March 30, 2019

Vegas, Baby!

In early March, I spent a week in Las Vegas at a workshop all about writing for anthologies and getting to understand how editors choose stories. I was one of 50 writers who wrote a bunch of stories, and then we read everyone’s stories to get the editor’s eye view of things (that was 1.3 million words!) and then the editors put together nine anthologies and talked about all 300 stories while we all watched.

Best of all, they were paying professional rates for those stories.

It’s kind of like The Voice for writers, although it’s not that glitzy with 50 writers and 5 editors in a hotel meeting room for six days. No spotlights. No sequins. No stages. Just six days all about writing and stories.

So, yeah, way intense and I learned so very much. Some of my stories made the cut and they’ll be rolling out starting this summer (and for quite some time following). I’ll post as they hit the shelves.

Unfortunately I came home with a terrible head cold (as did many of the attendees). When it comes to viruses, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.

Below are some fun photos from the trip.

Writers (and curious readers), below the pictures are more details on the nuts and bolts and wow of this workshop.

For Writers

Here are the details if you are a writer and might want to do something like this.

The Anthology Workshop is put on by WMG Publishing, the company owned by long-time writers and teachers Dean Wesely Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s done annually and you can find out more about over here.

First off, this takes a lot of time. Something I underestimated… a lot.

The writing is done in two three-week blocks starting in November and January where you write a story to fit an anthology (and the editor of that anthology). One story a week, six in total (there was a surprise on week three, so we had the opportunity to write eight stories). This is a doable pace if you block out the time and have enough stories under your belt.

The reading, which I only got about 75% of the way through, takes even more time, especially for slow readers like me. But wow was it eye opening. The reading starts in late January and the proper pace is 10 stories a day (and that’s roughly 50,000 or more words a day if you read all of them all the way through). So you’ll be inhaling as many stories as possible. And these stories are good–this is an invite-only workshop so the writers know what they are doing.

After all of that, you arrive in Las Vegas and the real nail-biting fun starts. It really is like The Voice when the judges get to your story and you get a yes, no, or maybe with concrete feedback on what worked and didn’t work. And you get to hear the same for all those stories you read and compare your reaction to the editors.

Spoiler alert: writing is subjective, it was rare that the editors were unanimous in their opinions. This is an important lesson. Writing is an art and the experience of art is subjective. Getting an editor to say “yes” takes writing the story they want well at the right time. (Even that is an oversimplification, for example if you are having a bad day, a story may hit you very differently than on a good day.)

Witnessing five editors talk about 300 stories (most of which I had read at least some of) is a hell of an education. This is the kind of behind-the-scenes things a writer never gets to witness. Having an editor tell you why your story worked or didn’t work for them is so valuable. Themes emerged and I came away knowing what aspects of my writing that I want to strengthen.

And on top of this, you get to hang out with 50 serious and accomplished writers and 5 editors (all of whom are writers, too). The networking is another huge benefit of this. I met some fantastic people and picked up lots of tidbits for the business end of this that will take me a while to incorporate.

The bottom line: lessons learned, friends made, stories sold, fun had! Yes, this did take a lot of time, but it will be paying dividends for years to come! I suspect I’ll be doing this again at some point.

For a very complete analysis of the workshop, check out Ron Collins’s blog posts from 2018 where he was one of the editors (note: the workshop has moved from Oregon to Vegas since then).

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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