Back to the Future (No, Not the Movie, My Writing Projects)

Future

Writing the Future: All For Nothing.  Image Source: YouTube

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2357 (+634 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I’m back to writing again–I’m working primarily on Project Independence now that I have a complete idea of the story in my head.  I shattered my 250 word writing goal for today, but in doing so, didn’t have a whole lot of time left to craft this blog entry before my Writing Center shift begins.  

So, I’m Back to Writing

This one is a shorter blog as I have to be in the Writing Center in about 45 minutes.  Basically, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m back to writing, specifically Project Independence.  While yesterday’s blog was a way to help me discover what time is optimal for me as a writer, today’s blog is to emphasize that sometimes you have to write at sub-optimal times.  Yesterday, I tried to write in the afternoon, but I ran out of time because I was reading outside and I didn’t have access to a wifi-enabled computer.  I would have had to go back inside into the air-conditioning which I had been in all morning and lunchtime, so I just enjoyed the sunlight outside reading.  Today, I just got up early and wrote before my shift in the Writing Center begins.

Writing Future Slang

So, one of the things that I’m really interested in is communication between the various characters.  While I want to tell a very cool and interesting story, I also want to emphasize how communication can help (or hinder) the characters in the story.  Today, for instance, I tried my hand at creating slang for a different planet.  I’m not sure how effective it is at this stage of the draft, but I really like the challenge of taking today’s slang and trying to extrapolate how it might work in the future.

Sorry this blog is so short–consider this a maxi-update for Project Independence.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to craft a longer blog entry tomorrow.  Right now, I’m just excited that I’m actually back to writing the story.

Have a great day!

Sidney




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Changing Paradigms

good afternoon

Good Afternoon written on a notebook beside a laptop.  Image Source: Depositphotos

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, again, no new writing done (boo!).  Read on to find out why.

Adjusting to a New Schedule

So, astute readers will notice that the Word Count section of the blog that I recently added has not changed in a couple of days.  There’s are reason for that–while Summer “Classes” have not officially started, my summer “responsibilities” for my Financial Aid started on Monday, the 21st.  I’m now working in the University Writing Center as a Writing Consultant over the summer.  This means my writing time has been severely restricted in terms of time to write.

Optimal Writing Time

Dr. Renfroe, in the very first class I took from her here at MTSU, encouraged us  (grad students) to experiment with writing times to find what worked for us so as to write consistently and regularly.  She advised us that, as students who would be writing theses and dissertations, this was the best and most consistent way to be able to craft these longer works with as little frustration as possible.  Later on, after reading Jesmyn Ward’s Interview on NPR (Persist.  Read, Write, and Improve), I realized that I really needed to produce 250 words a day and to find the time when I was at my best in terms of a writing time.

Early to Mid Afternoon

So, in this past year and half, I’ve discovered that I’m best as a writer during the early to mid-afternoon period.  Some time after lunch, but sometime before, say five o’clock.  Early morning writing (except for maybe the blog) doesn’t really work (for me) as I’m not usually awake enough to consistently put words on the page, even though I’m a fairly early riser.  Late night doesn’t work because my body and mind usually go into “shut down” mode and any energy/excitement for the piece is overcome by mental exhaustion from the day.  No, my preferred writing time is early to mid-afternoon.  My brain is awake and alert, but not tired and mentally exhausted.

This week, I’ll have a couple of hours in that optimal time, but next week, I’ll only have one hour.  Now that I know this, I’m going to have learn to be a little quicker in adapting myself to the changing paradigms that I find myself in to protect as much of that precious “golden time” in the early/mid-afternoons as possible based on the circumstances.

It is true: knowledge is power.  Have a good day!

Sidney




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Enjoy the Ride

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, I didn’t get any “mainline” writing done, but I did brainstorm a project and this brainstorming session, while unintentional, was very productive.  I’ve chosen which of the two projects that I will be working on to finish out the month.  To find out which one, read on:

Driving While Dreaming

So, as some of you may know that I have a fairly long commute from my house to school/class.  I usually listen to podcasts and (more rarely) play music.  The reception isn’t good enough to listen to anyone radio station the entire time, so these are my only two realistic options.  However, today, I found myself not really wanting to listen to a podcast after the first one finished playing and all of the stations had nothing but static and I didn’t want to hook up my bluetooth aftermarket connection for my phone to play music, so I just drove.  And what a drive it was.

Project Independent Comes into Focus

So as I was driving, there were long stretches with few cars and lots of quiet and my mind began to wander a bit, I must confess.  I kept my eyes on the road and had full road awareness, but I began to wonder what would happen next in the conversation I was in the middle of for Project Independence and boom, my mind was off to the races.  It was very much like reliving watching an enjoyable movie as scene after scene played out in my mind.  I knew what the main characters were going to do, what they were going to say, who would live and who would (possibly) die.  I had the setting, complications, and reversals all planned out.  This took place from about the base of Monteagle mountain, through the truck rest area and inspection station, and ended about at Manchester, TN (about a 20-25 minute Speed Limit drive).

Recapturing the Glory

When I finally got to school, I took a moment to jot down (in outline form) the key scenes and their importance from my brainstorming daydream.  I’m now super excited to write about it because I want to recapture that feeling and those emotions that i felt while brainstorming the story in my mind.  So, if you haven’t guessed already, Project Space Trucker (which should have a title that I really like now) is the one short story project that I’m working on for the rest of May (& a bit into June if I need to.  I will push Project Skye (which I’ve made good progress on) back to June.  I will work on the Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel on weekends (I owe my artist an email soon).

It was really amazing the way the subconscious took over and helped to fashion out a story that I’m itching to tell.  The moral of this story = if you’re stuck, go out for a drive (or a walk, or whatever), but just do something else for a while.  You’re subconscious is probably already working on a solution.

Talk to you later!

Sidney




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Submitting Drafts Too Soon?

Terry Pratchett_First Draft_Pinterest

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett (Freedom With Writing).  Image Source: Pinterest

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357 (+244)
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12 

I came within 6 words of my Daily 250 word count, so I feel like this was a successful writing day.  I would have liked to have gotten to 250 words, but the place where I stopped seemed like a natural “break” in the flow of the story.

Am I Submitting Drafts too Soon?

So, working on Project Skye has been an eye-opening experience.  I’ve discovered some interesting things about my drafting process as a fiction writer.  One of the things I’ve discovered is that I need to “Tell, Don’t Show” first.  I need to tell myself the story first before I try to show it to the audience.  The second thing is that I may be submitting drafts one or maybe even two/three versions too early, and this may have to do with the terminology that I use when describing where I am in the writing process.

“Working” Draft

So, after I outline and write a Rough Draft (sometimes these are separate, sometimes not–although, lately, I’ve taken to outlining using the “Story Map” handout that I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog post, and then write the Rough Draft in the Notes App on my phone) which looks a lot like a “Treatment” for a Hollywood script.  I let that sit for a week or more and then start on the next draft, the “Working” Draft.

To me, “Working” implies that it is a “Work-in-Progress” Draft of the story.  It is, as close as I can make it, the story that I see in my mind.  After the “Working” draft is finished, I compare it to the outline and the vision that I have in my head.  If I’m satisfied with it, I’ll edit it and begin submitting.  If I’m not, it will go through another “pass” to see if I can improve on it.

“Intermediate” Draft

This process did not work with Project Skye.  What I’ve done is created “Intermediate” drafts along the way with each successive draft getting closer and closer to the story/vision in my head.  Unlike, 99% of my stories so far, I’m only on the first major scene, and already I think I’m going to need at least one more major pass at it to get it right.  I’m doing a lot of world-building and characterization in this draft, but other techniques like building excitement by starting the story In Media Res (“in the middle of things”) and cutting of extraneous details that need, but that the audience doesn’t won’t be addressed in this draft (although I have ideas on how I might accomplish these things in the next draft).

However, normally when I finished the draft that I’m on right now for Project Skye, it would go out to various markets, so I’m wondering, if I haven’t been simply submitting my stories too early in the process by not thinking of these drafts as “intermediary” steps to getting to a more “dramatic” story that does what all good writing should do: “show, don’t tell.

Food for thought for me on this Wednesday afternoon.  Happy writing and reading!

Sidney




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Nitpicking the Future

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 (+599)
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 

I’ve got a nit to pick with Star Trek Enterprise

So, I’ve been rematching Star Trek Enterprise in these lazy two weeks before I have to start school related stuff again, and I noticed something.  In one of the episodes, there is an unexplained plot hole that (while not major), if one picks at it, it actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and undermines the story–and yet, this episode appeared on network TV, the collaborators (those who wrote the “story” and those who wrote the “teleplay”) were all presumably compensated for their work, and the episode continues to an important exploration into Captain Archer’s character (& Ensign Mayweather’s as well) despite the flaw.  In essence, no one “nitpicked” this episode to death and rejected it even though it does inspire disbelief.

We’ve Been “Detained”

(Spoilers Ahead–if you don’t want to know the outcome of the episode, please skip down to the next section).  The episode in question is “Detained” and it Captain Archer and Ensign Mayweather are captured and held in a detention center that also houses eighty-nine Suliban (a group of aliens who are predominately shown as antagonists for the series).  These Suliban are normal people who have been rounded up because a group of extremists within their race have attack other races.  Their only crime was being part of the same race as those in the “Cabal” (the terrorist organization).  Modern day parallels notwithstanding, it is made mention that the Sultan man (Danik) and his daughter have a wife in another internment camp (who was denied the right to join her family in the episode, so that we could see how unfair all this is to these peaceful Suliban).  It is made mention that there are thousands of these peaceful Suliban in internment camps all over the planet.  Archer and Mayweather along with the crew of the Enterprise manage to free these eighty-nine Suliban, but what about all the other Suliban in the internment camps?

So, you’re going to tell me that Danik is going to just abandon his wife?  You’re going to tell me that those other Suliban aren’t going to face reprisals for the escape of the eighty-nine, you’re going to tell me that the Enterprise just flies off and doesn’t try to help the other Suliban in the other internment camps (which is what is strongly implied), you’re going to tell me that none of these eighty-nine individuals are going to become bitter and not, at least consider, joining the Cabal for retribution on their captors/freeing the others in other internment camps (which is also strongly hinted at by Archer’s final line of dialogue)?

Picking nits

I could go on.  The point I’m trying to make is that every story, no matter how well written, will have some sort of flaw to it, if you look at it hard enough.  The point the writers were trying to make is that internment camps are bad.  They bring out the worst in humanity and that we need to oppose them wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads and that we need to look at our prejudices and preconceived notions that allow internment camps to exist in the first place–why condemn a group for the actions of a few, the episode ultimately asks?  This is an important question–and lesson–that could have been lost if the producer (or in my case, editor) just sat around nitpicking the stories that were generated, looking for reason not to publish them, rather than seeing the best qualities of the story and looking for reasons why it should be published. Now some editors might say, “nice in theory, but I’ve got a magazine/journal/fiction website to run,” my reply would be simple: “if it worked for Star Trek . . . .

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




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Writing a Story: Three Things Every Great Story Has

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 485
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 (+635 words)

So, this morning a watched a YouTube video (well, I actually watched several as I woke up earlier than normal–I went to be on time last night and now I feel refreshed, imagine that) that was on the channel Film Courage.  While there are quite a few useful videos on the channel, this one caught my eye and I watched it.  It was called Writing a Story: Three Things Every Great Story Has.  I’m linking it below if you want to watch it for yourself, but I wanted to quickly touch on each of the three points in terms of my own writing.

 

A Great Hook

This is where I feel that I’m the strongest.  All my stories, written and unwritten, have a great “hook” (in my mind at least).  As a matter of fact, I think this is probably my strength as a writer (now, this is from an internal assessment–to know if this is true, I’d need people to read my writing and corroborate this) as I love coming up with ideas and new projects.  I’m still working on my follow through–I could make it a full-time job of just coming up with new speculative ideas, if there was a living to be made from it, but alas, there isn’t.  I have manilla folder after manilla folder of projects that I’d like to develop into short stories, graphic novels, screenplays, and novels (well over a hundred) and at least 5 or 6 notebooks filled front to back with ideas for even more projects, so this part (again, in my mind, not sure if it is true in reality) is something that I consider a strength.

Strong Characters

If having a good hook is my strongest area, then I think creating strong characters would be my weakest area.  I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that the reason for this, I believe, is that I’m a fairly reserved person.  I don’t tend to joke around or be the social butterfly who is the life of the party.  I’m an introvert through and through.  Give me a choice between a loud raucous party and a nice quiet tree with shade and a good book and I’ll take reading under the shady tree every time.  However, I’m learning to try to expand my characters.  Just because I’m reserved doesn’t mean my characters have to be.  I’m trying to expand my characters–Project Skye and Project Independence both feature (what I think are two no-nonsense female protagonists, although again, that’s my perception writing them), while Project Paradise features two characters who are polar opposites.  I’m really working on trying to upgrade my characters and make them more emotive than they have been in previous stories.

Twists and Turns with a Surprise Ending

So this is one area that I’m not sure about–I thought I was doing well with this, but two editors that I submit to regularly, keep giving me contradictory feedback.  Well, the feedback isn’t contradictory–it’s always negative.  They keep finding “flaws” in the story.  Why did X person do this?  Why did Y thing work this way?  Etcetera.  Yet, it is always “nitpicky” things, you know, small things that could be fixed in editing/getting the story ready for “print” if you were going to publish it.  For instance, here is a partial critique from a rejection “letter” for “Silence Will Fall“:

The story is well written and the alien conquerers of Earth are well conceived, and the necessary silence ads texture. However the alien weakness seems like something that should have been found and exploited when humanity still had all its resources. After such a long time it will be a long battle to get all the aliens to die at an electricity generating plant. It also defies belief that the hydro plant would get back into to operation so easily. When Eckhart talked (signed) to Victor, how did Victor see what he was saying if he had to half-turn after to look at him after? Sorry it didn’t quite work for me.

So, here I can’t tell what’s wrong with the story (at least, what’s wrong enough to keep it from going to print).  These, to me, look like “nitpicking” rather than substantive story problems (in terms of “twists and turns”).  The only one that seems substantive is the one that I bolded–“It also defies belief that the hydro plant . . .” as I had a longer, more fleshed out version of him getting the plant back online in an earlier draft, but condensed it for pacing (the one in the earlier draft was longer, slower, and other rejections noted it as a problem, so I changed it for the revision).  The word also implies that the editor didn’t believe humanity wouldn’t have been able to stop the alien threat before it got so far out of hand.  Yet, that’s exactly what happens in pretty much all of the “zombie apocalypse” stories out there right now (and quite a few “alien invasion” stories)–humanity is overwhelmed in the first few days, hours, weeks, and it is the survivors who have to deal with the threat (Independence DayThe Last of Us, and The Division are all media that I’ve watched or played that has this same set-up, not to mention the perennial powerhouse in the “room,” The Walking Dead), so is it me not understanding/doing something that these writers are understanding/doing or is it the editors just not wanting to publish the story and are nitpicking flaws to justify their decision?  This is why I’m unsure if my twists and turns are a strength or weakness because there are examples (published) that I can point to that have similar set-ups/constructions, but I’m told via editorial feedback that my twists and turns have unpublishable flaws, I’m at a loss at who to believe.

Anyway, I found this YouTube video extremely helpful in helping me to think about my writing in terms of strengths and weaknesses and will continue to try to refine my strengths and raise the level of my weaknesses until they are strengths as well.

Have a good day! 🙂

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Writing Inside vs Outside

Summertime and the Living is Easy

So, over the week I’ve started to think not just about my writing projects, but also about the most effect and efficient way of writing.  Its more about experimentation than anything else at this point, but I’ve had a chance to do both over the week while waiting on my car (which, by the way, I got back and it seems to work now *crosses fingers*).  So this post is to just discuss some of the things that I’ve noticed and some of the preferences that I (as a unique individual seem to like).

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Sky Word Count: 485
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1088

Inside Writing

So,  I had the opportunity on Sunday night to do some writing.  I rearranged my writing “set-up,” put on some music, and wrote for approximately two hours, just bopping away to the music.  It was really invigorating.  I set up the area so that I could look out the window.  Even though I was super productive, a part of me still wanted to be outside, in the fairly warm air before it got really dark/chilly, but I didn’t and stayed indoors and just wrote until bedtime.  However, I promised myself that I would try to write outside some time this week like I used to do.

Outside Writing

Yesterday, I got a chance to try my hand at writing outside and it was as glorious as I remember.  My laptop is both old and underpowered (now), but when I originally bought it, I envisioned using it to take out on the deck and writing in the early evenings.  The problem is, I don’t really live in a neighborhood that is conducive to “showing off” a large, bulky, Apple (i.e., expensive) laptop while on my deck at night, no matter how “noble” my intentions.  Also, because my laptop is one of the 15 inch Macbook Pros, it isn’t exactly “portable” either, so I’ve not really used it in the manner that I’d envisioned. However, yesterday, when I went out, I found a place outdoors with outside outlets, but they didn’t work as the computer didn’t charge and I had only about 30 mins of battery time.

Even though it was only 30 mins., I was still able to get 113 words done on Project Paradise in that short time.  And it felt good to be outside, writing in warmth of the sun with a slight breeze blowing on me.

Even though I’m now back to being a poor student, I’m going to try to squirrel away money this summer for a Chromebook.  I had one when I was a 6th grade language arts teacher.  While I much prefer Apple’s Macbook Pros, I can’t deny the portability and long battery life of them, which would be perfect for outdoor writing.  I could just throw it in my bag and go, and write anywhere.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.