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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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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Drafting up a Skye (Project Skye)

So in the last blog post, I talked about planning a story for January.  In this blog post, I’m going to talk about drafting (aka writing) a story.  The story that I’m writing for January 2018 is Project Skye (the short story).

Short Story as Character Sketch
I’m writing this story as a way to examine Skye’s character.  I was tasked to come up with a character sketch for Skye by the MTSU Writing Center as I struggled to try to create a novel this past semester.  I struggled to do the character sketch because all my choices seemed arbitrary.  So, I decided to write a story which puts Skye into jeopardy to see how she would react–to reveal her character through action.

Not as Easy as it Sounds
This sounds easy–I wrote a brief one sentence outline of everything that I wanted in the story.  I wrote a beginning, middle, and end for the story.  I wrote a 1 sentence brief outline of the scenes (3 scenes) in the beginning, middle, and end.  I’m about halfway done, but I’m having problems working on it because 1) I now realize the setting actually needs to be changed (this is happening in their aircraft when it should be in “hovercars,” 2) this was to be a “prologue” event to show how they know each other (there needs to be a different prologue event and this needs to happen later in the novel’s timeline), and 3) The first section is waaaayyyy longer than I’d intended it to be (by about double–I feel like I need that length, but it is making the rest of the story unbalanced by comparison).  Basically, I can see all the flaws that I want to go back and fix (i.e., start over).  I’m going to try to trudge to the end, but when I’m not happy with the results of my writing, it is very difficult to finish.

Knowing When its “Right”
When HawkeMoon was “finished,” I knew that it was “right.”  The same is true with Silence Will Fall (although I knew at the time that I’d written away from the ending I had in mind–so that’s why I had to rewrite the ending last year–to bring it more in line with the original ending that I’d dreamed about with that story).  However, I’m not even finished with Project Skye and I know it isn’t right.  I’m going to need at least one more draft to get it where I think it needs to be.  That is the hardest part of drafting for me–having to keep going even when I know that the draft is lacking because I want to fix it immediately.  I think, because I just dove into the project, without doing what I normally do (i.e., writing a draft that is just for me–my own personal “telling” myself the story, I don’t think that I have the action as firmly in place as I should).

Lesson Learned
As I go throughout this year, planning stories, the end goal needs to be: sometime during the last week of the month I need to write out a Rough Draft in which I “Tell, Don’t Show.”  This draft is For My Eyes Only and will aid me when the time comes to turn my story into a draft for the audience where I then “Show, Don’t Tell.”  If I don’t do a “Rough Draft,” then I’m going to have to spend even more time “fixing it” with another draft later on down the line.

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

“Don’t Be a ‘Writer.’ Be Writing”

This quote from William Faulkner is as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I will allow myself for this year.  I’ve tried too hard to be a “writer.”  I need to just write.  I need to plan what I want to write (for me that generally means character sketches and plot outlines, along with world building) and I need to revise what I write (getting it in good enough shape to submit and making adjustments as necessary).  But most importantly I need to just write (to draft project after project regardless of whether I’m selling the projects or not).

Planning to Write
I’m working on planning at least one project to write every month.  If I finish planning a project early, then I will pull out another project and plan it, but every month I plan to have at least one project done (so I should have 12 new projects ready by the end of 2018).  This is both attainable (hopefully given school work) and measurable (I report back at the end of the year to see how closely I matched this goal).  I created a Planning Checklist in Numbers (Apple’s answer to Excel) to track the days that I can actually work on planning and on the days I do, I simply place a checkmark beside it to give visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness, I only got to work on planning 2 days last week.

Writing
This is where the rubber meets the road.  This where I actually sit down and draft out a story, trying to adhere to all the story conventions (Character, plot, dialogue, setting, beginning, middle, end, exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, etc.).  I intend to create a checklist for this process as well to help give me visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness last week, I didn’t get any drafting done last week, although I did draft 5 days consecutively the week before Christmas.  The same thing applies: every month I’m drafting 1 project, so that at the end of the year I should have at least 12 projects written.  I want to be a little “harder” on myself on this step as it is doable.  Just pull the internet connection on the laptop and write until the battery drains (which in the case of my late 2008 Macbook Pro is only about 45-50 minutes), so this is where Faulkner’s quote comes in: don’t be a ‘writer’ Be writing.  This is where I really want to show growth/improvement in the coming year–(again, based on schoolwork).

Revision
While I understand the market isn’t perfect and I’m not the flavor of the month, I still want to publish my work.  To that end, like the other two steps, I want to try to revise at least 1 project every month and put it out on the market.  I plan to follow the same “mold” as the other two steps in creating a checklist to help give me visual feedback on the days I worked on the project.  I worked 1 day on HawkeMoon last week due to the illness.  I want to submit it to an anthology that has a deadline of Feb. 1st, 2018.  I intend to enlist aid from either another grad. student or the Writing Center to help get the story where I want it for this market.  I intend to write an Author’s Note for it as well as to write a more in-depth Revision Note section on what I want to revise and why and try to solicit feedback on how to achieve this goal.  As I type these words, I just got an email from a market that Silence Will Fall made it to the second stage (the “maybes” pile) at a market–so there’s hope still that some markets do, in fact, like what I write.

Well, that’s all for now–while I might not touch on this monthly (although I might give periodic updates, I’m not sure yet), I will try to revisit this in an end-of-year post to see how well I’ve done.  All of this is dependent on school/classwork which is the great unknown in this endeavor, but hopefully I can find 45 minutes somewhere in my day to not be a writer, but to be writing.

Sidney



The Writing Life: An Update

snoopy-writing-life_Reallydeepstuff

Image Source: Really Deep Stuff

Before I start this blog entry, I’d like to say thanks to the bloggers who read (& liked) yesterday’s post).  It was really gratifying see that people really responded to it so much!

And now, on with today’s blog.  So, after last semester, I managed to have four stories out to markets that I was proud of and didn’t think needed major work (in terms of revision).    In other words, I had them in a state where I thought they were strong stories and marketable to markets that deal in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I’ve got some news on them, so I thought I update you how where they stand currently.

hawkemoon_haikudeck

Image Source: Haiku Deck

HAWKEMOON: Just heard from this market today.  It is currently on the “maybe” list.  If it holds up well against the other stories that come in during the reading period, then it has a chance to be published.  This is actually very good news.  It’s sort of like going to a job with two Interview components and passing the first Interview.  If HawkeMoon passes the second “interview,” then it gets the” job” (to extend the metaphor).  It is also a lesson in persistence; this is the 10th story that I’ve submitted to them (they’ve actually seen my entire catalog except for Silence Will Fall & Citizen X), but this is the first time that I’ve gotten onto the “maybe” list!  Wahoo for small victories!  (I won’t name the market until they actually accept the piece, but fingers crossed that the “maybe” turns into a “yes!”)

silencewillfall_seriabledotcom

Image Source: Seriable.com

SILENCE WILL FALL: On this one, I actually wanted to revise it and did so last semester with the help of the MTSU Writing Center (where I also worked as a Consultant, in addition to teaching a Freshman English Class).  I knew that I wanted the ending to more closely match the ending of the dream that had originally inspired to the story, so I rewrote it and made sure (via the Writing Center) that it made sense and have started to submit it again.  It received a rejection letter (again just this morning), but I’m happy with the way the story ends, so I will continue to send it out until I find a market that likes it (see above about persistence).   Will be sending it to a new market this weekend.

i,magi_pinterest

Image Source: Pinterest

I, MAGI: So this one went out to the market in January and I still haven’t heard about its fate.  According to Duotrope, it has been out for about 150 days.  The market is still replying to submissions, but I’m probably going to have to request an update for the story over the weekend.  Now, I’m patient (I’ve waited over 9 months for a response for one market before), but they do say to query if they’ve taken over 45 days to respond and  I would like to send I, Magi back out if they aren’t going to use it.  If they don’t respond, I’ll probably give them another 30 days and then move onto the next market.

conquistadors_pinterest

Image Source: Pinterest

HERE BE MONSTERS: The market for this one unexpectedly went on hiatus this week with my story still under consideration.  I’m usually pretty good about sensing a market’s imminent change in status (this is actually only the 2nd time this has happened to me in over a 132 total submissions tracked by Duotrope).  However, this one caught me off-guard.  There was nothing to indicate there was anything out of the ordinary happening, until I checked the listing on Duotrope and saw that the website was no longer functioning.  Alarm bells began ringing at that point and I hoped that it was just a temporary hiccup, but no, it looks like the market just didn’t have the resources to continue.  So, I’ll pick a new market and resubmit this story over the weekend.

So there you have it–a (mostly) complete update on the status of the four stories that I currently have out at the moment.  Lesson to take away = persistence, persistence, and more persistence.

Summer Inspiration & Writing Projects

Typewriterinthefield_Pinterest

Now that E3 is over, I find myself turning my attention back to my creative writing.  I found that I’ve been very inspired to create new projects over the last few weeks and I’ve been brainstorming several.  On Friday afternoon, I actually just took a moment and sat at the kitchen table and wrote the “rough draft” of a new short-story (fantasy) that I want to write.  I wrote it from the outline I’d written earlier in the year and the drafting process was super easy as well as very rewarding creatively.

Now comes the much more difficult part, drafting a “Working Draft,” which is my terminology for the draft that “shows, don’t tell.”  The Working Draft forms the basis of the story that people will be reading.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to write it, but the as many creative people will tell, the true joy is in the initial creation of the work.  The rough draft was pure creativity, but the Working Draft is about evolution and refinement.  Often, the success of the project hinges on how well I can translate the passion of the rough draft into the refinement of the Working Draft.  This is where characterization, sensory details, imagery, dialogue, setting, etc., all get “set” into place.

ProjectOPaK_renaissanceclothingcostumes

Image Source: RenaissanceClothingCostumes.com

Project OPaK

So this is my new naming convention for stories that I’m working on.  In most cases, I already know what the title is.  Project OPaK is just the first letters of the title.  I’ve divided the story into three parts (Beginning, Middle, and End) and I will update you when I’ve finished each of the main parts, with a beginning update letting you know when I’ve actually started writing the project.  At the end, when I’ve finished Project OPaK, I will continue to do an Author’s Note and give a detailed breakdown of the genesis of the work (how it came into being, what my writing process was for it, etc.).  If it gets published in a hardcopy form, I will also try to remember to take pictures of the work and post those pics on the blog (like I did for The Last GunKnight, but forgot to do for other projects). The above picture, while not representative of the actual characters in the story, gives a good idea of the time period and themes that I’m aiming for within Project OPaK.

Here’s to a successful writing project–and a successful summer of developing many more!

 

 

Acceptances: WarLight and Childe Roland

acceptance

Source: adoubleshotofrecovery.com (via Google Images)

This week has had its ups and downs for me.  While “real” life has been very difficult in terms of my school work/teaching workload, my “writing” life has been very productive.  Two of my stories were accepted for publication!  I am ecstatic and it makes me thankful of all of the encouragement that I received from my blog post on rejections (about a month ago).  Coming up with a system of submitting to a reasonable number of markets also helped as I wasn’t so stressed out about submission process now that I have a reasonable submission goal.  The two stories that were accepted were WarLight and Childe Roland, both of which I’ve talked about previously here on the blog and both have Author’s Notes available here on the blog if you’re interested in the genesis/development of the stories.

WARLIGHT

WarLight was selected for publication by Carrol Fix as part of her Visions anthology series.  It should appear in Visions VI: Galaxies.  Regular readers of the blog will remember that Carrol also printed my story, Ship of Shadows in Visions IV: Space Between Stars in April of this year.  I really appreciate Carrol’s publication of the story and I am hopeful that I can contribute to more of her anthologies.  Visions VI: Galaxies can currently be pre-ordered from the publisher’s website, Lillicat Publishers, but the book should also be available via Amazon/Kindle (as all of the previous entries in the series have been as well).

CHILDE ROLAND

Childe Roland was selected for the November issue of Electric Spec online speculative fiction magazine (electricspec.com).  It should be available at the end of November and I will update the blog with a blog entry once the story is up and available.  Best of all, for readers, the issue is FREE!  You won’t have to subscribe or anything like that once the story is available.  They DO accept donations, so if you have some extra money, you might consider throwing some their way, but that is entirely optional.  They do PAY their writers (YAY! You go Electricspec editors!), and as a teacher who is now a poor graduate student, any amount of money that I make from my writing, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated, so please consider donating if you can afford it at all.

DR STRANGE

I also saw Dr. Strange this weekend and I really enjoyed it.  In the interest of time, I’m going to save the Mini-Review of it until next week, but if you like magic, cool special effects, and martial arts, then this movie will be right up your alley.  I should note that it is a lot like what I was trying for with I, Magi, (especially the integration of Magic with Martial Arts), but my story and it have strong enough conceptual differences that (hopefully) will keep my story from looking like an “also-ran” of Dr. Strange now that the movie has been released.

More to come next week!  ‘Till then, have a great one!