Writing Report August 10, 2019
Haven’t gotten much writing done:
It’s summer, and one of the grandkids need someone to look after him while his parents are taking medical courses, so Soon-ok and I are on Grammy & Grampy duty.
Nonetheless, I’ve been trying to keep my hand in, still participating in our local writers group, and helping out a friend who is working on a graphic novel.
I’ve also sold a couple of short stories, but those had been circulating for a while so it’s not like I’ve been actively working on them.
I’ve sold 16 stories / poems over the last few years and have 35 currently in circulation (this isn’t counting the dozen or so I sold back in the 1980s / 90s or the numerous comic book scripts, much less my TV or feature writing).
I keep them out there, sending them to one market after another as soon as the first passes on them.
Typically I start with the highest paying market and work my way down, but sometimes I send them to a market that’s looking for a specific kind of story. (For example, selling my original story "The Bride Of The Astounding Gigantic Monster" to Test Patterns: Creature Features when I learned the latter was looking for new stories based on classic 1950s sci-fi monster concepts.)
Today’s short fiction market frequently wants to see only one short story at a time, so while back in the 1960s and 70s one could send several stories to the highest paying market, then any that were rejected to the next highest paying market, etc., now if your highest markets are already looking at stories you’ve submitted, you can’t send anything else until they say yea or nay.
So as a result, some of my stories go out in rather scattergun fashion.
I try to get a rejected story out to another market as soon as possible, rarely taking more than 72 hours to send it off to the next market, sometimes less than 72 minutes (ah, the blessings of online submissions).
. . .
As mentioned, I’ve been offering some help to a friend working on a graphic novel. I found myself giving him some pointers that others may find useful so, hey. Waste not, want not, right?
(And I’m fully prepared for somebody to say I glommed this from somewhere else. I wouldn’t discredit that possibility for a nanosecond; typically if I come up with a really good idea, it’s somebody else’s and I’ve just forgotten where I first saw it.)
Still, for what it’s worth, here they are (in edited form):
Emotional terms are very helpful in setting mood and conveying weight of story, otherwise it just reads like “Location #1” “Location #2” etc. Every scene should have some sort of emotional descriptor: A cheery room, a stark landscape, a gloomy forest, etc.
Your audience needs to feel “I did not see that coming” by end of your story. You need to go someplace different than a hundred other movies / TV shows / novels / comics have gone.
What’s the story about? Cool scenes and intricate plots are nice, but what is it about??? Give it a flavor and feel for the characters to a sense of what the story is about.
Sum the story up for yourself using your characters in this manner:
“Quasimodo is the hideous bell ringer at Notre Dame who loves the beautiful dancer La Esmeralda. La Esmeralda loves the vain Captain Phoebus, who is happy to dally with her but doesn’t really love her. Claude Frollo, the chief priest at Notre Dame, also desires La Esmeralda despite his vows of celibacy, and is willing to kill Captain Phoebus and frame La Esmeralda for the crime if he can’t have her. Quasimodo rescues La Esmeralda from the authorities and defends her in a pitched battle against a mob storming the cathedral.”
When you reframe your story like that, it makes the crucial elements -- such as the characters’ relationships with one another and what motivates them -- pop out at you, and lets you focus on those parts of the story. Victor Hugo’s Hunchback Of Notre Dame has a huge, sprawling cast and a complex storyline, but the spine is what I just laid out above.
As screenwriter William Goldman was fond of saying: “Always protect your spine.”
WHO are your characters?
WHAT do they want?
WHY can’t they get it?
HOW do they act based on that?
© Buzz Dixon