I spent the past weekend at Borderlands Press Writers Boot Camp. My cohort of writer grunts faced brutally honest horror and science fiction writers and an editor, and they pushed us to self-edit and craft our best stories.

Writers (especially speculative fiction writers) who want to take their craft to the next level will be transformed by Borderlands Press Writers Boot Camp.

It took two years for me to believe my writing was ready after JG Faherty recommended it to me. Application to Borderlands Boot Camp included a writing sample, after all. Once accepted, I submitted two more samples: the first 2 pages of a story and the first 30 pages of a novel or story, along with character bios and a synopsis.

Let the learning begin. That was the first synopsis I had ever written.

We read and critiqued the submissions November through January. The workshop directions encouraged us to use a red pen. Borderlands Boot Camp pushes writers to look at our work critically and receive critical feedback from others.

The first night, Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Ginjer Buchanan, and Doug E. Winter gave short lectures, and they emphasized that Story (capital S) was our weakest quality. They were blunt. They said some of us needed to cut pages and pages from our submissions. They were also hilarious and supportive, and they gave us a special session on story structure.

That was the tone throughout Borderlands Boot Camp. I immediately realized (and cringed at) how much work my writing samples and critiques needed, but the instruction was practical and honest. 

The first exercise included special guest, Heather Graham and our first 2 pages submission. We all survived.

At 11:30 pm, we were give our assignment: write a short story using a first line they gave us. It was due by 9:00 am on Sunday. I got 450 words in that night before I crawled into bed.

Snacks. Snacks and late night writing.

The big critiques came on Saturday. I read my submission so I would be ready to discuss it, and my heart was racing before I was done with the first page. It needed so much work.

This post has imaginary editing marks and comments in the margins. I started with the protagonist. I cut out the prologue about my Borderlands hangover and streamlined the backstory. Focus is now on the who, what and how questions and the central theme. Thank you, BP voices that are in my head now.