Who Let the Dogs Out? June’s New Project = Project Dog

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

Characters First

So, I just wanted to give readers of the blog a “sneak peek” of what I’m working on this month.  I have notebook after notebook of ideas as well as various projects that are in various states of development.  Project Dog was something that I was working on last summer, but put it away because I couldn’t get the characters right.  I have (what I think) is a strong story, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get the characters to be meaningful or emotional.  So, I’ve gone back to the drawing board.  I’m going to to try to create characters that I would read and enjoy for this second attempt at this project.  When I start, I’m starting not with the story, but with the characters first.

Doggy Dog

A little more on the actual project.  While it wasn’t inspired by the Prothesis Mech Racing, this is the closest analogy to what the Mechs look like in this world (that we have in the real world).  The main character (at the moment) is the leader of a squadron of dog-like Mechs called the Bulldogs.  And yes, the Bulldogs have a problem that they need to overcome.  I’ll leave that alone for now, but I really feel that I have a strong narrative for this one (we’ll see–that’s what I thought for my last two stories).

A New Plan

My goal is to “re-envision” this project by starting with the characters first.  Hopefully, if I can find some really good characters and knock this out of the park.  After I get the characters and create character sketches, I’ll redo the plot outline, and then write a rough draft.  I will hopefully also be able to jot down some ideas for the world and the setting as well.  My goal is to be able to start a 1st draft for this project in July after I finish working on the 2nd draft of Project Skye.  I’ll then keep drafting (going through at least 3 drafts, more if needed) until I get to a draft where I think the story is “showing, not telling.”  If I’m successful, then I’ll do this for all my projects (old and new) going forward.  If not, I’ll tinker with my process some more until I can come up with a process that gets me a story that I’m happy with and that sells to the markets.  I’m producing stories, but I’m not selling them anymore and this is a drag.  Anyway, hopefully I can get back to creating stories that sell and that help move me forward in my goal of becoming a professional writer.

Sidney




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Back to the Future (No, Not the Movie, My Writing Projects)

Future

Writing the Future: All For Nothing.  Image Source: YouTube

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2357 (+634 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I’m back to writing again–I’m working primarily on Project Independence now that I have a complete idea of the story in my head.  I shattered my 250 word writing goal for today, but in doing so, didn’t have a whole lot of time left to craft this blog entry before my Writing Center shift begins.  

So, I’m Back to Writing

This one is a shorter blog as I have to be in the Writing Center in about 45 minutes.  Basically, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m back to writing, specifically Project Independence.  While yesterday’s blog was a way to help me discover what time is optimal for me as a writer, today’s blog is to emphasize that sometimes you have to write at sub-optimal times.  Yesterday, I tried to write in the afternoon, but I ran out of time because I was reading outside and I didn’t have access to a wifi-enabled computer.  I would have had to go back inside into the air-conditioning which I had been in all morning and lunchtime, so I just enjoyed the sunlight outside reading.  Today, I just got up early and wrote before my shift in the Writing Center begins.

Writing Future Slang

So, one of the things that I’m really interested in is communication between the various characters.  While I want to tell a very cool and interesting story, I also want to emphasize how communication can help (or hinder) the characters in the story.  Today, for instance, I tried my hand at creating slang for a different planet.  I’m not sure how effective it is at this stage of the draft, but I really like the challenge of taking today’s slang and trying to extrapolate how it might work in the future.

Sorry this blog is so short–consider this a maxi-update for Project Independence.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to craft a longer blog entry tomorrow.  Right now, I’m just excited that I’m actually back to writing the story.

Have a great day!

Sidney




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Changing Paradigms

good afternoon

Good Afternoon written on a notebook beside a laptop.  Image Source: Depositphotos

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, again, no new writing done (boo!).  Read on to find out why.

Adjusting to a New Schedule

So, astute readers will notice that the Word Count section of the blog that I recently added has not changed in a couple of days.  There’s are reason for that–while Summer “Classes” have not officially started, my summer “responsibilities” for my Financial Aid started on Monday, the 21st.  I’m now working in the University Writing Center as a Writing Consultant over the summer.  This means my writing time has been severely restricted in terms of time to write.

Optimal Writing Time

Dr. Renfroe, in the very first class I took from her here at MTSU, encouraged us  (grad students) to experiment with writing times to find what worked for us so as to write consistently and regularly.  She advised us that, as students who would be writing theses and dissertations, this was the best and most consistent way to be able to craft these longer works with as little frustration as possible.  Later on, after reading Jesmyn Ward’s Interview on NPR (Persist.  Read, Write, and Improve), I realized that I really needed to produce 250 words a day and to find the time when I was at my best in terms of a writing time.

Early to Mid Afternoon

So, in this past year and half, I’ve discovered that I’m best as a writer during the early to mid-afternoon period.  Some time after lunch, but sometime before, say five o’clock.  Early morning writing (except for maybe the blog) doesn’t really work (for me) as I’m not usually awake enough to consistently put words on the page, even though I’m a fairly early riser.  Late night doesn’t work because my body and mind usually go into “shut down” mode and any energy/excitement for the piece is overcome by mental exhaustion from the day.  No, my preferred writing time is early to mid-afternoon.  My brain is awake and alert, but not tired and mentally exhausted.

This week, I’ll have a couple of hours in that optimal time, but next week, I’ll only have one hour.  Now that I know this, I’m going to have learn to be a little quicker in adapting myself to the changing paradigms that I find myself in to protect as much of that precious “golden time” in the early/mid-afternoons as possible based on the circumstances.

It is true: knowledge is power.  Have a good day!

Sidney




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Enjoy the Ride

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, I didn’t get any “mainline” writing done, but I did brainstorm a project and this brainstorming session, while unintentional, was very productive.  I’ve chosen which of the two projects that I will be working on to finish out the month.  To find out which one, read on:

Driving While Dreaming

So, as some of you may know that I have a fairly long commute from my house to school/class.  I usually listen to podcasts and (more rarely) play music.  The reception isn’t good enough to listen to anyone radio station the entire time, so these are my only two realistic options.  However, today, I found myself not really wanting to listen to a podcast after the first one finished playing and all of the stations had nothing but static and I didn’t want to hook up my bluetooth aftermarket connection for my phone to play music, so I just drove.  And what a drive it was.

Project Independent Comes into Focus

So as I was driving, there were long stretches with few cars and lots of quiet and my mind began to wander a bit, I must confess.  I kept my eyes on the road and had full road awareness, but I began to wonder what would happen next in the conversation I was in the middle of for Project Independence and boom, my mind was off to the races.  It was very much like reliving watching an enjoyable movie as scene after scene played out in my mind.  I knew what the main characters were going to do, what they were going to say, who would live and who would (possibly) die.  I had the setting, complications, and reversals all planned out.  This took place from about the base of Monteagle mountain, through the truck rest area and inspection station, and ended about at Manchester, TN (about a 20-25 minute Speed Limit drive).

Recapturing the Glory

When I finally got to school, I took a moment to jot down (in outline form) the key scenes and their importance from my brainstorming daydream.  I’m now super excited to write about it because I want to recapture that feeling and those emotions that i felt while brainstorming the story in my mind.  So, if you haven’t guessed already, Project Space Trucker (which should have a title that I really like now) is the one short story project that I’m working on for the rest of May (& a bit into June if I need to.  I will push Project Skye (which I’ve made good progress on) back to June.  I will work on the Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel on weekends (I owe my artist an email soon).

It was really amazing the way the subconscious took over and helped to fashion out a story that I’m itching to tell.  The moral of this story = if you’re stuck, go out for a drive (or a walk, or whatever), but just do something else for a while.  You’re subconscious is probably already working on a solution.

Talk to you later!

Sidney




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Mostly a Stop Sign Day

Sorry about the lack of a coherent blog today, but I’m just barely functioning.  I actually wrote yesterday and I’ll include the stats today, but unless something major changes, I won’t be able to write today.  For some reason, I don’t really feel all that well today.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with getting over a minus sinus infection from yesterday.  The weather has also changed from warm and sunny to cool and rainy and that is also affecting my sinuses.

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357 (+244)
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617 (+533)
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I hope to be back to writing and blogging as usual tomorrow.  Have a good day!

Sidney




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Submitting Drafts Too Soon?

Terry Pratchett_First Draft_Pinterest

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett (Freedom With Writing).  Image Source: Pinterest

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357 (+244)
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12 

I came within 6 words of my Daily 250 word count, so I feel like this was a successful writing day.  I would have liked to have gotten to 250 words, but the place where I stopped seemed like a natural “break” in the flow of the story.

Am I Submitting Drafts too Soon?

So, working on Project Skye has been an eye-opening experience.  I’ve discovered some interesting things about my drafting process as a fiction writer.  One of the things I’ve discovered is that I need to “Tell, Don’t Show” first.  I need to tell myself the story first before I try to show it to the audience.  The second thing is that I may be submitting drafts one or maybe even two/three versions too early, and this may have to do with the terminology that I use when describing where I am in the writing process.

“Working” Draft

So, after I outline and write a Rough Draft (sometimes these are separate, sometimes not–although, lately, I’ve taken to outlining using the “Story Map” handout that I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog post, and then write the Rough Draft in the Notes App on my phone) which looks a lot like a “Treatment” for a Hollywood script.  I let that sit for a week or more and then start on the next draft, the “Working” Draft.

To me, “Working” implies that it is a “Work-in-Progress” Draft of the story.  It is, as close as I can make it, the story that I see in my mind.  After the “Working” draft is finished, I compare it to the outline and the vision that I have in my head.  If I’m satisfied with it, I’ll edit it and begin submitting.  If I’m not, it will go through another “pass” to see if I can improve on it.

“Intermediate” Draft

This process did not work with Project Skye.  What I’ve done is created “Intermediate” drafts along the way with each successive draft getting closer and closer to the story/vision in my head.  Unlike, 99% of my stories so far, I’m only on the first major scene, and already I think I’m going to need at least one more major pass at it to get it right.  I’m doing a lot of world-building and characterization in this draft, but other techniques like building excitement by starting the story In Media Res (“in the middle of things”) and cutting of extraneous details that need, but that the audience doesn’t won’t be addressed in this draft (although I have ideas on how I might accomplish these things in the next draft).

However, normally when I finished the draft that I’m on right now for Project Skye, it would go out to various markets, so I’m wondering, if I haven’t been simply submitting my stories too early in the process by not thinking of these drafts as “intermediary” steps to getting to a more “dramatic” story that does what all good writing should do: “show, don’t tell.

Food for thought for me on this Wednesday afternoon.  Happy writing and reading!

Sidney




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Writing a Story: Three Things Every Great Story Has

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 485
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 (+635 words)

So, this morning a watched a YouTube video (well, I actually watched several as I woke up earlier than normal–I went to be on time last night and now I feel refreshed, imagine that) that was on the channel Film Courage.  While there are quite a few useful videos on the channel, this one caught my eye and I watched it.  It was called Writing a Story: Three Things Every Great Story Has.  I’m linking it below if you want to watch it for yourself, but I wanted to quickly touch on each of the three points in terms of my own writing.

 

A Great Hook

This is where I feel that I’m the strongest.  All my stories, written and unwritten, have a great “hook” (in my mind at least).  As a matter of fact, I think this is probably my strength as a writer (now, this is from an internal assessment–to know if this is true, I’d need people to read my writing and corroborate this) as I love coming up with ideas and new projects.  I’m still working on my follow through–I could make it a full-time job of just coming up with new speculative ideas, if there was a living to be made from it, but alas, there isn’t.  I have manilla folder after manilla folder of projects that I’d like to develop into short stories, graphic novels, screenplays, and novels (well over a hundred) and at least 5 or 6 notebooks filled front to back with ideas for even more projects, so this part (again, in my mind, not sure if it is true in reality) is something that I consider a strength.

Strong Characters

If having a good hook is my strongest area, then I think creating strong characters would be my weakest area.  I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that the reason for this, I believe, is that I’m a fairly reserved person.  I don’t tend to joke around or be the social butterfly who is the life of the party.  I’m an introvert through and through.  Give me a choice between a loud raucous party and a nice quiet tree with shade and a good book and I’ll take reading under the shady tree every time.  However, I’m learning to try to expand my characters.  Just because I’m reserved doesn’t mean my characters have to be.  I’m trying to expand my characters–Project Skye and Project Independence both feature (what I think are two no-nonsense female protagonists, although again, that’s my perception writing them), while Project Paradise features two characters who are polar opposites.  I’m really working on trying to upgrade my characters and make them more emotive than they have been in previous stories.

Twists and Turns with a Surprise Ending

So this is one area that I’m not sure about–I thought I was doing well with this, but two editors that I submit to regularly, keep giving me contradictory feedback.  Well, the feedback isn’t contradictory–it’s always negative.  They keep finding “flaws” in the story.  Why did X person do this?  Why did Y thing work this way?  Etcetera.  Yet, it is always “nitpicky” things, you know, small things that could be fixed in editing/getting the story ready for “print” if you were going to publish it.  For instance, here is a partial critique from a rejection “letter” for “Silence Will Fall“:

The story is well written and the alien conquerers of Earth are well conceived, and the necessary silence ads texture. However the alien weakness seems like something that should have been found and exploited when humanity still had all its resources. After such a long time it will be a long battle to get all the aliens to die at an electricity generating plant. It also defies belief that the hydro plant would get back into to operation so easily. When Eckhart talked (signed) to Victor, how did Victor see what he was saying if he had to half-turn after to look at him after? Sorry it didn’t quite work for me.

So, here I can’t tell what’s wrong with the story (at least, what’s wrong enough to keep it from going to print).  These, to me, look like “nitpicking” rather than substantive story problems (in terms of “twists and turns”).  The only one that seems substantive is the one that I bolded–“It also defies belief that the hydro plant . . .” as I had a longer, more fleshed out version of him getting the plant back online in an earlier draft, but condensed it for pacing (the one in the earlier draft was longer, slower, and other rejections noted it as a problem, so I changed it for the revision).  The word also implies that the editor didn’t believe humanity wouldn’t have been able to stop the alien threat before it got so far out of hand.  Yet, that’s exactly what happens in pretty much all of the “zombie apocalypse” stories out there right now (and quite a few “alien invasion” stories)–humanity is overwhelmed in the first few days, hours, weeks, and it is the survivors who have to deal with the threat (Independence DayThe Last of Us, and The Division are all media that I’ve watched or played that has this same set-up, not to mention the perennial powerhouse in the “room,” The Walking Dead), so is it me not understanding/doing something that these writers are understanding/doing or is it the editors just not wanting to publish the story and are nitpicking flaws to justify their decision?  This is why I’m unsure if my twists and turns are a strength or weakness because there are examples (published) that I can point to that have similar set-ups/constructions, but I’m told via editorial feedback that my twists and turns have unpublishable flaws, I’m at a loss at who to believe.

Anyway, I found this YouTube video extremely helpful in helping me to think about my writing in terms of strengths and weaknesses and will continue to try to refine my strengths and raise the level of my weaknesses until they are strengths as well.

Have a good day! 🙂

Sidney




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