Recapturing the FUN of Writing

A picture of a bridge in London over the Thames river with Big Ben in the distance at night time with cars going over the bridge. A caption is at the top of the image.  The caption says: "I'm doing it MY WAY."
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkmU9tp8dN8

So, I was able to publish one piece last year, HawkeMoon, and it was published in the magazine StoryHack. You can find the link to it in the signature field down below. I was only able to finish one other short story last year, Starlight, Starbright, and it is out to a publisher (and has been out for well over 3 months to that one publisher–this is looking more and more like a 5-6 month “monstrosity” of submission period).

Essentially then, my output consisted of 1 publication and 1 finished story/submission. Not great. Add that to my abysmal blogging record (especially the latter half of the year) and you can see that my writing output really took a nosedive. Why might that be you ask? Well, obviously school had a huge impact, along with work during the first 6 months of the year. Add to that, I was sicker in 2019 than I was in 2018 with various illnesses and you can easily see where a lot of my writing time went.

Or can you?

How One Set of Writing Guidelines Ruined My Love For Writing

Yes, it’s true. Reading just one set of (what I now know) dismissive guidelines really affected my writing last year and helped to produce a writing slump that I’ve not had in years. Yes, all the reasons above contributed, but when I think back to 2019, one set of writing guidelines that I read sticks out as the single most destructive thing that I’ve read that made me change the way I write (in a negative way).

The guidelines, from a market that will remain nameless, stated in unequivocal terms that this editor is seeing a distressing trend of writers of short fiction using scene headings for short stories in the same way novel writers use chapter headings and that he (yes, it was a he) found it a bad practice in general, and something that he would not publish in his magazine specifically.

But, I Like Scene Headings

No story that I’ve written (and that has been published) doesn’t have some sort of scene headings. I like them, but more importantly, it is the way that I tell my stories. It makes sense to me and helps me to organize my narrative in such a way that it helps me build the story structure that editors and readers want. To me, a “title” implies an image or theme, and then the actual draft/text/writing is just how I chose to articulate that image/theme. Without it, I tend to get lost or just meander and not actually tell a story. The title, scene headings, etc., are a “mental promise” that my prose/text fulfills.

That’s one of the reason why I’m having such issues finishing my “space truckers” story (Project Independence) for the Jan 31st, 2020 deadline. There are no “scene headings” in the story–because while I didn’t write it for this market–I did read the guidelines about the time I started the new draft and had the admonitions of this particular editor ringing in my mind.

Writing MY Way (& No One Else’s)

This is why I’m so resistant to following the crowd and other people’s ideas–when I do so, they tend to lead me down the primrose path to ruin. When I follow what I want to do, it doesn’t always work out, but at least I know that the work is something that is fun for me and represents the best that I was capable of at that particular time.

Project Independence isn’t fun–it’s a chore to slog through. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish it on time, I already feel that I’m going to have to go back in and revise it again (with scene headings) and more “connective tissue” to get it like I really want it. Had I ignored the editor’s snooty, holier-than-thou attitude about scene headings and written it the way I wanted to, then I would have enjoyed writing the story more and would have less revisions to do even once I finish it.

Will I ever submit to that editor again? I’m not sure–he’s already rejected every story that I’ve sent him (5-6), so that may mean that our tastes in speculative fiction aren’t compatible. However, I do know this: any story that I send to this editor in the future will be written with scene headings.

I’ll just create a “clean” copy without them expressly for his market. I’ve learned my lesson (I hope). From now on, I’m writing not only what I want, but the way I want to as well.

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 3 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Project Arizona (Fantasy Short Story–Weird West))
    Finished: Story Outline
    Next: Character Sketch
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • Ship of Shadows: Screenplay
    Finished: Script Outline (Rough Draft)
    Next: Script Outline (1st Draft)

Project Arizona: 1st New Writing Project of 2020

Image of a female gunslinger with long flowing duster, guns, throwing knives, and hands out to her sides, ready to draw.
Image Source: https://8tracks.com/orsonleigh/the-weird-weird-west

Now that I’ve finally gotten both my financial aid and car situation fixed, I can finally concentrate on other things, like writing! Wait, you might be saying, what do you mean, car situation? In the last post, you only mentioned your financial aid woes. Well you, perceptive reader, would be correct–there were indeed additional complications to my life last week that I may get around to blogging about this week (or maybe not, as I have a slew of posts that I’d like to write), so my excessive navel gazing might not be captured into words (or maybe it will, who knows at this point?). Suffice to say that, as of now, both issues are fixed (as far as I’m aware) and I just finished the “story outline” for my next story, the first of 2020.

Weird West

So, Project Arizona is “fantasy” story set in the time of the Old West. There’s a subgenre name for it: Weird West. This won’t be the first Weird West story that I’ve done–I actually published a Weird West story entitled, “Wylde West” some time ago (actually, within the first year of the blog’s creation). I even did a post where I took a picture with my phone of the front and back covers of the journal where it was published. At some point, I will probably add that to the blog as the rights have long expired and it was published in a limited edition run of a journal that cannot be ordered anywhere anymore.

What if . . . a Fantasy Story meets the Western

This is essentially the conceit of what a Weird West story is: fantasy stories set in the Western (American) frontier. I think that I’ve come up with both a unique premise as well as a pretty cool character in Arizona, the protagonist of the story (of course, I thought that with my story, Silence Will Fall, only to have the trailer A Quiet Place to be released a few months later and now, since that movie has become such a central icon, I can’t even send out my story as it looks like I’m blatantly copying their movie and “ripping” them off. I hope I’m not in for the same aggravation as there is a game publisher also working on a Weird West game (just called Weird West) and I can but hope that mine is distinctive enough that I don’t get called to the carpet as someone who is just “ripping off” other properties–again, this one has been kicking around in my mind for a while, but I only set it down on paper as a tangible idea recently (around Thanksgiving of last year–yes, that predates the game’s “official” announcement, but :rolling eyes: we all know what that means these days).

Story Outline Completed

As I type these words, I’ve completed the favorite part of the writing process and will add it to my “Signature” at the bottom of the post. I’ve completed the “story outline,” which just means that I know where the story will go from beginning to end. In the old days, I would have just stopped there and called it a day, but as I’m working with character to integrate characterization more fully into my stories, I also added in my character’s (Arizona’s) FLAW. I made sure that the third act put her in a situation in which her flaw was exposed and that she has to make a choice, either give in to her flaw or not. This is where the INTERNAL CONFLICT of the story will happen. My the very nature of the setting (fantasy version of the Old West), I have plenty of EXTERNAL CONFLICT (which is what I’m good at creating), but I’m specifically trying to build in more in terms of characterization. I do know Arizona’s “backstory” (although it is in my head and not yet set down on paper) and that I think will be the next component to the story–putting down a character sketch of Arizona.

I will let you all know what happens whenever I revisit this project (which will hopefully be a weekly endeavor, but I’m not putting any time limits/deadlines on it–I work better when I can just write without putting undue pressure on myself. So, here’s to a 2020 that’s filled with loads of writing (for school, yes), but also for me creatively.

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 3 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Project Arizona (Fantasy Short Story–Weird West))
    Finished: Story Outline
    Next: Character Sketch
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

NaNoWriMo 2019

NaNoWriMo Calendar--Calendar with checkboxes and word count.
Image Source: https://writerswrite.co.za/perennial-nanowrimo-calendar/

So, I’ve discussed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) on the blog before, so I won’t belabor the point too much. For those who might not have heard about it, it is a way of tracking your progress through the month (in terms of Word Count) for a novel. I believe that the Word Count is 50,000 words produced in the month of November in order to count towards getting recognition that you’ve completed NaNoWriMo for that year.

While admirable, I’ll likely never “complete” NaNoWriMo because, as I’ve pointed it out in previous blogs on the subject–November is the exact wrong month for me to try to accomplish such a lofty goal (at least while I’m in school). I have far too many school-related activities to do to even begin to work on a 50,000 word draft. Just this week, in addition to prepping a class, I need to grade 38 Annotated Bibliographies and Daily Writings, I need to research and write my own Final Project Proposal and Annotated Bibliography for the class I’m taking to turn in by Nov. 3, and I need to take care of the several school-related things (like applying for an Honor Society by deadline) that I’ve slacked on doing while prepping for Friday’s exam.

So I don’t have time to do NaNoWriMo, right?

NaNoWriMo 2019–Well, Sort Of . . .

While I don’t have time to really invest in writing the full draft of a novel, I do have time to sit down and jot down a handwritten “rough draft” of a novel. As this is, for me, “Year of the Shadow” where I write long projects based on my short story, “Ship of Shadows,” I have a strong idea for a novel featuring many of the characters from the short story. I began writing out the skeletal form of the story, but stopped at Chapter 5. I was just jotting down 2-3 sentences per paragraph, but I wanted something more substantial. What I didn’t realize is that what I was doing was developing a “plot outline” where I was emphasizing the events, but I was also creating character “hooks” that I could use to start discussing the characters.

In beginning of November, I plan to write out this plot outline again, this time going all the way to the finish of the novel. Then I plan to do the same for the Screenplay and the Graphic Novel. As a matter of fact, I think that’s why I’ve stalled on the Graphic Novel. I really want to get Tana’s “backstory” in the graphic novel, but I didn’t structure it that way and now I think I need to go back to issue #2 and rewrite it, so that it is a flashback scene, so that when she actually tries to save a fellow crewperson, we see the motivations behind the actions rather than me trying to tell it through “captions” above the panel.

Summertime and the Writing is Easy

The perfect time for NaNoWriMo, for me, would be the summer. In the summer, I have much more “free” time and I can use that for writing (even if it is in shorter bursts than I’d like). Even though NaNoWriMo doesn’t work so much for me in November, I can use it to get a “Rough Draft” of the novel together (and the same for a screenplay and the graphic novel).

Even though in January, I plan to “switch” to a different project for my “Year of . . .,” that only means that I plan to start thinking about a new story that I’ve published and how I might be able to expand them out and touch on the backstory of characters and figuring out the sequel for the story. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t actually be working on a 1st draft for the longer pieces. My mind is good at doing “2 things” really well. As I mentioned in the gaming post, I can really do well in manipulating two different modes/registers at the same time. Any more than that, then my mind says too much, don’t want to do it.

This is what I want to avoid–getting too many projects going at any one time (& not finishing any of them). It would be awesome if I can get to next November and have what NaNoWriMo promises: a finished 1st Draft of a novel (and other projects). Once there’s a 1st draft, then 1) I’m invested and am much more likely to see the project to the end and 2) it is far easier to critique a product rather than an idea. Write now, all my longer projects have been just “ideas,” and you can’t critique ideas because you can always change it to make better–to match your vision.

So, to sum up, my goal for this NaNoWriMo is to, instead of using it as month for novel (and other longer writing projects), it is a time to “plan” out those projects and set those plans down on paper and to use the next 12 months, until next November to get those 50,000 words written.

So this is MY 2019 NaNoWriMo Challenge: 1) Rough Draft of Novel “Ship of Shadows,” 2) Rough Draft of Graphic Novel “Ship of Shadows,” and 3) Rough Draft of Screenplay of “Ship of Shadows.” If, at the end of the month, I’m able to get these done, then I’ll report back on the progress. If you never hear anything else about this until next year, then you’ll know that I didn’t get it done.

Hey, at least I’m honest! 😉

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 2 (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 = December 30, 2019

Game Day: The Confluence of Gaming and Writing

Man typing outside at a table with his laptop, coffee, plant, water, and writing journal
Image Source: https://medium.com/read-watch-write-repeat/pursue-your-writing-projects-on-the-weekend-6fcee00848dc

Fall is here and I’m back. I’m in the midst of a flurry of last minute reading for my test on Friday. I don’t really feel all that confident about it, but it is what it is. I wish that I had perfect recall–at least on names. I really want to mention theorists and scholars as a lot of the test depends on “name dropping,” but, except for the biggest names in the field, most names are gone the moment I close/put down the book. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m back after a nearly two week drought. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write, but between grading and reading, I just don’t seem to find an hour in the day anymore to write. However, I get discourage when my favorite YouTubers don’t post on time, or go long periods without putting up new videos, and here I am, doing the same. So, not to be hypocritical, I thought I’d take a quick “study break” and dash out a blog post before reading some more and then going to bed.

Saturday is “Game Day”

So, Americans will get this pun as, I feel, will a lot of Europeans. In both countries, Saturday is a prime “sports day.” For Americans, at this time of year, it is “college football,” which is American football played among various university teams in which there are long-standing rivalries. In Europe, a lot of “football” matches (soccer) takes place, again with long-standing rivalries.

However, for me, Saturdays are my primary “gaming” days. Friday evenings are usually too draining, so I don’t usually start my gaming until Saturdays. While I use to bounce from game to game, what I’ve been doing these past couple of years is really investing in one game every week and really digging into it and making myself a “master” at the game (Assassin’s Creed Origins, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, and Gravel are all games in which I earned the maximum achievement for–the Platinum Trophy–in terms of achievement.

My “backlog” of games to be finished, however, continues to grow, so much so that I’ve come to despair of ever finishing them all before the next “generation” of consoles (i.e., the PS5) arrives Holiday 2020. Recently, however, I found myself switching between two games (God of War and Rise of the Tomb Raider, 20th Anniversary Edition) on a biweekly basis–one week I play GoW and the next week I play RotTR. One game is a Physical game and the other is a Digital Game. When I finish either of these two games, my plan is to simply pick another in the respective genre and start playing. In this manner, I hope to bring my “backlog” down to a reasonable size.

Saturday Morning = Needs to be “Writing Game Day”

My goal is to get to where I can do the same on Saturdays for my writing. Usually Saturday mornings are when I’m just starting to recover from the week, and while I don’t feel fully creative (that’s actually Saturday evenings when I’m usually watching a movie), I do feel much more more creative.

While I can “write” during that time (draft), what I’d like to be able to do is to work on Rough Drafts during that time. I feel that I can probably write (draft) on the current story that I’m working on during the week by creating scenic “milestones” to get to for that week. However, like my gaming, I’d like to have a second project in the wings that I could write out (longhand with a pen/pencil) every weekend and then when I finish the “weekday” draft, I’d move the weekend draft to that spot, start writing (drafting) it, and then move in new Rough Draft during the weekend spot.

I wanted to start that this previous weekend, but was enamored with “cleaning,” that I, of course, procrastinated until it was too late. I’m going to try it again this upcoming weekend and I hope by putting it up on the blog, I will be able to hold myself accountable for actually getting it done. I’m pretty sure two projects in writing, just like gaming, is probably going to be my limit, but, just like gaming, my goal is to shrink my “backlog” of games and writing projects down and get them finished, so any strategy that I find that I can use to do that successfully is one that I plan to implement (& hopefully use it to thrive as a writer).

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 2 (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 = December 30, 2019

1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration

Image Source: https://meshgh.com/2015/10/18/weekly-quote-genius-is-1-percent-inspiration-99-percent-perspiration-thomas-edison/

Before I start today’s blog, I just wanted to say thank you to the many readers who read and responded (and “Liked”) yesterday’s blog entry. It was really gratifying to see that others responded to what I was trying to express. Thanks again, everyone!

Today, I just want to take a moment to talk about what makes writing (this blog & creative writing) so much fun for me. And it comes down to a simple quote that was attributed to Thomas Edison, an American inventor who, famously, invented the light bulb. I basically follow this particular formula for every major project that I work on.

1% Inspiration

This is my favorite part of the writing process. For me, getting that initial idea is one of the best feelings that I can experience. When I’m figuring out plot, characters, themes, emotions, and the story world is both invigorating and fun all at the same time. I love coming up with ideas in my writing and I love seeing how wild and outlandish I push the concepts that I write. For example, in 20s I used want to be a Role-Playing Game designer. Every summer, I would sit outside in the scorching 90+ degree (Fahrenheit) heat and just work on a section of the RPG that I’d come up with that year (I also did the same with short stories–this is how The Ghost and the Shadow was written). Obviously, I never did anything with these RPGs, but that wasn’t the point–I was more than happy to just work on the “cool” concepts that I’d come up with for the games. Even now, I have folder after folder of concepts that I want to create stories, novels, comics, movies, etc. from because I absolutely enjoy sitting down and coming up with the ideas and the world and all the things that make the story world so exciting. This feeling lasts (for me) all through the concept phase, the creation phase, and even into the “rough draft” phase–where I put a simple version down on paper. This even applies to blog entries–I currently have 14 “drafts” in my drafts folder in various stages of completion (more than enough to have put together enough to have put out during the previous two weeks) So, what happened, where does the writing process go “wrong” for me? That (of course) is the next phase.

99% Perspiration

Okay, once I get to this stage, the enjoyment of the project wears off quite a bit. I guess, for me, its because at this stage that I realize that the project is never going to reach the actual “potential” that I have in my mind for it. No, that’s not true. Reflecting back, I think that it is more that now I have to continually “shape” the work in order to get it to match the potential that I think it had when I created it and I that “refinement” process isn’t nearly as easy and as “fun” as it was during the inspiration phase. In the inspiration phase, ideas seem to flow, like water from a fountain, and my pen/pencil, or my computer can barely move fast enough to get the ideas out. However, once we move to the perspiration phase, then its really like work, trying to “dig” ideas out and get them to work correctly. For the most part, I push though this phase, but it is hard. This one isn’t nearly as fun nor as enervating as the inspiration phase. For example, Dragonhawk was based on a book cover that I’d had since childhood and I had the idea for ages. However, I did a lot of work for that story: I wrote multiple outlines for it, I “built” it from the ground up (sentences to paragraphs to sections, meaning that the outlines went from bare sentences, to more elaborate paragraphs, to still more elaborate sections), I wrote character sketches for the two main protagonists, I revised it heavily to get its word count down, I stuck with it even when there were sections that didn’t seem to be working well and fixed those before sending it out, etc. (all which speaks to the quality discussion of yesterday’s blog). I remain convinced that it is the only story that I’ve ever had accepted on the 1st try because of the work that I put into making it into the story that I’d envisioned in the inspiration phase (and tangentially because I actually took the time to write out my characters and created a character sketch for them). This happens in my blogs as well–I don’t just treat these like “tweets” and quickly throw them up on the site just to get them done, but craft them like mini-essays. While necessary in order to get anything done and not be a “dreamer” like I was in the days of my (many) failed RPGs, this phase is simply work and isn’t as much fun as the other phase.

1% Catharsis

So, yes I know, this now adds up to 101%, but (for me) this is also a necessary step that Edison didn’t articulate, but probably should have. This is the phase when the project is complete and has been published (or turned in or posted). The sense of catharsis that I feel is akin to the euphoria that I feel when I originally began the project. The release of tension and the successful completion of the project is something that a writer is always trying to capture. I can only say that it is probably akin to the “runner’s high” that marathon runners experience as well. I felt this after my first publication of The Ghost and the Shadow and I’ve always trying to recreate this experience. I will say that it never quite reaches the level of when I first start a project–I suppose because of the tedium that I go through to actually get the project written in the first place, but still, this final phase is an important part of why I chose to write in the first place. The euphoria of beginning a project and the euphoria of finishing a project help to give me a buffer to get through all of the hard times actually working on the project. Without the inspiration and catharsis phases, I doubt I enjoy writing nearly as much as I do.

My goal now is to take what I’ve learned over these past two years and to apply them to longer and longer works so as to move into the realms of novels and books and become the writer that I always dreamed I might become. Crossing my fingers that it happens, but I’m also putting in the 99% perspiration to try to actually make it happen as well.

Hope you have a great day!

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
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Writing a Novel: DSRV Outrider

Drafts 0-1 with advice for each one on writing novels.
Image Source: https://writingcooperative.com/the-drafts-your-novel-needs-and-why-you-probably-wont-use-a-single-word-of-your-first-draft-c9c84fe0e841

So, one of my colleagues has written a novel and wants help to get it published. Now, I’ve written and published quite a few short stories (I just got a new email from the editor of Storyhack updating me on the progress of HawkMoon), but as long time blog readers know, writing a novel is one of my lifelong goals (one of the items on my “bucket list,” so to speak). Not having actually worked on a novel, I’m giving advice on basic storytelling, but I’m not able to give specifics on novel writing, having never actually completed one.

Those Who Can Do, Do; Those Who Can’t Teach (Not true!)

You don’t know how much this cliche’/idiom burns me up. I hate this sentiment because it ignores the fact that sometimes those who can do, can’t/don’t actually do well). So, knowing full well that movie writers have external pressures (studio notes, etc.), it still rankles that the writer of X-Men: Last Stand got to write Dark Phoenix, and based on the reviews, the latter movie made many of the same mistakes as the former movie (I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll reserve my judgement). So, this sentiment that people who can’t do things become teachers is so very false–sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here that’s probably better suited for another blog post. My point being is that even people who are allowed to do things (like write screenplays in a closed guild system) aren’t always the greatest at doing things.

I feel that I in order to teach writing a novel, I need to follow the advice in the blog post from a couple of weeks ago: To Begin, Begin. I’ve always wanted to write a novel and a major impetus for coming to grad school was to use the dissertation to get comfortable writing longer 100+ page documents, so I figure this is as good a time as any to try to start (“in the background”) writing a novel.

DSRV Outrider–Writing a Novel to help a Novel Writer

In keeping with my “Year of the Shadows,” the novel will be based on my “Ship of Shadows” short story. I’ve already have a “pre-production” idea of the action and character’s growth. The next task I think will be to actually sit down and write a rough draft of the story that I see so far in my head and continue working on this process until I have the full draft story in mind.

The problem with novels is that I (usually) have a beginning and a (sometimes) an ending, but I rarely have all the parts in the middle figured out and I hate writing “with gaps.” I like to know all the pieces/elements of the story before I start writing (its more fun for me that way), but with a novel, I rarely have all the pieces. I’ve been doing research, however, this time around, that I hope will help alleviate some, if not all, of the “gaps” that occur when I try to write a novel.

My collegue is very good with characters, but is (admittedly) less familiar with storytelling conventions. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite. I know quite a bit about storytelling and the elements that make a good story, but I am still learning how to create compelling characters–ones that others want to read and not just ones that I like and ones that feel real and alive and not simply vehicles for the plot to hang on.

I won’t bore you with details, but I will just say that I hope that I can use the research and the rough drafting for my novel to aid my grad school colleague, who is further along in the process, to give solid and helpful advice so that she can get her novel published, while at the same time, learning new techniques that will help me become a novelist as well.

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 = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 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
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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)

Characters Lead the Way, Redux

Image Source: https://lonewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_on_the_Sand

While cleaning up this weekend, I happened to stumble across the original “Rough Draft” that I’d printed out for my story Dragonhawk. This story (to the time of writing this blog entry) remains my one-and-only story that was accepted on the first try. It is truly a “rough draft” in that it is only three (3) paragraphs long (and is probably shorter in total length than this blog entry will be by the time I’m finished writing it). What struck me, however, was the first word on the “rough draft” was Kelfryn, the name of the protagonist.

Inspiration from a Book Cover

So, the book cover above, is from a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books called The Lone Wolf series by Joe Deaver and Gary Chalk. While the D&D books were pretty popular at the time, the ones by Deaver and Chalk really spoke to me. While not part of the Warhammer universe, the illustrations still have that “Old World” feel that marks the Warhammer brand (and what is probably what drew me to that universe). While definatley dark (the character could and often would die and the “adventure” would be over–much like a “game over” screen in video games), I always found the artwork both on the covers of the book and in the interiors to be arresting and fascinating. The above cover of a warrior riding a giant “warbird” was particularly interesting and stuck with me into adulthood.

Kelfryn and Scryfe

As I began writing, I had several incarnations of this image pop up, most notably an idea for a novel entitled Sparrowhawk as I imagined the protagonist would be a young Norse warrior who was mentally bonded to the bird (much like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders were bonded with their dragons in her series of books (which I, of course, loved and devoured as a child). I was also much taken with the idea of a bird hunting other birds–which is what the Sparrowhawk is named for doing. However, the novel did not progress and that idea fell by the wayside. After I had a few publications under my belt, I decided to revisit the idea, but this time I went back to the original image that had captivated me: the warrior riding a giant warbird. Then it came to me: why not have both the warrior and the bird still be mentally bonded, but why not have them hunt dragons?

The Art of the Character Sketch

From there, I tried to come up with a reason for them to hunt dragons and I likened them to fishermen. They had to hunt dragons to survive. Finally, I reasoned that even with the warbirds, dragons would be too ferocious, so they would only hunt things that the dragons left behind (scales, teeth, talons, etc.) when they went out hunting for food. Then came my stroke of brillance: I used Scrivener’sCharacter Sketch” template to completely write out each of the two main characters: Kelfryn (who became a young “wannbe” warrior) and Scryfe (his devoted warbird companion). I filled out all of the sections of the Character Sketch with a solid paragraph for each of the major categories (I found those sketches earlier this year–that’s how I know). After doing the character sketches, I simply started the story and everything seemed to fall into place–I didn’t have Writer’s Block at any point, nor did I have any major diversions to the story that I dreamed up–both character and plot seemed to just seemed to merge together, so that’s what I’m working towards now–getting back into the Character Sketch mentality.

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)

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)

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