1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Drafts

First-Draft-Is-Just-You-Terry-Pratchett

“The First Draft is Just You Telling Yourself the Story”–Terry Pratchett.  Image Source: The Salonniere’s Apartments

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

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 3 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Drafting a Graphic Novel Page on one day and then writing the page on an alternate day.  250 Words a day on the Whale Song Revision–focusing on the characters this time.

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.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • 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.

1 Little Draft

I finished a First Draft on Friday for my newest story.  I’m really hoping that working this way will help my stories to be more competitive in the marketplace (if I’m honest, I know it won’t–too many want people want the nihilism of a Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad/Walking Dead–but at least if, and when, the stories are rejected, I’ll at least know that I’ve truly done the best that I could with them and I was just born/came of age as a writer in the wrong time).

To be succinct, my First Drafts are to tell MYSELF the story.  Yes, I do Outline and Rough Draft, but those are mainly dealing with plot.  I’m more interested in the “story map” in those two stages than I am in anything else.  The First Draft is my 1st attempt to put all those ideas into a tangible story.  And usually, I edit this draft and start submitting it.

2 Little Drafts

So, I’m not going to submit my First Drafts anymore.  Well, what am I going to do?  I’m going to work on revising other works while my “alpha” readers read the story and give me feedback on it.  Once I receive the feedback, I’m going to take those notes and try to incorporate them into a new draft that deals with characterization.  Characters are the most important part of the story and I’ve not really been focusing on them.  I’ve been making them to reflect my personal character which is fairly reserved where they need to be a little “larger than life.”  While I do intend to focus on other aspects, my primary focus on this draft will be characterization and character backstory and ways to show my characters in the best light.

3 Little Drafts

So, I’ll submit it after this draft, right?  Not planning on it.  I’d like to do one more draft that deals primarily with setting.  In the stories that I’ve published, my setting feels like a definable place where the setting in my unpublished stories feels generic and unoriginal.  I’m using this draft to make sure that I really punch up my worlds and make them something special.

Anyway, I hope to exemplify the writing process for my students and hey, if it makes my stories better at the same, well, I’m all for that as well.

Have a great day!

Sidney




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Project Independence–One Week To Go

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

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).  Currently at approximately, 4100 words
Actual = 0 words Thursday/Friday night.  I wasn’t able to write Thursday night due to fatigue.  Friday night I came home, but was stuck in traffic, meaning that instead of getting home in enough time to write, I was very late getting home and by that time fatigue had set in.

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

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 1000s in terms of page count–nearly at the end of the book.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.  Finished a Book Review for it on Friday for class.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   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.

One Week to Go

So, I have one week to go on my (self-imposed) deadline for finishing the First Draft for Project Independence.  I have a several former co-workers at the Chattanooga Public Library who serve as my “Alpha Readers” and who give me reactions about the story.  When I worked at the CPLmy supervisor tried to make sure that everyone in the department got at least one weekend off every month.  Mine was the first Saturday of the month.  Since I’ve left the library, I’ve lost that as a “driving force,” and that’s why I’m working so hard to try finish the story by this date.  I know this works, and like I’ve said before, I really try to find something that works, I try to replicate it as best as I can–“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Would Like to Finish 1st Draft on Independence Day

It would be really cool to finish the story on Independence Day.  This year, Independence Day is on Wednesday.  The symmetry of finishing the project on Independence Day would be awesome, but I don’t think that I can realistically make it based on all of the school assignments that I still have left to do this week.  As this is the last week of school, I believe that I will be working quite diligently to finish all of the material due before the week is over.

1st Draft–Telling Yourself the Story

So, Project Independence is the first project where I’m really concerned with drafting (i.e., going through multiple drafts) until the story comes out like I envision it.  Usually when I finish a story, I edit it and then begin submitting it unless there’s something truly wrong with it or it doesn’t come close to matching my original vision for the story.  Now I’m committed to going through at least three drafts, focusing on different aspects each draft to see if I can improve my writing (& selling) of my work.  Right now, the first draft is me just telling myself the story.  There is a quote that I found online that (I believe) is attributed to Neil Gaiman that (paraphrased) says that the 1st Draft is you telling yourself the story.  The implication is that it really doesn’t matter how good (or bad) that draft is because you’re just trying to get the fundamental elements of the story down on the page.  You can go back and strengthen, revise, and reshape the draft later–just get the story down on page.  This is what Project Independence represents for me.  Just getting it down on the page.  However, this is where I usually edit it and start submitting and this time I don’t intend to to that.

I’ll have a blog post later in the week that talks more about my drafting process, but suffice to say, Wednesday, July the 4th would be an ideal deadline, but Saturday, July 7 is my absolute deadline that I’m working towards.  Wish me luck!

Sidney




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Reorganizing My Writing Space/Process

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

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

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

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   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)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

Reorganizing My Writing Space

I’m in the process of switching rooms–well, actually, that’s not true as I’ve already switched bedrooms.  To be more accurate, I’m in the process of cleaning up the disaster that resulted from me switching furniture from one room to another.  This process has been slowed by the fact that school has taken up time (reading, working on papers, etc.) that I would have normally used to put things into some kind of order, meaning that the house is still in a mess even though I’ve already completed the switching of rooms.  However, this has given me time to be more reflective about how I’m positioning (or not positioning) my writing files/projects.  So, I’ve tried to simplify and streamline my files.  I’ve added a simple system in my room (my bedroom) and I’ve added a more elaborate system in my guest bedroom/study.

Reorganizing My Writing Process

A while back, I bought a simple plastic divider that has five slots for holding various folders/notebooks.  I struggled with finding a use for it until recently.  I’m now using it to hold the projects that I’m actively working on.  I’ve decided to put my projects through a more rigorous drafting process: 1) Rough Draft, 2) First (1st) Draft, 3) Second (2nd) Draft, 4) Third (3rd) Draft and 5) Edited Draft.  Each slot corresponds to where my draft is in the process.  For instance, once I finish this draft for Project Independence I will place it in the second slot for the 1st Draft.  I’ll let it lie “fallow” for month or two and then write another draft of the story and concentrate on a different major focus for each successive draft.  As I complete these drafts, I’ll move them up into each successive slot until it is time for them to be submitted.  In many ways, this is just the physical version of gameification of my writing that I’m slowly developing to help me finish consistently finish high quality drafts.

Focusing on Different Aspects of the Process in Successive Drafts: The Art of Win-Win

So, for me, I build on each successive draft so it makes sense (again, for me) to use m strengths and focus on different elements of the story at each stage of the drafting process.  For me, the first thing that slots in is the plot/sequence of events in the story (& sometimes character), character (motivations, backstory, conflicts) usually comes next with a bit of setting, and then finally setting (concrete) along with elements of story telling (in media res, themes, imagery, etc).  Letting me writing space provide both a way to show definite progress as each project moves up through the divider and gets closer and closer to being ready to be submitted as well choosing different aspects of the story focus on during these new drafts is something that I hope will make my writing better as well.  I don’t really like the phrase “Win-Win” as I think that there are always downsides to something (here, it is the limited number of projects that I can realistically focus on at a time given my fairly pokey writing speed), but this is as close to a “Win-Win” situation as I can make it (and it gets those pesky folders off the floor as well, which is, a major bonus as well!)

Thanks for reading!

Sidney




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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
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

“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.

 

Back to Basics Writing Approach

Sorry that I’ve been away from blogging for a while, but between grading, students’ presentations, my own Final Exams and related schoolwork, I’ve been too overworked to get much in the way of writing (for this blog or for myself) done.  However, I realize after getting a particularly “hard” rejection letter that I’m probably never going to be much more than a “hobby” writer despite my best efforts.  I like different things than what editors and audiences want apparently (as seemingly confirmed by the Rejection Letter that found its way into my inbox not more than 5 minutes ago).  What I like are heroes and what’s popular are villains who masquerade as heroes, so with two different competing philosophies, the one who controls the “gate” (aka the “gatekeepers”) win.  So be it.  Since it looks like I’m not going to be doing this for the “money” and only for the “love,” I intend to do this my way.  Rereading a book on writing and the writing process as I brainstormed how I would set up my next class, I came across a simple statement of the writing process that I’m going to adhere to: research, prewriting, drafting, and revision.

Research
Most of the time, I’m inspired to write something based on something external, so I do research, but I don’t really make it a formal step.  For instance, All Tomorrow’s Children was inspired by a Special Report on Sky News about Jihadi Brides.  However, rather than have a formal “research” period, I took the idea and started writing.  I think now I’m going to actually take a period of time (a week, two, whatever is necessary) and find out all I can about that topic.

Prewriting
I generally start here with an outline.  I think the outline comes too soon.  I think here is where I need character traits, motivations, etc.  Once I nail this down, then I think my outline will work better.  There’s nothing wrong so much with my plots (to me), but I think my characters leave a lot to be desired.  I feel that the characterizations are consistent and adequately explained, but the rejections notices would say otherwise.

Drafting
Here I think I’m pretty good, although I’ll look for places to get better.  I can write a rough draft in a day or two usually, and (when school isn’t too rough), I can write a submission draft in a couple of weeks to a month.  Drafting isn’t really a problem, except when life comes pounding at my door, demanding that I do X, Y, and Z all in one day or the entire world will explode–that’s when I don’t do drafting well (as this past Finals Week has illustrated).

Revision
Again, I feel I’m pretty good here too, although I feel that I have work to do.  I usually only revise or change when I feel it is necessary, but I’m trying to be more receptive to feedback that I get back from editors.  There’s a danger in listening to someone who’s rejecting your story as they don’t have a vested interest in seeing it succeed (as opposed to someone who offers to publish it if it is revised.  However, I’m trying to submit to markets who seem to give good feedback (say, Cosmic Landscapes) as opposed to markets whose comments have been “nitpicky.”  I think this is where going to the Writing Center and running it by a Consultant that I trust is also helpful–it helps me see it with an objective eye, something I can’t do no matter how much time passes between my writing it and my revising it.