The Waaaay Overdue Boot Camp Post

Written By: Jess - Jul• 29•14

I’ll try and keep this simple, mostly because it’s hard to convey everything I learned and walked away with from Boot Camp. I’m also in the middle of moving, editing, and trying to get to my new shiny, so I really don’t have much time to dive into this as much as I’d like. In all honesty I could easily split this into two posts, so I apologize in advance for how long and dry this thing is. (To the GIF haters: Sorry. Sort of. But there’re 4 in this post.)  Anyways. Reeeady … and … go!

The First 2 Days

The first two days was the writing class portion of Boot Camp. Anyone can attend the writing class if they pay the $175 (or whatever it cost). It’s great, though if you’ve read Orson Scott Card’s “Character & Viewpoint” book (I highly recommend it) you’ll notice a lot of the same information. He does cover stuff that isn’t in it though, so you can still get a lot out of it.

I attended the writing class last year as well and love how he presents the information.

On one of the days he had us write about an hour from the past week. We had to write it in third person past tense and we couldn’t use our own names. Here was mine:

Coraline gripped her armrest as the plane shuddered for the third time.

The girl next to her giggled like a demented Furby and Coraline debated if ‘accidentally’ hitting her would be worth it.

“Just a little turbulence folks, we’ll be on the ground in no time,” the captain’s disembodied voice said above them.

With a strained face, Coraline turned toward the man across the aisle from her, his words finally registering.

“Our friend is in the back — it’s his first time flying. Boy, are we going to have fun teasing him! He’s petrified!”

“I don’t blame him,” Coraline said. I am too.

The man continued to prattle on and she nodded politely, but when the plane bounced again she squeezed her eyes shut and prayed that the pilot would just land the thing sooner rather than later.

“I really, really don’t want to die,” Coraline whispered to the small TV screen in front of her.

Next to her the girl giggled again as the the stewardess walked along and asked everyone to put their trays up.

At the end of day 1 we were partnered up and expected to go and fill at least three index cards with new, complete stories. Really they were like detailed outlines. Each one had to be from one of the following:

  1. Research done at a library/bookstore
  2. Another from interviewing a stranger
  3. Observing those around us

On day 2 we went over our cards and discussed them and how to make these story ideas better. I won’t explain this too much. Long story short for me was I hated all of my ideas. I really had zero desire to explore them. Which is a pity because last year when I did the writing class I actually liked some of what I came up with. Not so much this year. I don’t know what happened.

The Boot Camp Portion

The best parts about Boot Camp for me were:

  1. Learning I could write a short story in a day
  2. Setting a new personal record for my daily word count
  3. Making new writing friends!
  4. The amazing feedback I got back from every person there

On Tuesday (day 2 of the Writing Class) OSC gathered all the boot campers together to let us know we needed to write a brand new story that we hadn’t started prior to boot camp. He said a lot of us would end up using one of the index card stories. I asked if it had to be a story from our index cards or if it could be something that we’d brainstormed while there. Luckily for me he said it did not have to be an index story. Just something new. Yea!

He also said the story had to be written by Thursday.

But he said those of us who were slow writers could skip the rest of the writing class after dinner. I opted for skipping.

I’d stayed with my sister prior to boot camp and while there I’d gone to the pool with her and her husband. I hate the water. Always have and always will. I wasn’t going in. But I did like watching all the hyper little kids jump in, splash all the adults, and in general run a complete muck.

While I sat there (trying to read my book) and watching all the mayhem, an idea sparked.  It wasn’t until the writing class started that anything really started to form around the idea, but that’s what I ended up using.

I spent eight hours on Tuesday world building, watching Dan Well’s 7 point story structure on YouTube (to be honest I had no clue on how to write a short story), and creating short character bios. The next day I woke up at noon, ordered Dominoes pizza, and spent the next thirteen hours (give or take) writing the blasted thing.

New record reached! It ended up being around 8,100 words long. (Heck, yeah!)

I thought I’d be able to go to bed after that, but I thought wrong.

I then had to stay up and read three of the short stories other boot campers had submitted already. I ended up getting about two hours of sleep before waking up and meeting with everyone to then go over them.

For those wondering, it turned out I wrote the longest one (the average was around 4-5 k. I have no idea how I ended up writing the most. I’m use to being on the low end. Huh).

And Here’s What Went Down

Really, this is what’s hard to explain to people about what I learned. For the rest of boot camp we spent about three hours each on each person’s story critiquing it (there were twelve boot campers all together).

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A lot of what I learned was from critiquing so many stories, having my own ripped apart, and listening to what OSC had to say. The real value came from those three things combined.

What amazed me was listening to someone who’s been writing for so long brainstorm, picking apart story flaws, and noticing things that the rest of us didn’t see. I’ve listened to other great writers do this one on one before, not just OSC, but the difference with this was doing it for about 3 days straight from 8 -10 hours a day.

I really learned a lot by going. The new writing friends I made are invaluable.

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I honestly would recommend it to anyone considering it. The majority of the advice given was spot-on and amazing. Boot Camp was a great experience and I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have gone — it really was the right timing for me. But that’s a different post all together.

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P.S. – You should check out one of my fellow boot camper’s posts on it too. She wrote a  great summary about what went on as well. :) She’s also the one who I stole these pics from. (THANK YOU ELISE!)

Keith, another great writer from Boot Camp, has his own post up about the time spent there.

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One Comment

  1. Alison says:

    What a cool experience! Thanks for sharing it-

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