Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My First Week With Ray

It sounds easy enough on paper. Target a market on Saturday, Research and plot on Sunday, Write on Monday through Thursday, polish on Friday, sub on Saturday. It's never that easy though is it. Here's my mini-diary for the week. Post your own experience in the comments if you think it could prove helpful to others undertaking this journey. The thing I hope people will notice from my own diary is that while nothing went quite as planned, I never gave up.

Sunday: At my writers group meeting in Pittsburgh, I wrote three mini-scenes of mostly dialogue. These are pivotal points in the story that have been running through my head for a few days. I wanted to give them voice and see how they came out.

Note in retrospect: I ended up using one of these mini-scenes. The second will take place in a future story in the series. The third, well it got creamed by forces beyond its control. The plot changed.

Monday: My ideal time line doesn’t quite jive with reality, so I think reality will have to bend a bit. Artistic license and all that. We walked up the hill past the area where the story largely takes place. Also got to browse old photos of downtown New Castle. Tomorrow begins the real writing.

Note in retrospect: The dissonance between my planned time line and reality nagged at me for a couple days. While I had no problem with altering real events, doing that would have removed a useful framework and I would have had to show more clearly how my story diverged from reality. That would have been secondary to my reasons for writing this, In the end I changed my protagonist's background. This in turn altered his motivation and changed the tension between characters. I had to scrap two versions of the first scene. Frustrating to say the least.

Tuesday: Today, I read about freemasonry and discussed my plot with Sue. Started writing this evening.

Note in retrospect: What I read about the history of freemasonry was so interesting I came up with (another) novel idea. That required a couple hours of discussion with Sue and an hour or so to outline the concepts behind the idea, along with a very general suggestion of plot. Needless to say, while I was doing this I was not writing my story. Had I not been pushing for Write1Sub1 I would have set the current story aside. I often do this when complications arise. Not this time, I told myself. Ironically, my reading on freemasonry led to exactly two sentences in the final story. In the past I would have forced background into the story.

Wednesday: I hate when this happens, but forcing my story scene took me nowhere today. I wrote the first half twice and it still sucks. After the second time through I realized why. I don’t need the first half of the scene. What I wrote today is basically a walk through of a scene leading to the inciting incident. I’m definitely behind schedule now, but at least I’m not over budget (that’s the optimist in me speaking).

Note in retrospect: In the past, I would hit a complication and stop,; wait for inspiration to strike. Under deadline one does not have this luxury. What I'm beginning to discover is that even when I force my writing, good stuff will come out. It's just less likely to come out in the way I wanted/anticipated. I don't regret forcing this scene, because it did lead to some good insights. I had to throw the words out, but certain images and phrases stayed with me.

Thursday: I rewrote the first scene to begin later (recalling the “rule” about starting in media res at or near an inciting incident). That worked and the scene played out well from there. Scene two should be easier as I’ve already written dialogue for the heart of it, and scene three is the climax and should be short. I may or may not require an anticlimax.

Note in retrospect: It can be useful to begin with story basics. when plotting I had been trying too hard to work background into that opening scene. Someday I will learn that it's always best to start with story. Background goes in only where the characters require it. Old habits die hard. They usually have those prolonged death scenes you see in bad movies.

Friday: Sue read my first scene and made comments. I reworked it and then completed the second scene this evening. I have part of the final scene in place as well, but it needs a little transitional work. I’ll have to finish that tomorrow and send the story off to market. Looks like it will come in at 4000 words or so. I don’t have a title yet. Hopefully, I’ll wake up with one.

Note in retrospect: For the first time I felt like I was writing "in scene". The primary characters seemed more real. The secondary character I introduced in scene 2 was doing his story job, but he was not as real. Will it be possible to start the writing process next week closer to this end point? I hope.

Saturday: After comments, I revised second scene to improve the secondary character’s voice and insert some tension between characters. The story came in just under 4000 words. I’ll read through it next Saturday and submit it to Fae Publishing.

Note in retrospect: Why, in a story largely about immigrant issues, did I pick a secondary character with british roots whose family had obviously been in America for a few generations? Ouch. I spent most Saturday rewriting the second scene line by line, creating a vivid secondary character who is an immigrant with his own unique voice and concerns.

On Sunday morning, I carried the changes into the third scene, which had transformed from a fairly static climax scene, to an anti-climax in which we see the impact of the choice the protagonist is forced to make at the end of scene 2. I think it works much better now. The story does not have the closure I wish it did, but I don't think that prevents it from being marketable to the right market. It does have an arc and it does have a modicum steampunk sensibility.

As you can see, my first foray into Write1Sub1 was not without its complications. I did manage to finish a story. I did manage to submit a few stories. On balance, I feel good about what I accomplished.

How was your week?


  1. Congrats on achieveing your goal despite the complications. I managed one 100 word Flash Fiction story called Alley Cats written and submitted as a competition entry and one 2,000 word Short Story On Reflection that I edited and polished and then submitted. The log line for which I wrestled with here: :O)

  2. Thanks! I just found out about your site and need the motivation to get started.
    Donna v.

  3. I actually made a spreadsheet to catalogue the stories I write, where I submit them to, when they were submitted, and the response received. Otherwise, I'd be hitting February still thinking I'm in the first week of January. It gives me a visual of my progress.

    It helps to see others' struggles and successes as we venture on this project together. Thanks for posting!

  4. Madeleine nice job! Started the second ss yesterday in fact, so a bit a head of schedule. Writing at work during lunch has really helped. Due to restrictions at work I can't email it home so I have to transcribe, but that leads to an evening of editing. Which speeds up the process. I have to fight off the urge to tinker with it. Great program btw.

  5. It's the complication that makes it all interesting. And it's further proof that at the end of the day, you tackled it instead of walking away from it.

    I think it helps the rest of us to know that the words aren't just dancing off your fingers either. Here's hoping next week goes smoother.

  6. "Even when I force my writing, good stuff will come out" = true, sir. In the interest of time, it's best to get everything out on paper/screen and then sift through it for the nuggets later. I wrote some real crud last night, but some of it will be worth salvaging!

  7. Sometimes I can write a short story easily and other times it takes a while to think things through. Is it the weather? Me thinks so. I have a new short story ready for tomorrow called "Fit Leaks"