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)
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Finished Rough Draft for Project Star

Yay!  I finally finished something!  Last week I managed to finish the rough draft for Project Star, a Science Fiction project that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while.  Even though it isn’t ready for me to show anyone (the main character doesn’t even have a NAME yet), it still feels good to get all of the plot down on paper.

Character Over Plot

Now, I’m a HUGE plot guy, but as I reread The Belgariad and The Mallorean to keep myself sane with all the work that I have to do, I find that now that I know the story so well, I’m skipping over the plot elements and just focusing on the character elements and reliving (vicariously) through the characters the same type of fun serious-comedic dynamic that I used to have with my family before they passed away.  The point I’m trying to make is that even though I read it at first for the story (characters and plot), I keep coming back to it over and over again for the characters.  I knew this instinctively, but I figured my characters were strong enough to overcome my tendency to focus on plot over characters, but that’s not the case.

Balance in the Force

Today, I stumbled across this YouTube video that describes one writer’s preference for characters over plot (I’m adding it at the end of this entry).  While I think that he may push the needle too far in the characters camp, I still found his argument compelling.  I think I’d like to use his ideas to “balance” my writing.  By trying to get the Rough Draft done and focusing on plot, I think now it is time to stop, reflect on the character, and really dig in and give the character a history, some motivation, traits, and a real personality.

Oh, yes, and a name would be nice as well. 😉

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #2, Currently on Script Page 30)

A Working Writer Writes

This is an extremely hard thing to figure out.  There is something about writing in which we give all the praise for writing that has been written versus writing that is being written.  Grades, publications, and feedback all come from reading writing that that has been produced rather than writing that is in the process of being produced, but for me, I need the drafting process.  I can’t be a “pantser” or a “gardener” because I need the multiple drafts to essentially work on different elements of the story at different times.  For me, trying to do character, dialogue (which is a function of character), plot, setting and theme all in one go is simply too much for me as a writer.  I need to be able to separate these individual elements out rather than trying to focus on them all at once.

The Architect, Builder, and Craftsman

There is an image of the Eiffel tower is being built.  We see its base, and we see it being constructed and being erected slowly, piece-by-piece, but at the end we see the completed masterpiece.  This is basically the way I write.  I build up images and impressions.  They seem so clear in my mind, but as I write them, I find that they are really “fuzzy” and “blurry” (in terms of pure storytelling).  The more I work on them and revise them, the “clearer” they become (again, in terms of storytelling).  While my new stories might not work in terms of publication because they are not as “grimdark” as the current Sci-Fi/Fantasy works, they do seem to be a lot closer to the vision that I had in my head for the original story genesis.  Now I just have to find a way to keep drafting (and perhaps speed up just a bit) so as to get more work done monthly, so that I can finish projects and feel a sense of accomplishment that also drives my writing.

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, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

The Tao of Rest

This weekend and the first two days of this week were Fall Break for me and I went ahead and took the entire time to rest and recover.  As I said previously in another blog entry, this semester has been a challenge, so Saturday, I just rested and the results speak for themselves.

A Little Bit of Rest = A Whole New Project

I love creating–if there was job where a I could just create Sci-Fi and Fantasy worlds over and over again and get paid for it, that’s what I would do.  Writing is the closest thing to that “dream” reality, so that’s why I write short-stories and why I’m trying to expand those stories into longer and longer works with the end goal being to turn them into novels, movies, and TV series.  Not two hours after I awoke from a simple nap, a new project with a new setting, history, and tendrils of a “character” came into focus.  While not as visual as a “dream,” it feels more grounded because there’s a history behind the story world.

Those Who Forget their History . . .

This project is an epic Science Fiction project that spans multiple worlds and has a fairly cool backstory.  While I don’t want to give specifics just yet, I think that Stargate is the closest reference point to the project.  I would actually like to use Stargate as a prototype with its variety of formats.  There’s a movie, multiple TV series, graphic novels, etc., and I would like to do the same.  I think I would like to cover different time periods in different mediums.  A short story for one type of project, a graphic novel for a different time period, etc.  I’m not naming the project just yet as I’m no where near ready to work on it, but still, I have to say, for me–a little bit of rest goes a long way.

Have a great weekend!

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, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Part Deux

So, I just wanted to say that I did send a story to Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores for this submission period.  I doubt seriously that they will accept it, but I really wanted to have something out to them as I have missed three or four submission periods.

Citizen X

I sent them one of the stories that I finished a while back–Citizen X.  I don’t expect them to take the story as it is an Alternate History story with Sci-Fi elements.  The story has caught the eye of several “slush” readers and been passed up to market editors (at least three separate times), but in each case, the editors decided to pass on it.  However, it was the only story that I haven’t sent them that I’ve worked on recently.  All of the other stories, HawkeMoon, Silence Will Fall, and Here Be Monsters, among others, they didn’t really like (although they did suggest changes to HawkeMoon and asked for a resubmission of it, but I chose not to do that because I felt the changes would have impacted the story that I was trying to tell.  Perhaps that was wrong, but I really try to follow a “hero’s journey” for my stories, but I remember that the changes would have impacted this journey negatively.  Unfortunately, Cosmic Roots and Landscapes allows you to “clear” you feedback and once its gone, its gone.

Compelling Science Fiction

The next major market that I’m writing for currently is a smaller market that’s been closed for the past year (maybe longer) and its called Compelling Science Fiction.  They are actually opening again from October 1st – December 1st (at least, that’s what the email said when I signed up for email notices of their next opening date).  I’m currently working on the Independent and that’s the story that I intend to submit there first.  I’m going to have to do a 3rd draft of the story–I’m concentrating on character for this pass, but I”m already over 1,000 words in and I’ve not yet even hit the inciting incident (which should probably happen in the first 500 words).  So this draft will be the longest draft and the 3rd draft will be me finding places to cut the story down and adding in a little more setting/description (not a lot, but I feel that it is a little bare bones at the moment).

Rotating Projects

The reason why I’m not finishing projects as fast as I was over the summer is that I’m trying out rotating my projects.  I’m working on 3 projects at the moment: Ship of Shadows Graphic NovelThe Independent (2nd Draft), and Project Star (Rough Draft).  Once I finish one of these, I’ll move onto another.  This ensures that I’m never bored and the projects never grow stale, but it also means that it takes much longer for me to actually “finish” a project.  Still, this seems to be working and a lesson that I’m constantly having to re-learn is “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, that’s all for now/  Have a great day!

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, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

Find a Reading/Writing Buddy

Reading /Writing Buddies are Cool especially for Deadlines

Deadlines are a pain–they are a necessary evil, but they are also a cause for major stress.  One thing that I’ve found that has helped me over the past year was to find a “buddy” who I could give my work to at a specific time.  It plays on your “guilt” in that you’ve made a “promise” to someone else and when you don’t follow through, you feel bad for letting them down, so you try to stick to a goal and, even if you don’t meet the goal, you try to have “something” for them.  Now, if you have a “guilty” nature and you feel inordinate pressure from owing people something or letting them down, this may not be the technique to use.  Still, I find it extremely useful to actually get things done.

1st Saturday of Every Month

I try very hard (doesn’t always work with school) to get something done by the first Saturday of the month.  Actually, I think that I’ve mentioned this before, but in case I haven’t, I have a couple of reader/responders at the Public Library (Chattanooga), who have agreed to read my work.  So, to get things to them, I’ve tried very hard to get things to them by the first Saturday of the month.

Make It Managable

The key, I think, is to make it manageable.  Realistically, it means what can you do within a month?  As a graduate student and a part-time worker, my time is extremely limited.  I can’t take two or three hours every day to devote to my writing (personal writing).  However, if I write a little every day and take what I’ve written over the month, that usually adds up to enough material for a whole story that I can send to the people to get feedback on.

I hope this helps other writers out there who are struggling with completing material for deadlines.

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, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

 

Character Sketch: The Independent (Ryn)

Authors Note: My character is NOT based on Ginger Howard–my character is African American, female, and wears a “baseball cap.”  That is the ONLY similarity to the above image (still, I thought it would be cool to highlight Ginger Howard’s accomplishments!)

So, today I finished the character sketch for my 2nd Draft of my short story, The Independent.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but I do want to tell a little bit about the process.  I’m trying to create a character that resembles a real life person (who is larger than life).

Family Heirlooms

One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to make sure that I did was to give Ryn a “history.”  I’ve tried to do that by creating a link between her and the past generations of her family by giving her a family heirloom that she uses in the story that gives her  an emotional hook to both her past and her present.  I’ve done that by giving her a “baseball cap” that is her father’s and is really important to her and her father.

Space Story grounded in “Reality”

In Star Wars, Mark Hamill is said to have been concerned about the unreality of the story, but Alec Guinness was supposed to have helped him by reminding him that even in fantasy, their has to be a link to reality.  That’s one of things that I tried to do with this character sketch by making sure that I gave Ryn a true “reality.”  I hope that it is a not a trite reality, but I wanted to try to create something that is more “realistic” than what I normally write.

One Surprising Thing

One thing that surprised me as I was doing this character sketch was the background section.  The background for Ryn came together in a surprising way and I was surprised that I came up with this particular background for her.  I don’t know that it will stick (ie that I will keep it or use it for the story), but I really think that it us both unique and quite strange (for me).

Anyway, I found that Ryn was a great character to come up with a Character Sketch for my 1st (well, 2nd time) out in a while.  I intend to make this step something that I do for my 2nd drafts and hopefully this will making my stories better.

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, Currently on Script Page 25)