Navigating the Ocean of Story
Ursula K. Le Guin
I have enough vigor and stamina these days to write poems, for which I am very thankful. It takes quite a lot of vigor and stamina to write a story, and a huge amount to write a novel. I don’t have those any more, and I miss writing fiction.
Reliable vigor and stamina is also required to teach a class or run a workshop, and so I had to give up teaching several years ago. But I miss being in touch with serious prentice writers.
So in in hope of regaining some of the pleasures of teaching and talking about writing fiction with people who do, I’m going to try an experiment: a kind of open consultation or informal ongoing workshop in Fictional Navigation, here on Book View Café.
I hope it will work its own process out as we go along, but here’s how I plan to start:
I invite questions about writing fiction from people who are working seriously at writing fiction.
Note: Due to enthusiastic response, the question submission form has been disabled for now. Once the current round of questions has been dealt with, it may be reactivated.
DO NOT send manuscripts or samples of your work.
Send me one question, of 200 words or less. (Getting your question down to under 200 words may be part of the learning process. The more specific and exact it is, the better.)
Your question should concern only fiction — stories, novels, of any variety.
A question about the craft of writing fiction, the art of telling stories in prose.
A difficulty, a problem you have met, or keep meeting as you write. A question of technique. An uncertainty about how to write something you want to write. A puzzle: Is it bad if I do X? Do I really have to do Y? Can I get away with Z? My story-boat is stuck on a sandbar, how do I get it afloat again?
No autobiography, please. But it’s helpful to say how long you’ve been writing, and if you’ve published much.
Questions about how to publish, finding an agent, selling a book, self-publishing, marketing, etc etc, will be ignored. We won’t be talking here about how to sell a ship, but how to sail one.
If I have what I think is a useful answer for a question, I’ll post the question and my answer. I’ll keep the answer as brief as I can, but some topics will require or deserve discussion at some length.
If you think you can offer a better answer than mine, or offer a different approach, send it (as brief as you can make it!) and if I think it’s useful, I’ll post it.
If I think a question is a good one, but don’t have a useful answer, I’ll post it, inviting others to answer it. If you have what you think is a good answer, send it to me (as brief as you can make it!) and if I agree that it’s useful, I’ll post it.
That’s the whole idea, so far.
This is a trial voyage. We want to launch this little Q&A boat and find out how it sails. We’ll try to run it regularly on every other Monday, but at first there may be some delays, while we accumulate a cargo of questions, and the crew gets the knots out of the rigging, and the captain hastily learns how to navigate.
Workshops always use first names, so I suggest we do the same, or use pen-names.
I’m tempted to flatter myself by using the honorable name of William Bligh. He was one of the great navigators, and his reputation for flogging his crew mercilessly for slight faults is mere slander. You will find that I, too, use the lash only when forced to it.