Writing Log: May 15, 2020

A hand holding a pen and writing in blue ink in a journal.
Image Source: https://www.grandforksherald.com/lifestyle/2199089-share-your-story-logging-exercise-food-and-life-journals

So, I’m still in the process of figuring out what I want for these “logs” in terms of content. Ideally, I’d like them to appear about 1 every four weeks (about a month apart) to give you (and myself) a monthly look at what I’ve been able to accomplish in terms of the major areas in my life that I feel are important: Reading, Writing, and Video Games. However, as you can see, I’m missing a fourth category. I could do media such as TV/Movies, but I already discuss them at length with mini-reviews and rewatch posts. I guess the point is that, for the time-being, these will probably be every three weeks until I can find a strong “fourth” category that would make a good “log” topic in order to appear on Fridays. And now without further ado, on to the writing:

Creative: “Project Arizona”

This is the project that I’ve been working on so far this month. I’ve finished the rough draft of the story. I’m working on the first draft now. I’ve decided to try to work in “stages” with this story. Basically, I’m trying to build my story from ideas into execution into a “story” in stages (drafts). We’ll see how well it works. So far, I’ve liked the fact that the story seems to be coming together fairly well. I’m consistently writing it out in long hand in my “notebook.” I’ve been less successful in transferring what I’ve written into my notebook on to the computer where the “magic” happens. I think I’m trying to “dramatize” what I’m writing too soon, and that I’m trying to put in character moments when I should be focused (in this draft) of just establishing and interesting and believable plot that makes sense and doesn’t have any “huh?” moments for the reader.

Creative: The Independent

I’ve been working on editing this story. I’ve managed, with the help of the MTSU Writing Center to edit the story. Max, the husband of my mentor professor, is also a short-story writer and has worked at the Writing Center this semester. We’ve gone through about two-thirds of the story. One of the things that I’ve realized by doing this is that I’m rushing through the editing process. Like writing, good editing takes time, so I’m slowing down and trying to spend a month on editing, just as I would on writing. Another thing that I’ve learned is that I’m getting stronger at characterization, but at the expense of world-building. The plot is there, the characters are (getting) there, but the world is suffering because I’m putting a lot of my focus on what’s happening and the character–and that’s something that I’m going to want to address going forward.

Academic: Prospectus “Outline”

One of the things that I was supposed to produce this semester was the prospectus that I would “defend.” Basically, the prospectus is a tentative outline of what you propose to write your dissertation about. It used to be very informal, and as long as your director signed off on it, you could begin writing your dissertation. However, a couple of semester ago, they put in a new rule at my school that the dissertation committee had to sign off on it and that you had to “defend” it in public (like a dissertation). So, in essence, the prospectus has become a “mock” dissertation — same basic accouterments (full committee, defense of it, etc.) of a dissertation, but not nearly as long or detailed.

Well, Covid-19 put this on hold, so my director suggested working on the prospectus in the summer and defending it in early Fall. So, I slowed down on trying to get one written. However, over the past few weeks I was able to get an outline down that I really liked. My mentor this semester, Dr. Meyers, helped me integrate the idea of “empathy” into the outline as well, and this is what I’m currently working towards now. I have a written a (very) crappy introduction that I intend to redo.. I think I’m going to start working first on the video game section as the two major video game projects this week discussed ways in which they were bringing in filmic techniques to gaming, which is a central thesis as to why I’m discussing them in relation to Afrofuturism.

Writing Time: Waking Up to Write

As I mentioned above, I’ve found great success over the past three weeks with writing consistently. I tend to wake up early, but my body doesn’t actually want to get up (not a coffee drinker–so even though I’m awake, I’m not really awake, if that makes sense–so now, I’ve taken to grabbing the notebook and either drafting the next section of the story or jotting down dreams/story “seeds”/character ideas that I’ve thought of over night. This has helped me really me move along on “Project Arizona.” I’ve been less successful, as I’ve noted, actually getting what’s in the notebook translated to the computer. The ideas just seem to flow easier and better writing in the notebook than on the computer. However, I really need to do this daily. I caught an interview with Stephen King on NPR and he writes for four (4) hours daily. In essence, King has made writing his “part-time” job (20 hours a week in America is considered part-time while 40 hours is considered a full time job). And I have to say, as much as I might fault some of his works individually, he is still one of the most consistent and successful authors out there (mainly because he puts in the work). Outside of these blog posts, I struggle with putting in more than an hour (1) daily at the keyboard daily. So while I’m finding a fair amount of success writing daily in my notebook, I still need to work on finding “keyboard” time as well (as NO ONE is going to pay for handwritten copy, no matter how good it is).

Well, that’s all I have time for today–hopefully, I will find that 4th category so that I can give you a proper update in about a month or so. Next week should be the return of the Reading Log, so until next moth, Happy Writing!

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 (Idea phase)
    Next: First Draft (Plot phase)

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

Blogging My Way to a Novel

A book cover showing a writer using a pen in a notebook/journal.  The book's title is How Blogging can help you Write Your Novel.
Image Search: https://www.eadeverell.com/blogging-can-help-write-novel/

One of the things that I noticed when I was looking over the stats for my blog posts is the amount of words that I’ve been averaging. I’m actually down overall in terms of words from the past couple of years because I’m not publishing posts as regularly even though the actual word count for the posts has gone way up.

However, when I looked at the word count for the year, I was astounded. Taking the overall yearly word count just for the blog into account, I’ve written enough words to have written a novel every year since 2016!

Yup, you read that right–just doing what I’ve been doing for the blog would have been enough for a novel for the past four years!

60,000 Words (2016)

So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens in November has a goal of 50,000 words. In theory, while there is no set amount of words for a novel, 60,000 words has generally become the accepted length in practice–although some would argue that NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 word length could also be considered novel length.

Looking at the blog’s stats–I reached 60,000 words (and change) in 2016. I was fairly committed to blogging–but I didn’t do it every day. If you were to use the calendar function on an old 2016 post, you would see that there were long gaps in posting, although I did post routinely at 5-6 days out of the month (yes, I think there may be some 3-4 days in their, but I generally average 5-6, maybe more). As you can see, while not consistent, I at least wrote something on monthly basis, even if it wasn’t a lot (or daily).

Had I done the exact same with my creative writing as I did with my blog posts, I would have had enough for a (depending on the font choice) 200 – 225 page manuscript and would have completed my first novel.

117,000 Words (2018)

My high water mark (so far) for the blog came in 2018, where somewhere around April/May, I hit my stride and blogged pretty much consistently for rest of the year. I blogged much like I’m trying to get back to now and what works best for me: Mondays-Fridays, 5 days a week. I actually usually do one or two blog posts on the weekend (maybe 3, but usually not more than 3) and then fill out the rest of the week with blog posts either written on that day (or at most, a day earlier).

I managed 117,000 words (and change) that year. Enough for 2 full novels or 1 door-stopper epic fantasy novel. This is the stat that really floored me and set me thinking about my writing, my writing process, and that helped to inspire this post. Just think of all that could have been accomplished had I taken the time to do with my creative writing that I managed with my blog.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned two lessons from looking at my stats for the blog over the previous years of blogging:

  1. I need to be more consistent in my writing process if I want success. Even if I can’t find the “time,” I need to always be moving forward and to make sure I find time to write at least 5-6 days monthly. If I can also find a way to write daily (Monday-Friday) along with my blog, great–and that will put me in better stead–but at the bare minimum, I must be more consistent about writing.
  2. I should try to use the format of my blog to help me draft my longer works. This format works well for me–Introduction, 2-3 headings, and a paragraph or two for each heading. This is how I’m hoping to help myself become a better and more productive writer without “breaking my process.” That’s the key and I’m hoping that because I like this format–it will work for me.

Well, that’s all I have for today–nothing earth-shattering. Just a realization that I have the capabilities within me to make my dreams come true–if I can just find the consistency (and willpower) to get it done. And of course, not let it interfere with my dissertation for school.

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

Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken (Part Deux)

Black lettering on tannish colored vellum/parchment: "Most People Mess Up Something Good, By Looking For Something Better Just To End Up With Something Worse.
Image Source: https://twitter.com/porschacoleman/status/667866458970439680

I mentioned in the blog post a week ago that I had a short answer and a long answer for why I (personally) shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. Well that long reason is actually a bunch of short reasons all rolled up into one longer reason that I’m going to lay out here. Don’t worry, I don’t think it will be too much “navel gazing,” but at school they ask us to be reflective about our teaching and learning and to teach this skill to our students, so I’m trying to “practice what I preach” in this post.

Let’s Start With School

So, I’ve picked up a couple of “bad habits” from school that most definitely interfere with my writing process.

1) The PhD program (and this is in general, not just specific to my school) wants you to be good at many things at once. While that’s great, I’m better if I can be good at two or three things at once, move them to completion, and then move on to the next thing. However, at any one time, school asks you to be able to have 5-6 plates spinning at any one time and you better be good at all of them–this is hard and distracting for me. I never feel that I have enough time to devote to one project to get it where I want it. In the few instances where I have had fewer projects/more time, I feel that I’ve excelled. This has translated into my own writing by working on multiple projects at once and me spinning my wheels to finish anything.

2) I have to finish works first and then submit them out. One of the tools that professional writers use is to create (& sell) the idea for a project (the Query/Pitch) stage. Now this also many times works in scholarship as well (Paper Proposals, Call for Papers), but this exactly what I can’t do and what messes up my writing process. No matter how hard I try, I can’t go from Proposal to Project. I have to go Project to Proposal. My graphic novel non-career is a direct result of me getting an artist “too soon,” not getting the project done the way I want it, and then losing the artist to other projects or life in general–I’ve lost at least 4 artists this way and the reason why I’ve focused over the years more on short-stories that graphic novels.

Writing Advice

While I don’t do it as much as I used to, I tend to watch, read, follow a lot of places that discuss writing and give writing advice. I’ll admit it, I’m always looking for that “magic” piece of writing advice that turns me from an semi-professional writer into a professional writer who can supplement my (very) low stipend with a consistent revenue stream from my writing. I have books, YouTube channels, magazines, scholarly texts, etc., describing the writing process and how to become a better writer. I try new things on a semi-regular basis.

And this too is part of the problem. I already know how to write–what I don’t know is how to consistently produce. Some projects come together easily, but don’t sell (Citizen X, Silence Will Fall), some projects take forever to pull together, but sell and propel me to new heights (Dragonhawk, Faerie Knight, HawkeMoon), and some projects never materialize and see the light of day (unfinished story “Lost in Translation”). And these are just the short stories which earn ($10-$50) , not an amount that will ever “support” anyone–let alone a student like me.

The advice given for this situation is to put your “Behind in the Chair,” and just knock it out daily, but when you’re grades are due in two days and you still have major assignments left to grade, you’ll find that the time you set aside to write, is quickly given over to the most pressing upcoming deadline. Preparing lessons, reading for dissertation, writing dissertation, and generally living often make it hard to set and keep to schedule. In other words, it’s easy to say, but other obligations make it hard to do.

So, this is my struggle–I’ve got to find a way to keep doing what I know works for me as a writer, but somehow figure out how to produce good work consistently and also longer work which were I can (hopefully) find support for my endeavors. But in all of this–I have to learn the lesson and keep it in my head always: Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken.

Thanks for reading this super-long blog post!

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)

Project Arizona: 1st New Writing Project of 2020

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

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

Weird West

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

What if . . . a Fantasy Story meets the Western

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

Story Outline Completed

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

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

Sidney


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




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

NaNoWriMo 2019

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

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

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

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

NaNoWriMo 2019–Well, Sort Of . . .

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

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

Summertime and the Writing is Easy

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, at least I’m honest! 😉

Sidney


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




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

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