My Odyssey Workshop Experience: Private Meetings

During the course of the workshop each of us had to meet with Jeanne three times throughout the six weeks. Once during each two-week span to talk about our weaknesses, strengths, goals, & progress, etc. I ended up having five meetings with her.

[It’s been a few months at this point, so hopefully my memory is correct. If it’s not, then it’s pretty close and the only issues might be exactly which meeting encompassed which discussion.]

Because of the way the submission schedule had been set up, my first submission wasn’t until almost the end of the second week of the workshop. I had a future submission schedule of four submissions due all within an 11 day time frame though, so I knew I had to be working on new stories during that first two weeks. Because I wanted to actually progress, I requested a short meeting with Jeanne earlier on so I might get a little idea on where I could focus on my current WIPS.

That first meeting she talked about a few of my weaknesses, specifically that the two stories she’d already read didn’t have a strong character motivation (or, in fact, a character wanting anything at all) in the beginning of the stories. So I took that information, edited the beginning of my first submission, and then took that same advice onward to my second and third submissions as well.

My second meeting with her, we discussed a little more in-depth about my goals, what I wanted to accomplish in the workshop, and the fact that I planned on only writing short stories in order to do more focused learning. We also spoke more at length about my weaknesses, which included a lack of seamless plots, with scenes that don’t always deliver a change in significance to any of the plot threads or character arcs. This was something I worked on intensely for my third submission and attempted to engage in the submissions following.

For my third meeting, we spoke about my submissions thus far. My second submission had been seen by the class by this time and we talked about my practice with pushing myself into objective view. I admitted I hated it, hated every second of it. That I adore writing character view, through character eyes, and that constantly pulling back had been difficult. We also came to the conclusion that my progress was giving me stories that leaned more toward crafting through a character journey so my choice to use objective for that second story didn’t gel. We also discussed my strangeness budget and how my love of world-building sometimes got in the way of the other aspects of the story. [As a side note, I’ve found this far easier to balance in a long work such as a novel, but in short stories you have very little time to get a lot on the page all at once.]

For my fourth meeting, I really wanted to talk about my opening scene for my fourth submission. I’d spent a lot of time on it and wanted to know if I was getting across all the things I’d been hoping to accomplish. We went through those 700 words piece by piece to talk about what each sentence and phrase implied, what kind of information she got out of that beginning. I actually left that meeting feeling great because so much of what I’d been attempting to say got across to her. [This feeling went away completely when I had my private critique with the same story and the guest didn’t understand anything I’d been saying in the beginning :( But that happens sometimes.]

My final meeting with Jeanne occurred near the end of the six weeks. I’d just had my last in-class critique with my last story so there was this wonderfully strange feeling of absolutely relief hovering over me. Like an aura of giddiness. I’d done it! I made it through the gauntlets! I’d written the stories! I’d reached the end of the slog through all this work and effort :) There were only 2 days left in the entire workshop at that point, which was a bittersweet feeling.

At that last meeting, we went through my original questionnaire, where I had been answered questions concerning what I thought my strengths were, my weaknesses, what I loved most about the process, what I loved least, what I wanted to work on, what my goals were, etc. In that questionnaire, I had put down that my favorite parts were the world-building aspect, that I loved character and voice, that I struggled with plot and I desperately wanted to focus on beginnings and endings because I know that’s the primary place a story loses a reader. I’d written that I generally start a story, but I’m not always entirely sure where it’s going to end up.

During the course of the workshop I’d discovered that if I know everything that’s going to happen in a story (ie, the entire plot) that I lose interest in writing it, that I’ve already hit the emotional beats and don’t enjoy the process as much. On the other hand, if I have a bare bones type of plot, with key points, but much left to engage the creative side of my brain, I enjoy the process a great deal more. [Speaking of this, I just had an epiphany as to why I’ struggling to write my current WIP XD Guess I just need to get find a way to make it creative again despite knowing what’s happening.]

We also talked about my plans going forward. My goals, my methods for achieving them, and how to set myself up for success. The conversation was encouraging and allowed me to look forward to what was to come rather than deflate as soon as the workshop was over.

<3 Marie C.

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