I learned a lot about my process and peculiarities as a writer when I was in graduate school. I remember the frustration of trying to workshop Scurvytown and having people simply not get it. They couldn’t understand the POV changes, or the strangeness of the place. They didn’t get that it wasn’t realistic because it was a parallel world, and so on.
I think people tried to read it like it was straight-on normal boringpants fiction, which it is not. Scurvytown is entirely bonkers. I think once you get that, you start to get it a bit more. Makes me wonder how people ever got into Discworld, given how nutso that is, but then Terry Pratchett I certainly am not, nor do I try to be. The way Scurvytown jumps around reminds me a lot of John Scalzi’s The Human Division series that he put out weekly via Kindle. Of course, I am not a Scalzi of the world. I am still trying to get started. I will note that I was quite pleased with the fact that Scalzi was telling his story in a kind of scattershot POV manner, because it reinforced to me that, even though no one else seemed to get why I wanted to tell Scurvytown stories this way, at least there are other writers who enjoy taking those risks and experimenting a bit with storytelling mechanisms. To me, it’s sincerely a fun experience in storytelling.
One of the core issues, I think, was that folks didn’t seem to get the difference between writing for print and writing for the web. I tried revising parts 1-4 to make them make more sense to the workshop folks, but by the end of the class, I was saddened by the experience. The revisions felt untrue to Scurvytown and to the point of the entire endeavor.
All I had wanted was to tell silly stories (sometimes with biting social commentary, and always a bit sardonic), and tell them in silly ways. I tried to enter these stories into a conversation about writing, and that was not a conversation for which they were ready. Nor was I, to be honest.
But also, if I am being honest, I don’t want to change the way I was writing them. Yes, the program changed a lot about the way I revise my work, but not that much about the way I initially write things. Scurvytown was an experiment in raw, barely edited fiction, and I have felt saddened by leaving that world to focus on other stories. I feel like, with graduation now behind me, hopefully I can return to this place and find out what my characters have been doing for the past three years while I was away.
I have wondered if I should pick up where I left off, but I think that would be weird and silly. Instead, I want to revisit the stories I have already written, and try to recapture the feeling of utter delight in writing these strange folks in this crazy place. Then I want to write about where they are now, with a cheap little “three years later” to bridge that gap.
I find discovery writing to be a thrilling adventure in land-locked Ohio, a place where it is easy to get caught up in both wanderlust and monotony. I hope that I can find my way back to Scurvytown, and that I find everyone well and healthy when I make the trip back.