(Unintended) Story Research: “The Independent”

SpaceX-Trucking-696x465[1]

Truck carrying oversized load (SpaceX rocket). Image Source: https://cdllife.com/2018/video-trucking-spacex-rockets/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Revision Month (i.e., “2nd Draft” Central)
    I have stories that I’d like to revise during this month, but I’ve not tried to do multiple projects inside of a single month before and I’m not sure that’s going to work, but I can’t think of any other way. Projects currently awaiting revision include: “Whale Song,” “The Independent” (subject of today’s blog post), “Project Skye,”
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

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

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    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.

Stumbling Upon Research for a Story

As I was watching YouTube videos over the weekend (to decompress from a fairly hard week last week), I stumbled upon a set off “trucking” videos on the site. Now, I’d actually found one earlier in July and watched it for details regarding living in a cab and the “realities” of being in such a small space for trips across country hauling freight. YouTube’s algorithms must have finally caught up with that particular viewing because it started offering other trucking videos over the weekend. One YouTuber, in particular, by the handle of indianajacktrucker caught my eye and I watched one of his videos. That one video gave quite a bit of insight into the trucking profession, covering trucking etiquette, truck stops, parking, why truckers are using their trucks instead of truck stops, food, and even a poignant moment discussing the murder of another trucker who parked in an abandoned parking lot because a “big box” store wouldn’t allow him to park on their parking lot.

The Independent = Project Independence= “Space Truckers” = Real Truckers = Story Research

So, readers of the blog over the past year have heard quite a bit about the story that I wrote entitled, “The Independent.”  It was referred to under the name Project Independence & Space Truckers on the blog. It was my attempt to “futurize” the profession of the “trucker” (i.e., what would freight hauling/haulers look like in the future)? Now, this isn’t unique–it remember games like Starflight and Elite (& and from what I hear, Elite Dangerous) were doing something similar as far back as the mid 1980s. However, I’ve not seen it done in fiction in a way that I personally like, so I wrote this story (with hopefully a larger story in mind).

2nd Draft–Focusing on Characters

I’m planning on rewriting the story and focusing more on the characters. Hopefully, now that I have all of the “events” of the story locked down in more or less the way that I want them, I’m hoping to create “Larger Than Life” characters who are at once memorable and realistic. Just by watching this one video (and I’m hopefully going to watch more next weekend when I have more time), I have quite a few ideas for the two main characters and the secondary characters, especially in regards to character traits. Now, I feel like my major task should be to try to come up with Internal Conflicts for the two main characters that they can be struggling with in regards to the story. I feel that this is where I’m weakest at the moment (more on this to come in a future blog post), but now that I’ve written the 1st draft and spent some time away from it, I can see the problems with it more objectively and hopefully work on fixing them to the best of my ability in this new 2nd draft.

Well, that’s all I have time for at the moment. Here’s hoping you have a great 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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Author’s Note: All Tomorrow’s Children

 

I’ve actually already written an Author’s Note on All Tomorrow’s Children, but I probably should have called it more of a “Rough Draft” Author’s Note because it really only discussed the inspiration of the story and some of the genre aspects of the story.  Now that I’ve finished the Working Draft of the story and just need to edit and polish it before I start submitting it to various markets, I wanted to do a full and complete breakdown on just what the story is just as I did for Here Be Monsters and WarLight.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – ALL TOMORROW’S CHILDREN

The Title

So this title has been kicking around in my mind almost sense I joined the Chattanooga Public library way back in 1996.  It was always around connected to a set of people using Psionics (mental powers–telepathy, telekinesis, etc.).  The original conception was around a group of kids who, in the future, were dominated and controlled by a fascist state.  They escaped and rebelled and fought agains the regime.  It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but I could never get it to come together.  A couple of years ago (my third year as a 6th grade teacher) a new idea came to me about a family of Psionics rather than a group of kids.

Theme

So, in the summer of last year, Sky News (British TV station) did a special report on JIHADI BRIDES and how many of them were lured into the camps of Jihadis based on elaborate promises made to them by these organizations.  Yes, super controversial, I know, but this is when the idea for the story finally crystalized.  What if one sister was lured into and recruited by jihadis for the cause of freeing Psionics from being discriminated vs the other sister who only came to lend her psychic talents to heal and make things better?  This is where/when I began the story in earnest.  It has undergone multiple revisions just to get to this point.  I see it as violence vs non-violence (Malcolm X vs Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).

Length

So this story isn’t very long and isn’t filled with a whole lot of details.  Outside of the mental powers, there’s not even a lot of “sci-fi” going on. I wanted to keep it short and simple, but I may have made it too short and not enough sci-fi.  On this final polishing pass, I may look for places where I can add in future technology to help distinguish as a sci-fi story, rather than a modern day story.

Time to Create

This took a long time to write–I’ve been working on it pretty in some form or another after I saw the video.  I’ve working on it in-between working on my school work, working on grading papers and teaching, working on it while doing many other things.  Also, I’ve had a really hard time writing it and a really hard time finding the TIME to write it.  That is why Jesmyn’s Ward’s advice in Elizabeth Flock’s interview Read, Write, Improve was so timely for me because she said: “Persist. Read, write, and improve: tell your stories. Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”  I realized that I’ve simply become to wrapped up in the day-to-day world of living without giving myself space to write, so every day I try to carve out a small slice of time (even if it is only half an hour) to 1) read, 2) write, 3) edit (aka Read, Write, Improve).  Sometimes I can’t do all three, but I try to at least do at least one of the 3 and all three, if at all possible.  I generally wake up earlier now–and that’s what has allowed me to finally finish the Working Draft of this story.

Research–Jihadi Brides

So I’ve mentioned it before, I had an idea, but scrapped it and based the majority of the story, idea, and characters on the YouTube video by Sky New–Jihadi Brides.  There are a couple other videos that Sky News did related to this subject that also informed this story, but by and large, much of impetus for the story comes from that YouTube video.  I hope the story isn’t too derivative, but I tried to capture both the essence of the culture and the “lure” of fanaticism that I saw in the video, just in a world where mental powers exist.  If you want to see the report, I’ve included a link below for context:

 

Characters

 I originally had 4 main characters–Yeva, her sister, Javan (the husband), and a “Spiritual Leader,” of sorts, but I rolled the leader and husband into one for this draft to simplify things for me.  I also originally had planned for Yeva and her sister to be twins with similar names (Yeva and Veya) as twins do, but it became too confusing for me to keep their names straight and if I, the author, couldn’t do it, I realized it would be difficult for readers to do so, so I changed the sister’s name to something more relatable.

Up Next

I am almost finished with the Rough Draft of a short story for the “Project Skye” short story.  I can see the home stretch/finish line with it.  It is very “rough” as I jumped in without planning and boy, does it REALLY show!  The story is all over the place.  I estimate I’ll need AT LEAST two more drafts before it even resembles something which I would be proud to attach my name to on a submission copy.
Well, that’s all I have for now and thanks for reading this long Author’s Note!  Have a great day!

Sidney




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One Down, Two To Go

Citizen X
So, the disadvantage to being able to check your email on your phone means that you are never “disconnected.”  During a bit of downtime during the Super Bowl on this past Sunday, I happened to check my phone and saw that I had an email from the market where Citizen X was on the short list.  I also noticed just by the first sentence that it was a Rejection Notice (You can always tell a Rejection Notice by the way it starts–that “formality” that we all shift into whenever we have to tell another person bad news).  It didn’t put a damper on the game/commercials/fun of the evening, but it was distracting.  Something that I wished that I could have seen on Monday morning, rather than on Sunday evening.  Ah, well, that’s life.  At least, it was short-listed.

Silence Will Fall
I should probably here of SWF’s fate shortly.  The email mentioned early February is when the market whose short-list SWF is on would make a decision.  HawkeMoon was on the short-list at this market as well, but it didn’t make it, but who knows if SWF will make it or not.  I like Silence Will Fall quite a bit, but then I liked HawkeMoon as well, so its always a bit of a “crapshoot.”  There’s a movie coming out soonish that seems to have the same take on SWF (i.e., if you make noise, bad things will happen, but it looks to be a “zombie” movie, rather than a science fiction one).  I hope that the movie doesn’t render my story as an “also-ran” because mine was conceived first and deals with a science fiction concept, but the key idea of “sound” is in both which may be detrimental to my being able to market it in the future (i.e., we’ve seen that concept already in such-and-such movie).

Here Be Monsters
While this one isn’t on a short-list, it is still out for consideration at a market with an upcoming anthology.  Don’t know if the editor is going to choose this story or not.  He’s accepted one story and rejected two others, so far I believe (going by what has been reported via authors who track their stories on Duotrope.  However, my story is one of at least 17 submissions (again, based on Duotrope’s tracking) still awaiting a decision.  Nothing to do here except be patient and see what happens.

Upcoming
Rather than just resting on my laurels, I am actively working on trying to finish the rough draft of Project Skies (the short story with Skye to discover her character)–I am currently drafting section 3 of 3, revising All Tomorrow’s Children to start submitting (I’m currently revising section 2 of 3), researching my next story, Project OPaK.  I had to go all the way back to June of last year to discover the name that I’d given this project.  I also noticed that I really like to introduce Projects, but I’m much slower at finishing them (a blog post for another time).  I have photocopied research for this project and I will transition into Project OPaK as soon as I finish Project Skies.

Drafting up a Skye (Project Skye)

So in the last blog post, I talked about planning a story for January.  In this blog post, I’m going to talk about drafting (aka writing) a story.  The story that I’m writing for January 2018 is Project Skye (the short story).

Short Story as Character Sketch
I’m writing this story as a way to examine Skye’s character.  I was tasked to come up with a character sketch for Skye by the MTSU Writing Center as I struggled to try to create a novel this past semester.  I struggled to do the character sketch because all my choices seemed arbitrary.  So, I decided to write a story which puts Skye into jeopardy to see how she would react–to reveal her character through action.

Not as Easy as it Sounds
This sounds easy–I wrote a brief one sentence outline of everything that I wanted in the story.  I wrote a beginning, middle, and end for the story.  I wrote a 1 sentence brief outline of the scenes (3 scenes) in the beginning, middle, and end.  I’m about halfway done, but I’m having problems working on it because 1) I now realize the setting actually needs to be changed (this is happening in their aircraft when it should be in “hovercars,” 2) this was to be a “prologue” event to show how they know each other (there needs to be a different prologue event and this needs to happen later in the novel’s timeline), and 3) The first section is waaaayyyy longer than I’d intended it to be (by about double–I feel like I need that length, but it is making the rest of the story unbalanced by comparison).  Basically, I can see all the flaws that I want to go back and fix (i.e., start over).  I’m going to try to trudge to the end, but when I’m not happy with the results of my writing, it is very difficult to finish.

Knowing When its “Right”
When HawkeMoon was “finished,” I knew that it was “right.”  The same is true with Silence Will Fall (although I knew at the time that I’d written away from the ending I had in mind–so that’s why I had to rewrite the ending last year–to bring it more in line with the original ending that I’d dreamed about with that story).  However, I’m not even finished with Project Skye and I know it isn’t right.  I’m going to need at least one more draft to get it where I think it needs to be.  That is the hardest part of drafting for me–having to keep going even when I know that the draft is lacking because I want to fix it immediately.  I think, because I just dove into the project, without doing what I normally do (i.e., writing a draft that is just for me–my own personal “telling” myself the story, I don’t think that I have the action as firmly in place as I should).

Lesson Learned
As I go throughout this year, planning stories, the end goal needs to be: sometime during the last week of the month I need to write out a Rough Draft in which I “Tell, Don’t Show.”  This draft is For My Eyes Only and will aid me when the time comes to turn my story into a draft for the audience where I then “Show, Don’t Tell.”  If I don’t do a “Rough Draft,” then I’m going to have to spend even more time “fixing it” with another draft later on down the line.

Sidney
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“Don’t Be a ‘Writer.’ Be Writing”

This quote from William Faulkner is as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I will allow myself for this year.  I’ve tried too hard to be a “writer.”  I need to just write.  I need to plan what I want to write (for me that generally means character sketches and plot outlines, along with world building) and I need to revise what I write (getting it in good enough shape to submit and making adjustments as necessary).  But most importantly I need to just write (to draft project after project regardless of whether I’m selling the projects or not).

Planning to Write
I’m working on planning at least one project to write every month.  If I finish planning a project early, then I will pull out another project and plan it, but every month I plan to have at least one project done (so I should have 12 new projects ready by the end of 2018).  This is both attainable (hopefully given school work) and measurable (I report back at the end of the year to see how closely I matched this goal).  I created a Planning Checklist in Numbers (Apple’s answer to Excel) to track the days that I can actually work on planning and on the days I do, I simply place a checkmark beside it to give visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness, I only got to work on planning 2 days last week.

Writing
This is where the rubber meets the road.  This where I actually sit down and draft out a story, trying to adhere to all the story conventions (Character, plot, dialogue, setting, beginning, middle, end, exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, etc.).  I intend to create a checklist for this process as well to help give me visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness last week, I didn’t get any drafting done last week, although I did draft 5 days consecutively the week before Christmas.  The same thing applies: every month I’m drafting 1 project, so that at the end of the year I should have at least 12 projects written.  I want to be a little “harder” on myself on this step as it is doable.  Just pull the internet connection on the laptop and write until the battery drains (which in the case of my late 2008 Macbook Pro is only about 45-50 minutes), so this is where Faulkner’s quote comes in: don’t be a ‘writer’ Be writing.  This is where I really want to show growth/improvement in the coming year–(again, based on schoolwork).

Revision
While I understand the market isn’t perfect and I’m not the flavor of the month, I still want to publish my work.  To that end, like the other two steps, I want to try to revise at least 1 project every month and put it out on the market.  I plan to follow the same “mold” as the other two steps in creating a checklist to help give me visual feedback on the days I worked on the project.  I worked 1 day on HawkeMoon last week due to the illness.  I want to submit it to an anthology that has a deadline of Feb. 1st, 2018.  I intend to enlist aid from either another grad. student or the Writing Center to help get the story where I want it for this market.  I intend to write an Author’s Note for it as well as to write a more in-depth Revision Note section on what I want to revise and why and try to solicit feedback on how to achieve this goal.  As I type these words, I just got an email from a market that Silence Will Fall made it to the second stage (the “maybes” pile) at a market–so there’s hope still that some markets do, in fact, like what I write.

Well, that’s all for now–while I might not touch on this monthly (although I might give periodic updates, I’m not sure yet), I will try to revisit this in an end-of-year post to see how well I’ve done.  All of this is dependent on school/classwork which is the great unknown in this endeavor, but hopefully I can find 45 minutes somewhere in my day to not be a writer, but to be writing.

Sidney



Everyday Writer

So (hopefully today won’t jinx it), but everyday this week I’ve sat down and wrote.  I know, I know, from a writer that’s not much news, but for me, a person who usually writes in “spurts,” it’s a big deal.

Hobby Writer vs Professional Writer
I don’t really know if writing everyday is the best for me, but in this case it is a matter of expediency.  I have approximately 3 weeks before school resumes and I promised to have the short story for Project Skye done upon returning for school.  Once the holidays hit, my time (like most) will be restricted to family activities, so it is imperative that I carve out some time to simply write on the story everyday in order to finish it.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade
I’ve used this quote as the title to a blog post, but I’m using is again as inspiration to actually getting the writing done.  My computer is old–it was top of the line when I bought it, but it is old now and really needs to be replaced.  However, it still functions (mostly) and I usually don’t like replacing something until if finally breaks.  So my laptop battery, like many laptops, has decided it really doesn’t want to hold a charge anymore so that when I take it off its charging cord, it has about 45 mins of power before it needs to be recharged again.  That’s the window of time I’m using to write.  I simply disconnect, write until my computer warns me that it is about to go to “sleep” due to lack of power, then reconnect it back to the charger.  Simple.  Easy.  Effective.  No internet because the WiFi adapter is “borked,” no real time to do any other processor intensive tasks like Keynote or searching for files, just the time I have remaining on the battery sensor vs. me getting the words down.

Weekday Drafter vs Weekend Writer
So, all I’ve done this week is draft, that is put words on the page.  I have several projects that are already finished that I need to revise, however.  I’m experimenting with doing that on the weekends.  If it works out during this Winter Break, I will work to continue it during the upcoming semester.  If nothing else, I’d like to become a more productive “Hobby” writer and finish more of the projects that I swirling around in my head.  By revising and making my stories better on the weekend, including submitting them, and just using the weekdays to draft whatever I’m currently working on, I hope to increase my productivity, at the very least.