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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Samuel Delany on improving your story -- with a verifying personal anecdote from Geoff Ryman

In About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews, Samuel R. Delany discusses lackluster graduate student stories.  When Delany called for better "structural richness and... richness of description of the various interiors, exteriors, and characters," one writer's work was improved with "incidents... [that] had thematic and structural resonances with one another, and the physical description of the places and characters was... richer."  He also mentions a novel situation, different from her classmates.  She replies:
"I made a geometric picture of how I wanted the parts of the story to relate to each other."
Rick Wilber recently linked to this article in the NY Times about writers doing actual architectural models of stories.

I reminded of Geoff Ryman generously allowing Julian Todd and I to read and critique an early draft of "Blocked," which we thought a step down from Ryman's usual work (I didn't directly state this at the time, but instead actively sought the theme and other working parts--as I would normally do in a critique).  The next draft was stunningly improved--largely by following the above--not in huge passages but little details that made the difference.  The same story was nominated for the Locus award and appeared in three Year's Best anthologies.

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