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.

Weird West Story Project Arizona = Unhallowed

Female Gunslinger in wide-brimmed hat and long flowing duster with a gun in a holster and knives on her belt looking out towards the audience with a orange sky and yellow sun at her back.
Image Source: https://www.wattpad.com/296700758-fantasy-sub-genre-guide-weird-west

On Monday, June 29th, I finished the first draft of Project Arizona. I’m sure it needs a lot of work, but I like the way it turned out (except for the end, but I’ll talk more about that later in the post). It’s official title is Unhallowed, and it is a Weird West story (a fantasy story with magic and the like mixed with tropes from the Old West — American West). The main character’s name is Arizona and she is an African American woman who becomes a “gunslinger” (one who is Hallowed) in the parlance of the world to fight the evil of the Unhallowed.

Why This Story and Why Now?

Much of the theme around this story has to do with the idea of Justice vs Vengeance. Justice means literally means “just behavior or treatment” and/or the “impartial adjudication of laws” (google it to fact-check me). Vengeance means “punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong” (again, fact-check me). As we have visual evidence from the past two months (May and June 2020), the American Justice System says that it stands for justice, but what many people involved with it actually try to dispense is vengeance. Now, people may see this as political, but I recognized this much earlier based on the way in which America has conducted its wars in the 20th and 21st centuries (remember, I minored in History). I noticed a discrepancy in which the way America articulates its values and the ways those values actually get realized when we go to war–in my mind, they are two different things, and I wrote this story to explore that idea. The fact that there were multiple high profile cases of social injustice as I was writing this story, just galvanized my desire and need to write it. America (and Americans) say one thing, but do another, and to me, that’s a problem that I’ve been seeing for a while now and major failing that we need to solve.

Why a Weird West Story?

Well, let’s not overlook the fact that Weird West stories are cool 🙂

Also, on a more serious note, Weird West stories are enjoying a moment. As noted in an older blog, the Western as a genre is pretty much dead (for now, especially in movies and TV), but with rise in popularity of the Red Dead Redemption video games by Rockstar, the Western is actually seeing a bit of a resurgence. As such, more inventive stories in the Old West/Wild West are seeing a spike in interest. I think there are at least 3 different Wild West/Weird West games in development (and one of them is actually called Weird West). Not to mention there is at least one RPG that is devoted to the setting (Deadlands). I think that if there is a resurgence in popularity for the Old West/Wild West, it will come from the Weird West genre.

Also, Weird West stories don’t always have to involve Fantasy and Magic. They can be Science Fiction stories as well. Cowboys and Aliens was attempt at such a fusion that didn’t quite work–the title, in typical Hollywood misguided fashion gives an indication why. Still, as one can see, the fusion of different genres can, if done right, infuse the Old West/Wild West with some much needed originality in the storytelling and setting (which is what I hope to accomplish with Unhallowed).

What’s Next For Unhallowed?

I’m working on the 1st Draft for another project now. When I finish it, I will return to Unhallowed for the 2nd Draft. I think I did well on the character, but I want to add in more sensory details, more setting, and fix the ending.

The ending was supposed to feature an elaborate fight scene and “will she/won’t she” choice. The fight scene was massively cut down and the choice was effectively taken from the main character by a discussion in an earlier scene–if she does it, then she loses all support from her team. These are two places that I most definitely need to revisit as they rob the ending of much of the suspense that I envisioned for the end of the story.

Hopefully, during my second pass, I can make the ending as suspenseful as I envisioned it being in my mind’s eye when I had the original idea and wrote out the Rough Draft for the story. But at least it is finished (and done within a month and not the 2+ years that I normally do things, so hurray for small victories!

Have a great day!

Sidney


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




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Up Next: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)

What Writers Can Learn from Disney Star Wars Trilogy’s Mistakes

A combination of all 3 Disney Star Wars Trilogy movie posters side-by-side.
Image Source: https://www.quora.com/How-would-you-fix-the-Star-Wars-sequel-trilogy-1

Okay, not to flog a dead topic, but as SO many other reviewers have noted, while Rise of Skywalker does some things well, it turns out to be an unsatisfying end to the trilogy and 9 movie arc because it shows that there was no consistent plan. As the story goes, after J.J. Abrams finished Force Awakens, he had “loose” notes on the way the story should go that the next director, in this case Rian Johnson could use or not use as he saw fit.

Mistake! This why I’m always “banging” on about about the need/importance of outlines and trying to minimize “discovery” writing (for myself) as much as possible.

Why Outlines are Important!

I feel outlines are critical because stories (either fictional or ones that we hear about/tell others about in real life) are not just events. You’re not just relying a set of events that happened to you or someone else–although that’s part of it. You’re relating a series of events in order to 1) make a point about something or 2) reveal something (usually something you discovered as a result of those related events). Each case, while different, gets at the heart of storytelling and narrative.

Yet, if you’re just throwing random events together, or even if you are trying to following a logical progression of events, the one element you’re missing is the element of planning. What events are you going to foreground because they’re necessary to understanding the point of the story or what was learned/gained from the story? These are all questions that an outline helps to answer.

Let’s take Rey’s parents as an example as this was a particularly contentious “bone” that both Rian Johnson and Star Wars fans hotly debated. Let’s, for the sake of argument, pretend that The Last Jedi contained the “outline” that is supposed to have existed after Force Awakens. Had Johnson followed the idea, we could have been given the information about Rey’s parents (spoiler so I won’t reveal it here) in the 2nd movie (last act), and then she would have had to wrestle with it at the end of the 2nd movie, during the intervening time between movies (for characters) and then all through the 3rd movie. I mean, since we’re paying “homage” to Lucas anyway with the set-ups for these movies as they are very similar to the original trilogy, then this is what happens in Empire. Luke learns his parentage at the end of that movie, simmers over it during the intervening time, and then confronts Ben Kenobi’s Force ghost about it in Return of the Jedi. The revelation meant something, his conflict (inner turmoil) meant something, and him confronting Vader meant something (because Vader, at that point, wasn’t a nameless, faceless enemy, but his own father). A point was made and delivered. Not so with the Disney trilogy. As the reveal of Rey’s parentage comes in the 3rd act (or late 2nd act) Rise, there’s next to no impact on Rey outside of “shock value.” There was no emotional investment of the information.

Essentially, the storyteller focused on the “wrong” thing–shock value in learning Rey’s parents/heritage over emotional investment in seeing Rey struggle with the knowledge of who she was and is and a choice that she has to make as to whether to be defined by her heritage or break free from it. There could have been a powerful (American) introspection of are you bound by your circumstances or can you rise above them. However, with no outline, this is NOT in the story and helps to create the audience dissatisfaction that we see reflected in the 52% Rotten Tomatoes score.

In Defense of Outlines (and Drafts)

In closing, outlines help to provide a coherent framework to a story and keep it from meandering. It also helps the writer see (and focus) on the details that will most strongly make his/her points. Lastly, it allows the storyteller to see what the ultimate point or goal of his/her story is and make more effective choices on how to get there.

If you’re a “discovery” writer, should you drop that and start using outlines? No! That’s not what I’m advocating. I’m of the opinion that whatever works for you is something that you should do more of it. I might suggest however, that once you’ve finished the discovery draft, to go back and rewrite it (heresy, I know) because you now know you’re point and what events in the story have led you to the point and you may be able to get there more effectively with another draft or two, but if it’s working, I say keep doing it. As always, however, if it isn’t working, then you might give outlining a try.

Here’s an example of several writers who would like to “fix” Star Wars and the story outlines provided. They are all really interesting and, even though there are elements that I don’t agree with or would do differently, if I could “fix” Star Wars, they still illustrate how a cohesive (and competent, maybe even compelling) story can be told through outlining. (There are some spoilers for the movies, so be warned if you’ve not yet seen them all.)

Sidney


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




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

Writing Log = Finished The Independent!

Picture of an excited baby with its mouth agape with the caption in white lettering: "This is my super excited face"
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/575475658618524560/

So this post is a little later than normal as I wanted to make sure that I actually completed the works that are listed in this post. However, I was able to get everything done and I’m very excited about it!

Finished The Independent (aka “my Space Truckers” story)

Yesterday evening, I finally finished The Independent which began its life as my “Space Truckers” project. This one has taken a long time to do (way too long), but I finally was able to get the handle on what I really wanted to do late last year and early this year and began to make serious headway on the story in January and February. After not working on it because of the trip to Boston and subsequent Spring Break and early Corona virus news, I finally was able to power through the rest of the story and finished off the story last night. Some facts about the story: It is currently 5,100 words long. I will be working to get that down as most markets have a (generally speaking) a 5,000 word limit. It is a “spaceship” story–the action happens on a spaceship in space and contains a space battle (my favorite type of story) and one that I feel is done way too seldom in Sci-Fi media. Lastly, it features a female character–I hope (as a male) I do a good job in creating a believable character (I have before–I’ve published two other stories where the protagonist was female), but time will tell.

So, what’s next: I’m going to let it lie fallow for a week (maybe more) and then I’m going to schedule a time with the MSTU Writing Center and ask a consultant to look over it (I may do this a couple of times–once for content & story construction and once for grammatical issues) and work on getting as compact as possible and then I should be sending it out to markets later this month or early next month. Huzzah!

Finished Rough Draft of “Project Arizona”

So, “Project Arizona” is one that I wrote a blog post on a while back. It is a Weird Western that has been kicking around in my mind lately, so I went ahead and wrote the “Rough Draft” for it. Like The Indpendent, I will go through multiple drafts honing it in (hopefully it won’t take as long to finish though).

There’s not too much more to say about it yet–after I finish the first draft I might reveal the “working” title of the story. I may do an Author’s Note when I get a little deeper into drafting, but right now, I’m more interested in finishing it than discussing it, so I’ll add it to my list of projects in the Signature line.

HawkeMoon = a Milestone

So, I went back and checked and HawkeMoon represents my 10th published short-story! I now have enough to do a short story collection (I may even do that if I can ever find the time/right publisher).

While HawkeMoon is overall my 14th publication (when you include my comic book story split into 3 parts, and my non-fiction article on writing), and 16th when you include my work for MTSU’s Off Center Journal, it is still significant as it represents double digits in a particular style of writing. Here’s to trying for triple digits next!

Well, that’s all I have! Have a great weekend!

Sidney


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




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

A “Scummy” Choice

Skeleton at the computer waiting.  Text on white background that says, "Surely a response will come, I just have to wait patiently . . ."
Image Source: https://sayingimages.com/skeleton-meme/

So, on Friday–actually Sunday morning is when I first saw it–but it was sent on Friday, so that’s what I’m going with . . . so, on Friday, I got a response back from a market that I sent my story to . . . back in September.

Yup, you read that right. A story that I sent to a market back in September of 2019 just sent me a reply as of March 2020.

I just want that to sink in.

Long Response Time Suck!

There’s no other way to articulate it–long response times suck! For those who are wondering, that’s five months and approx. 7 days. How do I know . . . because i have an internal “clock” of sorts that somehow triggers right around the 6 month mark. A week before, my clock had triggered and I went to look up how long it had been.

I’d originally submitted on September 21, 2019 to a Sci-Fi market that I’d never submitted to previously, but seemed to have a fairly high “reputation” as it didn’t have a high “lost/no response” rate and seemed to have a fairly robust rate of submitters along with a open response call for submissions that seemed reasonable. My story fit under the guidelines, so I decided to submit.

Poor choice on my part. I can’t remember whether or not I looked at the length of time for response–I usually do and if I find that response take too long–usually over 90 days is a bad sign, but I often go up to as high as 100-120, then I don’t submit, no matter how lucrative the market or high good of a “fit” my story is as I find markets with long submission times problematic.

Again, I can’t remember if I checked or not (it’s been nearly 6 months after all), but even if I didn’t check, I don’t remember seeing anything in the market listings that raised a red flag.

What’s the Problem with Long Submission Times?

First, it is disrespectful. Your business is a journal/magazine, but you can’t easily fill it with your own staffers (or you can, but may take a hit to your “reputation” if you do), so you solicit material from writers (either actively by sending queries to writers to send their work individually or by opening up your submissions to everyone–either year round or through certain submission periods). However, you “lock” up that story for writers like me who only submit one copy of the story to one market at a time–sequential submissions. Most writers don’t do this anymore for just this reason–the whole idea of the simultaneous submission came about because of this habit of publisher of taking forever to respond to submissions. Digress: I remember in the mid-to-late 80s that the debate over the “ethics” of simultaneous submissions raged quite vociferously with the writers basically winning the practice became standard for most markets so long as the writer immediately informed the market when the story was sold somewhere else and the writer would then withdraw it from consideration.

Second, and back to the point: for writers like me, who don’t do that, then that story is out of circulation for that time period and unavailable for submissions. I estimate that I lost 3-4 chances with other markets in that 5.25 month window that it was out to that 1 market.

So they Accepted It Right–I Mean They Did Take All That Time to Decide

Nope.

A simple form reject of 1 paragraph. Yup, you read that right as well. It took this market 5.25 months to respond to a sub 20 page story with a “canned” copy and pasted paragraph that 1) Thanked me for the submission, 2) Said they could not use it at this time.

Will I be submitting to this market in the future. Unfortunately, no. They have joined my list of publishers that I will no longer send submissions to in the future. While not particularly large (sub 10 at the moment), it is a list made up of 1) a market who gives feedback, but does so in a condescending way that once remarked upon my education rather than my story, 2) a market that responds quickly–too quickly in fact, usually a day and under, I think the longest time out for a story was a glacial 2 days–and NEVER once has responded with ANYTHING positive about any of the stories that I sent, and 3) 4-5 markets that have submission times approaching or over the 180 day mark. One that I used to LOVE submitting to is on that list as the last time I checked it had an incredible 495 day response period. Yup, and as you and I both know 360 = 1 year and 360<495, so you’re waiting well over a year and half for a response to a story that can be a maximum (according to their guidelines) 30 pages. Yeah, I’m not doing that.

Had this market gave substantial and substantive feedback, then I might have felt the long wait justified, but having lost multiple chances at publication for the story only to receive no feedback whatsoever makes me feel like I was robbed and that I made a “scummy” choice in submitting my story to them.

Newscasters love ending their stories with cliches, so I will do so as well: “Once bitten, twice shy.”

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 1 (of 3)
    Deadline = February 29, 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)

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)

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

I Would Rather Be a Reader, But . . .

Bookshelf in the MTSU Graduate Office_Oct. 2019 (Sidney Blaylock, Jr.)
Image Source: Bookshelf in the MTSU Graduate Office_Oct. 2019 (Sidney Blaylock, Jr.)

I would rather be a reader, but you can’t earn money from reading. Well, that’s not exactly true. There are “Readers,” people who earn money (salary) in Hollywood by reading scripts and passing them on (along with notes) to Hollywood executives who actually decide whether or not to purchase the scripts in question. There are also “Readers” who get paid to read stories on the “slush pile” (you know, those who aren’t written and submitted by “named” writers like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin–in other words, everyone else). Depending on the magazine, journal, or digital platform they may earn a salary, commission are paid by story (rarely), or may even volunteer their time.

However, the closest one can really come to getting paid for being a “Reader” is what I’m trying to do now which is earn a PhD and teach. Even that isn’t truly reading because, although you read and integrate the knowledge, you must then synthesize it and be able to successfully articulate what you’ve read (learned) back to the students in your class. Traditional lecture no longer works (if it ever did) and so not only must you find a way to articulate it back, you now have to find ever-more creative ways of getting that information back to the students (acting as a translator of sorts between the text and the students). Yet, it is only one of the truly acceptable ways in which one can make a living in which the majority of one’s “work” involves reading.

And So I Write . . .

I write because no one, at the moment, is writing what I want to read. Well, again, that’s not entirely true. There are still a couple (in this case three to five) authors that still write in the modes that I like to read. Most of the authors of the “older” generation have died or while they are still writing, their books are no longer considered relevant: David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, and Robert Jordan are three that fall into the deceased categories. Each author’s books were bestsellers and were “big deals” when they were released. Now, however, they are considered “also rans.” The new generation writes in modes that simply don’t interest me as a reader. There’s nothing particularly impressive about George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (especially when you know that it takes its ultimate inspiration from The War of the Roses. Hey, other fantasy authors out there: There’s also the 100 Years War, the 30 Years War, The War of 1812, the two World Wars (obviously), the Norman invasion of 1066, and Napoleanoic wars, and that’s just off the top of my head without any research. There you go, pick one of those, add in quite a bit of sex and a lot of head chopping (among other things), create unlikable characters screwing each other over (among “other” things) and you should be all set with your own (modern) fantasy opus.

The things that I write are simply the things that I like to read. I can’t put it any more plainly and simply than that. I like reading about interesting characters who struggle and overcome. They don’t have to be “heroes” per se, but they do have to actually try to overcome their problems rather than wallowing in them and making themselves and everyone else in the story miserable because of it.

For me, writing is something that I do because I can’t find authors (with the exception of a few select ones) who write fiction–fantasy or science fiction that actually matter. The new generation seems to find things like “dream-boat vampires” or anti-heroes that would spit on you just for daring to look at them as the epitome of characters, while sneering down their noses at characters who actually aspire to values (and stands up for the values even though it costs them to do so).

For me, authors like Brandon Sanderson, Elizabeth Moon, and Tad Williams are ones who write characters that I still enjoy reading about and hope to one day emulate. And I won’t lie, emulating their success would be nice as well. Other authors that I still read, although I haven’t read recently include: Kenneth Oppel and of course, Diane Duane, whose original “wizardly kids/teenagers” books never enjoyed the amazing world wide phenomenon that another “wizarding” series did years later.

I write, not be successful (although, I won’t lie, that is an important sub-goal). Mainly, I write because I can’t find anything to read, or rather, I can’t find anything worthy of reading anymore because everyone else’s definition of “what’s good” has changed.

So now I write to (ultimately) so that I have something good to read 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 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

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

Reworking My Writing

Chart of the Writing Process: Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Evaluating, Publishing.
Image Source: https://www.dailyinfographic.com/the-writing-process-infographic

If you take a gander at the “What I’m working On” section at the bottom of this post (and all of the following posts after this one, you’ll see a slight change. Previously, I had been doing a poor job of trying to list the many different projects that I was working on to give you an idea of where I was in my (many, perhaps too many) writing projects. However, due to the sporadic nature of me getting to work on my writing, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the upkeep on keeping my writing projects current.

Brandon Sanderson Effect

I really liked the way Brandon Sanderson does his “updated projects.” Now, Brandon is one of my current favorite writers. I really like how he provides a “status bar” for his projects that “gamify” his progress on his projects. I’m not nearly that savvy in terms of graphics, so I don’t know how to gamify my writing in the same way. I tried to do it in the same way as Brandon’s site (just without the graphics), but its just not working. So I’m going to change the way I’m listing them at the bottom.

The Mythic Magazine Effect

Mythic Magazine, a market that I’ve submitted to frequently in the past two years (but haven’t yet had a sale to them yet). However, they have a submissions period of twice a year. So, what I’ve decided to do is to list the projects that I’m working on for that market and how close I’m to finishing it (especially in terms of deadline). I really only have enough time to work on two projects at a time (a shorter one and a longer one). The longer one will be listed as well, but it will be the one that I’ve been working on for a while. That one I’ll update quarterly, while the other two will be updated monthly (my preferred working time-frame).

I’ll also keep readers of the blog up-to-date on projects that have been accepted and where they are in the production process. I currently have one project, HawkeMoon, that I can sort of update everyone on so far.

Anyway, its getting late, so I’ll wrap it up now. Check out the new listing down below. I hope you like it!

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Dr. Eric Perry

Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Diana Marin

Creative Writer, Social Media Enthusiast, Art Critic, and Essayist

Luna

Pen to paper.

Ámaris Wen

The official website of Ámaris Wen

Brielle R Campos

With Great Power Comes Great Rhetoric

Ashley O'Melia, Author

A garden of wild thoughts in straight little rows

LAUREGALIE

BOOK REVIEWS

Pauls Pages Too

Extra Content from PaulsPages.com

DragOn Writing

Sci-Fi and Fantasy writer, dreamer and Netflix junkie

The Godly Chic Diaries

BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

Learning to write

Just your average PhD student using the internet to enhance their CV

Memoir of a Writer

perfecting language on paper

the !n(tro)verted yogi

nomadic, poetic, and sometimes ascetic

unbolt me

the literary asylum

The Nerdy Lion

Lions can wear glasses too

Elan Mudrow

Smidgens

The Solivagant Writer

The world is my playground; the pen, my friend

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

James Harrington's Blog of Geek and Writing

All Things Writing and Geek, in one neat little blog!