What I’ve learned from Hugo House so far

Hugo House is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It’s a place where people get together and write and share words. There are writing classes, readings, and other events there. I’m taking an eight-week writing course called Roughing It. This is a ‘how to crank out lots of words together’ course. My goal is 5k per week, which is more than I’ve ever written before. So far the results are pretty good in terms of what I’ve managed to create. With the prep I did before class, I anticipate breaking my previous monthly record of 12.5k words in a few days. We do plenty of reading on story structure and outlining. I’ve already discovered some important things thanks to my classmates.

I was dithering about whether my story was more science fiction or romance. One of my classmates had me go into it a little: she asked me whether the love story or the mystery was more important. I said I didn’t know, because they seemed pretty entwined to me. Love and survival are both primary issues we understand. My classmate made me realize, though, that the heroine deals with the mystery for the sake of another relationship: her love for her father. The theme of the book is that it’s human relationships that make our lives worth living. So I’ll dwell more on the emotions and the primary romantic relationship. I’ve always thought of lonely people seeking connections when I thought cyberpunk.

My classmate wasn’t done with helping there, though. She suggested that I had to put the romantic relationship itself in jeopardy. The heroine must fear that loss and must make the decision to fully trust the hero and commit to what the relationship entails. I’d made my heroine change slowly during the course of the story, and had initially thought to just erode her resistance to completely trusting the hero until it was all gone away. It is, however, more dramatic for it to be a crystalline realization for her, and probably more satisfying for him to find he has a breaking point.

The class text has also been useful. We’re reading Franklin’s Writing for Story. He preaches STRUCTURE STRUCTURE STRUCTURE and outlining, and says you have to know what you’re going to write before you write it. Now, while that works on a large scale for me, it’s not useful for when my stories or plots haven’t fully coalesced. With my novel, I’ve had an outline with some blank spots to work from. Very Underpants Gnomes of me, right? But now that I’m almost done with the first draft, I have a much better idea of what the story is, and can see how it works with several kinds of outline. Making outlines happen now that I have the draft will make the novel more structured. I sort of knew all this already, but then I figured out another bit that might save me some work: polish the prose later, after I’ve figured out which scenes to drop. I say that like it will be simple, but ha ha ha, I’m not counting on it.

Sunday I’m taking another class called Narrative Stockholm Syndrome, in which we’re going to explore characters. I’m looking forward to it!


One thought on “What I’ve learned from Hugo House so far”

  1. It sounds like you found a great class Lee! It is interesting to read about the creative processes that authors go through.

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