Kelly Link and Clarion – 2 1/2 years on

So, Dan Braum and I are walking to our crit session on Monday morning of Clarion week 3, 2 ½ years ago.  He’s met Kelly Link before, and the conversation turns to (okay, starts right at) what type of crit style she’d have.  Would she be a laser pointer, subtly underlining things that needed work?  Would she be more than that, less than that, etc.

Cut to 5 hours later.  Kelly’s just bitch-slapped Leia and stared straight out the crystal-clear viewing window at a couple of Alderaan drafts.  She didn’t blink.  She didn’t flinch.  She just blew stuff up in the most constructive, intuitive and professional way a thing can be blown up.  Not into little bits, but into bite size pieces, that could be stacked, or carried away in pockets.

Anyway, I learned a lot from her, too.  But before I get to that, here’s some stuff I jotted down to myself about an hour into day one of week three

Wow, Kelly is dead on

She says she’ll give us heavy line edits, just like she’d do with her own work

Laser?  Kelly link is fully fucking operational!

I digress… Here’s some stuff I’m still trying to make myself learn:

If a plot point or part of the story feels tedious, ditch it.  It’ll be tedious to the reader too

The conflict should CHANGE the protagonist

The more similar a character’s action are to what the reader expects them to be, the less space you should spend on it!

Find your story by looking at interesting scenes from different distances.  What does the coming war mean to the dragon on the mountaintop, the farmer in the field, the soldier at the gate, the man who tastes the King’s food, and the King.  Which story will allow an interesting character to make tough choices that have an impact?

NEVER make dialogue say EXACTLY what the characters are saying

People ask impossible things of each other

Description of work, sculpting, sewing, sowing a field (and even things that don’t start with an ‘S’) is a pleasure to read, for editors and readers alike, if done well.  Teach us something new.

Change the balance of power within a scene, keep the reader guessing, a little.  (The best way I can describe it is to let the reader be about 85% right, when guessing a character’s actions.  That way you won’t throw them, but the outcome will still be of interest.)

The more you describe the “spooky” element, the less it actually is

Only make the things that matter vivid, or the story will “weigh” funny

It is very difficult to create tension when there is only 1 character in the story.  It’s also hard when there are too many…

You can give your story enough force and drive and life that, if you write it right and leave the ending open, the story exists beyond the final word

Take a story you love and see how many other stories you can pull out of it

It is better to use the same word more than once than it is to reach for the wrong word

And the thing that she (and Gavin, her husband, who was also there and also rocks.  I guess he’s rougher around the edges, so he’d be Death Star Mk. II …) said that spoke straight to the heart of me is:

There is a thing in each of us that can only communicate via images and what-ifs.  It can be trained to come to your aid.


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