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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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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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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Potpourri: The Writing Life

potpourri_wikihow

Today’s blog will be a short one on a few things that happened over the weekend pertaining to my writing life.  These are mostly updates that I feel are important milestones, but each one isn’t really so important that it requires its own blog post.  So, in no particular order, here we go:

Submitted All Tomorrow’s Children

So I submitted All Tomorrow’s Children (ATC) to its first market over the weekend. The market is a “major” market in the Science Fiction and Fantasy short fiction landscape, but I doubt they’ll accept it.  While they say there never receive enough Sci-Fi (and ATC is Sci-Fi), their Acceptance rate is .09%.  That means they reject 99.91% percent of the stories that are sent to them.  Still, I had to try as they are one of the “new” big publishers of Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories.  If the market doesn’t take ATC, I have two more publishers that I consider “big” to send it to and then I’ll step down a tier to the mid-level markets.  You never know until you try.

“Blogging” My Way to 250 Words-a-Day

So, I have a confession to make.  I have several Word Processors–Pages, SimpleNote (Mac App & Website), Scrivener, IAWriter App, and a couple of lesser Word Processors (and have access to Word through my school account and on their computers).  However, I found over the past few weeks, that for fiction, I really just like the ease and simplicity of SimpleNote (which I’ve mentioned in the past), but also, just the WordPress Text Editor that I use to create my blog entries.  While I used to draft in SimpleNote, I’ve now switched to the WordPress blog editor because I can quickly see the word count and when I reach my 250 limit for the day, I then copy and paste the work over to SN.  One I have a completed draft, I then copy and paste that over to Scrivener and make my major edits there.  Scrivener makes compiling a submission draft a breeze and that’s the draft I use to submit.  It was this workflow that helped me to get All Tomorrow’s Children off my computer and out the door to a publisher.

Finished (FINALLY) the Rough Draft of “Project Skye”

I finished this over the weekend as well.  It clocks in at about 4,000 words, but really needs some substantial TLC.  This was an exploratory draft and written “by the seat of my pants” because 1) I wanted to get an idea of the character and 2) I thought I knew enough about the world in order to just write.  The draft is a “poster child” for why I don’t write without outlining.  There are plot threads that just drop out, there are character motivations that don’t work, there’s setting issues, there’s a storm that never develops, etc.  This draft is an absolute “mess” and I will most likely have to rewrite the entire story from beginning to end rather than what I did with All Tomorrow’s Children which was “build” the story from the ground up.  This illustrates the difference in my writing styles: ATC was fun to write for me, while Project Skye was an absolute slog.  I can’t even show it to the Writing Center consultant to illustrate Skye’s character (which is the reason I wrote the story) because it really isn’t a “story” yet (at least, not in the way I think of “story”).  But its done–that’s the best part.  And what do they say?  If you’re at the bottom, you can only go up from there–hopefully, by the summer, I can put together a draft that I feel proud to show off–because it isn’t there yet!

Sidney



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.