You can’t really recreate Clarion at home. A lot of what makes Clarion magical is the group dynamic—twenty people working together on the common enterprise of becoming better fiction writers—and you can’t do that without the group. But even without the group, you can learn the core skills that Clarion teaches.
Before I went to Clarion, I had assumed that the most important part would be getting critiques on my own work. That turned out not to be true. Almost every other activity at Clarion taught me more than the critiques of my stories. Based on that realization, I’ve got some ideas on teaching yourself better writing skills—in much the same ways that you’d learn the same skills at Clarion:
- Planning: Pick your six weeks—and a book on writing
- Writing: Write a story a week
- Reading: Read many mediocre and a few great stories
- Critiquing: Compare your critiques to others
- Expertise: How to become an expert fiction writer
- Summation: What about getting critiques?
When the 2011 rejections went out—meaning people I knew posting and tweeting about not being able to go to Clarion—I wrote What if you can’t go to Clarion, and then the six posts linked above.
I don’t claim any special insight here. I’m just someone who attended Clarion ten years ago (in 2001), and has done a lot of thinking since then about what I learned and how I learned it.
I’ve written before about my Clarion experience. Besides my Clarion journal (where you can read about what it was like and what I learned), my Clarion writers workshop page has links to a few other essays that I wrote about Clarion.
Now I offer these, in the hope that you’ll find them useful.