Even if it is true. 😊