Writing Log: July 2020 (7/2020)

A Bullet Journal that shows a bar graph and a smaller set of boxes that indicate days/acts written with the boxes colored in when done.
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/365776800984668476/

Wrap-up for June 2020 (6/2020)

Before I move into new projects for July 2020, I wanted to take a moment to wrap-up what I’ve done for June 2020 to both tell you, the reader, what I’ve accomplished on a monthly basis, but also to hold myself accountable for the goals that I’ve set for myself during this time-period with the hope of becoming more professional over time and finishing more (and longer) projects as time goes on.

The Independent: Finished my revision of the project for a goal of submitting it to a market by June 30th. I originally revised it with help from the MTSU University Writing Center, but then I saw a short segment by Neil Degrasse Tyson in which he explained what a “flatlander” in two dimensions might interpret someone like us who live in three dimensions if they tried to interact with them. I tried to do the same, but with time. We live in space (three dimensional space-height, width, depth), but there is also a time component that we aren’t privy to (except to note its passing). I tried to take that idea a little further–what if there was a race who lived in a “curled” up region that we can’t interact with because it is mostly a region of time–what would that look like, how would that act, etc.? The I tried to have my “space truckers interact with this “dimension” in the story briefly. I think it came off moderately well. I don’t feel that I necessarily hit it out of the park, but I don’t feel that it is particularly bad or without merit. I feel that if I had more time, I might have been able to handle it better, but the story (from seed to this revision) is already 3+ years in the making, so I really need to get it out there. Maybe feedback (if I get any) will help me push the story into a stronger position if it doesn’t sell.

Project Arizona: Although I started on this one late (well into the month of June), I still have almost finished the 1st Draft of the story. This is where the power of working on the story consistently has helped. This is the story I will be working on for July.

Project Wall: This is the one next story will be working on. While I won’t draft it until next month, I will be working on character sketches, world history, politics, and other “Bible” documents for it all through July.

Prospectus (School): Finished my prospectus (hurray!). Even though I need to get “official” approval from my graduate director and my graduate committee, I’m going to start putting together a tentative dissertation outline and begin preliminary work on the dissertation with the books that I have available to me. I probably won’t get to work on it “formally”/”officially” until September at the earliest, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still put together a draft so that it isn’t a burdensome to do in the Fall and Spring of next year.


What’s on tap for July 2020?

Well, there are several goals that I’m hoping to do, however I only want to talk about a couple of them in-depth here:

  • Work on 2nd Draft (and officially unveil the title) for Project Arizona. I don’t think I will dive right into a 2nd draft of this story immediately as I think I will do another project in the interim. Hopefully, though by the 2nd week of July I will be ready to start drafting a second draft. I actually like the way much of the 1st draft turned out, so I will try to begin turning those places where I’m “telling” the story into places where I’m “showing” the story (dramatizing). It will be a beginning to end look at the draft, where I rewrite as necessary. I also have a title in mind for the story and I intend to start using it once I unveil it officially.
  • Plan Project Wall: Now that I have a “rough draft” down on paper, I’m going to do what Hollywood would call “pre-production.” I’m going to try to nail down the elements of the story that may not necessarily appear in the story, but are crucial to the reason the story exists. Basically, answering a lot of What, Why, Where, When, and How questions that I still have about the story. It also has a title, but I’ll wait to unveil it.
  • Lastly, I really want to get back into the “graphic novel”/comic book writer mode. That’s a place where I feel I can grow. Eagle-eyed blog readers will notice that the “Ship of Shadows” line under What I’m Working On” hasn’t changed in a while. Now, whether the graphic novel actually is me working on that or another project altogether, I want to put together a script that I can try to market by the end of the year at the latest, so I’m planning on working on it starting this month.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope that this month will be a productive one as last month was. Have a great weekend, and if you’re in the U.S., have a safe and fun July 4th Holiday weekend!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Finished: Revision 1

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Rating: 1 out of 5.
  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Project Arizona”: The Research

A woman whose face is hidden in shadow of a wide-brimmed had wearing a long flowing duster, with a gun in a brown holster and various throwing knives on her belt.  Her hands are down at her sides.  She is standing on a desert-like landscape with the sun shining above her head.
Image Source: https://www.wattpad.com/296700758-fantasy-sub-genre-guide-weird-west

I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m closing in on finishing the First Draft of “Project Arizona,” my Weird Western (Fantasy Western) story. I thought I’d just quickly highlight a few of the websites that I came across while doing research for this project. This by no means an exhaustive list, but I found out several interesting things and found several unique websites while doing the research.

There Were Black Cowboys

Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/

Here’s something they don’t teach you in traditional American History classes: not only were there black cowboys in the time of the Old West, but they were fairly prevalent. According to the article, 1 out of every 4 cowboys in the Wild West was black. A side note here: that means, Hollywood, that every Western movie made in the 1950s and 1960s (the heyday of the cowboy movie) that had 4 or more cowboys featured should have had at least 1 black actor. Did that happen, Hollywood? No, it didn’t, you say? Well, just some food for thought, Hollywood.

I digress, however. I wanted an African American female protagonist for “Project Arizona,” but I wasn’t sure if African Americans were even a part of the Old West outside of the “Buffalo Soldiers,” but with this source, I was able to find out that not only were they a part of the Old West, but racism was blunted due to the nature of the West being a dangerous place and cowboys (of all colors) had to depend on each other to survive and couldn’t afford to let racism get in the way of survival.

Black Cowboys Existed into Modern Times

AZCentral Website: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-history/2019/03/17/black-cowboys-were-common-old-west/3180296002/

True West: History of the Western Frontier: https://truewestmagazine.com/the-racial-frontier/

Here’s where I found some more information about black cowboys and how the change from the Old West into “modern society” affected them. This site talks about how Hollywood changed the depiction of the Old West from what it was to how it is perceived in America today. More importantly, for my story, this is where it showed modern interpretations of African Americans (in the 1960s and 1970s) competing in contests such as roping and riding. While there’s not a lot of that in my story (well, none at the moment), it did give me a good sense of how African Americans could contribute in an Old West Setting.

The True West website gave me some good context for where the black cowboy tradition began and also some ideas for period specific clothing and gear for my story.

Wild West Prisons

True West: History of the Western Frontier: https://truewestmagazine.com/old-west-prisons-were-no-place-for-sissies/

A significant portion of the story takes place in an Old West prison (not a jail like you see in traditional western movies), so I needed to find out what prisons looked like in the Old West looked like and how they operated. I like this site from True West because it has the rules that one prison operated under. While I didn’t actually need to use these rules for this story, it gave me the “flavor” of the prison setting, and who knows, maybe on the next iteration of the story, I might need those rules. I’ve already done a little research into Civil War prisons due to an interest from the way they were depicted in another movie–The Outlaw Josie Wales? Glory? I can’t remember exactly–but the point is, I knew there were prisons earlier than the Old West, but I didn’t know how they changed.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Just wanted to highlight some of my research as I’m slowly wrapping up the first draft of “Project Arizona.” Expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks as I finish it up.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

HawkeMoon Reviews Are In

Storyhack Issue 4 Cover
HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Has a scarecrow with hood and young red-haired lady in blue tunic with crescent blades.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WJXVR9D/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I was cruising the internet yesterday, trying to see if I could find reviews on my latest published story, HawkeMoon which appeared in Storyhack #4 last year. There are couple of major sites that do short fiction reviews, but to the best of my knowledge (Tangent Online and Locus Magazine), but I guess neither reviewed Storyhack because I didn’t see the magazine listed for either site). However, the issue was reviewed by a couple of places. One, a fellow WordPress blogger and the 2nd was a market that I think I’ve submitted to once before. Both had interesting things to say, so I’ll link to their reviews.

Planetary Defense Command

The first review comes from Planetary Defense Command whose tagline reads: “Defending the planet from bad science fiction.” I’ve not read this blog before, but they do give a short review of Storyhack #4. While I’m not going to post their entire review (which you can read by clicking on the “short review” link in the previous sentence), I am going to repost their review of my story for commentary purposes.

They say: Hawkemoon by Sidney Blaylock.  A strange form of undead, an assassinated king, and animal magic sounds like too much to cram into one story, but it fits together nicely.”

This is a hopeful review for me. I read novels, but I write (at the moment) short-stories. I’m always trying to get a lot accomplished in the 5,000 or so words allotted to me by the short-story format. I do have a lot of elements going on in my stories–because I think of them as mini-novels (or maybe better, proto-novels). I just can’t be as grand in scope with the myriad of plots and subplots as I would like because I don’t have the space to go into that level of detail. I have just enough time to one major plot with a character arc and then I’m pretty much out of space. How can I expand my stories out more so that they can breathe and not feel like I’m putting too much in and making them too busy?

Now, the final statement of the review isn’t a criticism. As long as I can balance all the elements, like I did for this reader, then it will work fine. However, as you can tell from this blog entry, I tend to be quite detailed and meticulous and I often want to imitate the complexities that I read in my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Moon, and Robert Jordan) in short form where as all of these writers are primarily long form writers.

My goal is to work on my stories to get them to where the reviewer would like to see them turned into novels as he/she does for the last two stories reviewed. That’s ultimately where I’m going anyway, so if the reviewer notes that that story could be the entry chapter in a novel (or expanded out into a novel), then I’ll know that I’m on the right track with getting my stories where I want them to be.

Broadswords and Blasters

The 2nd review is from an online market that I think I’ve submitted a story to in the past called Broadswords and Blasters. No, they didn’t take whatever story I sent them, but I don’t think it was HawkeMoon that was submitted (but I’d have to check my submissions via Duotrope to be sure). They had a much longer review (with criticism) of the issue as a whole, but I’ll just repost my review (again, for commentary purposes).

HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. A king has been assassinated, so the captain of the royal guard goes in search of the one master assassin who was responsible… only it turns out she wasn’t the one behind it. This story is memorable for its characters, but even more so for the ultimate villain of the piece, The Scarecrow King.” I wished the setting had been a bit more developed than it was, as it felt very much a cardboard backdrop against which the characters acted, as opposed to a fully developed world. I know, that’s a lot to ask for in a short story, but I still think the overall setting was too roughly sketched, and thus seemed fairly generic for my taste. This story is the cover story for the issue, and I can absolutely see why.”

Okay, so there’s a lot to dig into here. First off, the characters. It is gratifying to here that the reviewer responded to the characters. While I did focus on them, they weren’t completely my focus like with a couple of my stories. Yet, hearing that the characters were the most memorable parts of the story really heartens me and helps me think that when I focus on characterization (& not just the cool visuals/plots happening), I can create a story that is interesting and intriguing to the reader. Now the criticism–the reviewer did not like my world–he/she thought it was too “sketchy” and underdeveloped. It is a fair criticism. I did have a more detailed world in mind, but it didn’t get from my mind on to the page. The world was supposed to be a mix of traditional fantasy lands, kings, knights, guards, but with the beginning of the new (German) renaissance–burghers, merchants, mayors, etc., just beginning to come into play, with an Old Town (more like a medieval village) and a New Town (more like the early modern Germanic towns in which the “Kris Kringle” legend sprang up (without the guns/gunpowder of the period). However, I couldn’t figure out how to work that into the story without a great big exposition info dump. The best I could come up with was having New Town be where the castle and townspeople were located and Old Town being more like a rundown fishing village.

Still, this criticism is both valid and constructive and I can use it. I knew that the world I had in the story seemed generic, but chose to ignore that fact. Now what I plan to do is identify places where I think the story is weak and see if there is a solution that addresses the weakness in some small way to at least alleviate, if not fix, the problem area in the story.

Sure, as writers we’d like to have perfect feedback, but now I’m learning that world building, while not really a weakness, may be a bit sketchy for me as I focus on characters and characterization. It’s something that I know I need to be aware of going forward to make sure my stories are the best they can be and so I can get reviewers to want to say that they’d love to see my stories as novels (or as the beginning chapters) to a novel.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 3 (of 3)
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

HawkeMoon is the “Cover Story” for Storyhack and is Available Now!

Storyhack, Issue 4.  HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. in stylized font.  A picture of a scarecrow like monster in a hooded cowl menacing an Assassin (Moon) who is holding her trademark scythe-like blade with a dead brown tree in the background.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

Wow! Just Wow! I honestly cannot believe it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of the blog, or even if you’ve just joined, you’ll know that I’m a “semi-pro” writer. I write (and hopefully, receive payment & get published), but I’ve not yet written any long works, such as novels, so I don’t yet consider myself a true “pro.” The blog was my way of both promoting my work and talking about things I like (in the interim when I had nothing currently in print), but I am also using it as a motivation/springboard to “level up,” so to speak, to get comfortable writing longer, more intricate works. While I’ve been published before (and every time is an awesome feeling!), this time my story is the cover story for Storyhack, Issue 4! This is the 1st time that I’ve ever had a “cover story!”

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Cover Story

What I can’t believe is that the editor chose my story as the cover/featured story! I knew it was first (based on the galleys), but I never once considered that it would be the cover story! Wow! I almost can’t express myself. I never expected that one of my stories would be chosen as a cover story/featured story. Not only is the cover sweet and presents a really cool and dynamic imagining of Moon, but the story also includes a interior image of Moon as well.

And it isn’t just my own work that’s cool! The whole issue looks really nice and the artwork for the other stores looks awesome. I can’t wait to read the other stories by the other authors who were selected based on the intriguing and awesome artwork included. I can say that this is truly a quality magazine and I am so happy that the editor, Bryce Beattie, selected my work for his magazine.

A Week of HawkeMoon

I hope I don’t wear out my welcome, but I’m so giddy at being selected as the cover story that I thought I’d do a week’s worth of coverage on the story. Specifically, I want to talk about the inspiration for the story, the characters, where I see it going in the future (any sequels, etc.). I’ve pushed back a couple of blog entries that I’ve already done to next week, so (fingers crossed), you might actually get two whole weeks of blog content from me this time, even though school is starting soon. I’ve actually already done an “Author’s Note” blog on HawkeMoon when I finished the initial story, but I intend to go more in-depth about the creation process and the finished product, now that it is available.

Please, please, pleasseee, consider purchasing either the print or the eBook edition–not for me, but to show support to the publisher. This is how we reward quality work and make it possible for people like me to continue to have opportunities to publish. Large corporate publishers are only interested in authors like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling who can reliably deliver large returns of investment, and so they’ll never even look at me, or someone like me, no matter how good our work is because we can’t give them huge audiences. However, if we support small presses like Storyhack, then we give opportunities to good and talented writers to find their voices and get publishing experience to perhaps become the “next” big-name writers–and I’m not talking about just me, but for all those like me who are suffering rejection after rejection for the one Acceptance/Publication that makes their dreams of being a published writer a reality.

Please feel free to reblog this post as/where necessary! Have a great week!

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019

Year of the Shadow

Arched Shadows on Italian Wall
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/shadows-arch-urban-city-sunshade-1456887/

This has been an idea kicking around for a while now, but I haven’t really been able to decide how to make it work until this year. I wanted to start it earlier this year, but was so focused on my preliminary tests that I didn’t really give it the time it deserved, but I finally figured out a way of making this “Year of the Shadow” work, so I’m going to work at it on the weekends and we’ll see what comes of it.

What the heck am I prattling about?

I’m talking about “The Year of the Shadow.”

Year of the Shadow

So what is the “Year of the Shadow.” Well, the short version is that is where I develop a character that I’ve already published in a story somewhere into multiple projects throughout the year. The long version is that when I was talking with Toni, a fellow Graduate Student and a Writing Consultant at the MTSU Writing Center, I felt that the stories that I’d already published meant that there was something there that intrigued editors enough to buy them and publish them and I should probably use those stories as starting points to help me create longer works with those same characters. She agreed and thought that would be a great idea. I started with Tana from my short story “Ship of Shadows.” This is where the idea for the Graphic Novel came from. However, I got stuck shortly afterwards because I didn’t really know where to go with. I thought I was “unstuck” a couple of weeks ago, but when I tried to write it, I found I still didn’t know what the purpose of the story truly was and discovered that I still felt lost in the story.

Year of Tana

I could have almost entitled this the Year of Tana because my goal is now to focus on the character Tana from Ship of Shadows. In the short story, Tana is a “pilot” of a DSRV. My graphic novel will (hopefully) show how Tana goes from a pilot to a captain. The novel that I’m planning for her will show how navigates being captain and being her own independent contractor/small business owner as she struggles with both crew issues, finding ways to make money, and external issues. I intend to branch off and do a “variant” version of Tana for a screenplay where we see an alternate version of Tana and see her parents for the first time. Finally, I hope to finish off the year with a Pilot for a TV show going back to the novel and using Tana’s adventures there as my guide.

52 Weeks

I’m already 16-17 weeks behind schedule, but I didn’t really have plan earlier (or rather, I had a very nebulous plan), so I can’t really worry about the time lost. All I can do is work hard to make sure that now that I have a plan in mind, to devote time each weekend to making the plan work to the best of my ability. So, while I’m about 17 weeks behind, “The Year of the Shadow” has now commenced.

Something Old and Something New

Image Source: https://resoundcollective.org/something-old-something-new/

While last weekend wasn’t as restful as I’d hoped–more on that in a different blog post–I did manage to turn a major milestone for myself this semester (although pretty much most of my professors–not all, just most of them–would be pretty unimpressed). For me, however, it represent a sort of moral victory after the absolutely crudey week that had.

Something Old

So, rather than beating around the bush, I just want to let readers of the blog know that I “finished” the short story “Starlight, Starbright,” and sent it off to the first market in its long trek to get published. I was not able to get it finished in time to send to the market that only opens for 1 week every four months (Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores). Small digression here: I really wish they would change that to the entire month as trying to keep track of the one week they are open every quarter is very hard when you have work, school, and all the responsibilities that I do. I’ve had to set a repeating “appointment” on my phone’s calendar just so that I have a hope managing to catch at least one of their open periods throughout the year. Anyway, I had a friend at the Writing Center (thanks Toni!) read over it to for polishing and to catch my biggest writing nemesis: “dropped out words.” Afterwards, I found a market that does Fantasy and Science Fiction (Deep Magic) to start it on its journey. While I won’t necessarily update the blog with every place it goes, I will definitely update you all on where it ultimately winds up–and I’d love for it to be Deep Magic as it seems like a quality market (but that’s not up to me–I only write the piece as best I can and then hope for the best).

Something New

So, I’ve now switched my focus to my new story, Project Dog. I finished writing the character sketch for the main character and I’ve written out the rough draft (most of it–I need to go back and finish the ending). I’ll keep everyone appraised of its progress. I’ve discovered that I simply can’t work on multiple things at a time. I have to finish one or two things and then move on to the next. I’ve toyed with the idea of “long” and “short” projects for a while now and now I feel I just need to commit to it. I just need to work on 1 “short project” (essentially a short story or maybe an academic essay) that is less than 25 total pages. I then have enough brain cells to spare for 1 “long project” (essentially a graphic novel, novel, screenplay, dissertation, etc.) that is over 25 pages in length. No matter how engaging another project may be, I’m simply going to have to limit myself because I just don’t have the time/ability to do more than this. So work will continue on DSRV Outrider until I finish it and send it off and then I can work on something else. I just don’t have time to do more than this, so as long as I get them to be the best I can, I’ll hopefully be satisfied with the quality of the work if not the quantity of production.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Have a great day and thanks for reading!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

HawkeMoon Acceptance!

Falconry--falcon landing man's gloved hand.
Image Source: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/travel/2018/11/12/celebrate-world-falconry-day-historic-hotel/1977581002/

So, sometime ago, I wrote an Author’s Note that covered the genesis of my short story, HawkeMoon. While I thought it was an awesome story, I despaired of every getting published as it is an action story. And it features an ending that is not the typical “GrimDark” fare that you see these days in Fantasy based on the successful of Game of Thrones (and its many imitators). Well, after 21 tries, #22 turned out to be the right market! HawkeMoon was accepted for publication by StoryHack Action and Adventure! While I’m not sure what issue it will be in yet, you can be sure that I’ll be keeping readers know when it is available.

Action and Adventure

So, this market is exactly the type of market that I wish there were more of in the Fantasy and Science Fiction field. Most of the markets are more for “social” sci-fi where they look at a trend and extrapolate on that trend for near future/far future and then that becomes the author’s world. Fantasy is a lot more fluid, but thanks to George R. R. Martin’s success with his “GrimDark” Game of Thrones series, it is very hard to interest editors of markets to get behind anything that is not “GrimDark,” or has elements of that sub-genre in work. I make no bones about despising the “GrimDark” sub-genre, hence my despair at finding a publisher for HawkeMoon.

One of the things that I like about this market–in addition to the awesome system of keep authors in the loop about the submission process–is that the editor understands that “action” and “adventure” are not dirty words, but are elements that are integral to the story. Yes, characterization is the most important (see, I’m learning), but just because characters don’t have “bad things” happen to them and then they turn around and do “bad things” to others (take a guess to which Fantasy series I’m referring to), doesn’t make the story nonpunishable. Action/Adventure, when used appropriately, can heighten the suspense for the reader and make the character “change” by putting him or her under extraordinary circumstances from which they must escape. So, they don’t “change” via a soliloquy or deep intense reflection–that’s okay. They still change–whether its deciding to kill (or not kill) that Troll guarding the bridge, or whether or not to pull the trigger on those starfighter controls that will, in effect, kill his mother and yet, all the girls go gushy over because of his long black and emo personality (guess which popular space opera movie I’m referring to here), still these are choices that the character makes and these choices define the character (for good or ill) and are just as appropriate as deep navel gazing (reflection) or long dramatic speeches (soliloquy) in defining the character.

Celebration

So, I haven’t decided what to do quite yet to celebrate HawkeMoon’s acceptance. My birthday’s coming up soon, so I may just roll the celebration into my birthday and call it a day. At the very least, getting an Acceptance for HawkeMoon is an awesome birthday present!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Writing: Sprints and Marathons

Images of Marathoners and Sprinters
Image Source: http://upandhumming.com/2014/05/marathoners-vs-sprinters/

So, in many writing manuals over the year, I’ve heard/read that writing short-stories is akin to sprinting while writing novels is akin to running a marathon. I never really paid much attention to it until I started really reading the feedback to some of my recent submissions. Now, to be honest, I love reading novels and have been since my earliest days. There is something about Tolkien’s formulation of the “secondary world,” an imaginary world where I can lose myself, that simply appeals to me as a reader, writer, and a human being.

Sprinting for the (Short-Story) Win

So, the feedback on my stories is that they usually start interesting, but veer off into, let’s face it, “boring-town.” Why? Because, after the initial hot start, I want to then engross myself into the world and the action and the description, but not necessarily the characters. In effect, I’m treating the short story form like a novel.

A short story is different. Poe, the creator of the form, argued that a short story is something that can be read in one sitting. It doesn’t have the time to be detailed, lush, and description heavy. It is a sprint from start to finish that should leave the reader (& writer) breathless with wonder, characterization, and emotion. This is what my goal will be this year–to work on getting my short-stories to resemble the best sprinters ever.

Marathoning the Long Way Round

I’ve long wanted to write a novel, but every time I’ve tried to do so, I’ve found one block after another. However, after completing a game that I’ve played pretty much every weekend for an entire year, I see how a novel can be written. I requires diligence and hard work, but I have those in spades (not being braggadocios), but I need to simply find something that I’m interested in and apply the necessary discipline to see it through even when it seems like I’m not making progress. There was a time in March/April/May of last year when I thought I’d never see the game through to completion as it seemed too long and too arduous to complete, but here I am, in January 2019, having completely finished the game and earned the maximum reward for it (a Platinum Trophy for those PS4 gamers out there), so I know it can be done–now I just have to do it and that’s my goal.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

1st Try

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 8.22.29 PM
Scrivener Character Sheet.  Image Source: http://thinkingtoinking.blogspot.com/2013/03/writers-resource-character-templates.html

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)

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