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Going through the motions?

It’s the 22nd. By this time the first time we did this project, our first draft would be read and marked up already and we’d be doing rewrites. Instead, over this past weekend I finally settled on a topic. I’m not going to share the topic, because I rather like the intrigue the first time the plot is actually revealed. What I *can* say is part of the reason I didn’t start it is the idea is very similar to one of my favorite novels.

Sure, I didn’t come up with the idea because of that, and in fact it was spurred by something wholly unrelated. But as I started doing research into it, I realized it was quite similar to the plot of a novel I love. That right there is what made me hold off on starting writing for a while. Then I said, you know what? Who cares? It’s not like is for an agent who is expecting something to market. It’s for me, it’s for Aaron, it’s for the few people who read it. Maybe I’ll submit it for publication some day, maybe not. It’s different ENOUGH, and it’s a different tone, and it’s a different medium… I’m not really sweating it.

One of the reasons this topic is so exciting (and simultaneously daunting) is that it’s going to rely HEAVILY on description, which I still consider the weakest part of my writing. I can come up with ideas, I can come up with dialogue, I can come up with characters. Describing what’s happening, or even worse describing the actual objects around the characters, the rooms, the environment – I suck at that. And this entire story relies on it. So I guess I’ll be flexing my artistic muscles with this story.

If I ever get the time and inspiration to sit down and actually write more than the first page, that is.

Oh, and this will be the first story I’ve ever written that will include pictures. That doesn’t count my Bad Advice Column, where I’d become quite reliant on Paint to get me through them.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in derek's writing

 

Aaron’s first story

Perhaps because we weren’t frantically trying to cram in all our creative juices into just a few weeks, I feel like this story really exemplified why we do this project. Aaron presented me with a superhero story (which isn’t a genre per se, but you’ll see how it worked later) which was extremely rough. There were some real nuggets of good ideas there, but a) I felt like there wasn’t really any dramatic tension and b) I didn’t see it really read like a superhero story. I had sorta envisioned a comic book but without the pictures. He further had an additional challenge of writing the story in the present tense, something that I feel isn’t usually warranted and is VERY difficult to pull off.

When I read the first draft, I didn’t even take the trivial notes like grammar and stuff. I was going to make a couple of big-picture suggestions that I felt would round out the story and but also require somewhat significant rewrites. When I told him about them, he agreed with the notes (he had trouble putting into words why he felt his story wasn’t quite there to begin with, and it was largely the issues I had).

A few weeks later he gave me a story that was largely the same in terms of plot and characters but it worked so much better. He made a pretty bold (almost “gimmicky”?) choice on how to transition from the present tense to the past tense, and IT TOTALLY WORKED. Not only did it give a REASON for the story to be in present tense (aren’t most comic books?) but it also really made it a SUPERHERO STORY. It actually read to me more like a comic book just with this one addition. In fact, I suggested he continue to make that choice a tying element, something I think he will do in his final touch-up. Of course, the new play with tense resulted in many tense errors, but hopefully between the two of us we picked out most of those.

Also, he made the conflict much more immediate and threatening. It was in this strange place where it was MOSTLY an origin story but it also incorporated a fight scene. In his rewrite, he focused as much on the current fight, coloring it with how she found herself in that situation. That achieved two things – giving the story more importance, but also letting the character shine through more than it had. Aaron rarely writes women characters, and I’m glad he took a stab at one with such a distinct personality. It’s fun to see him playing around.

I think even with the extra time, both of our stories still have a slight feeling of being rushed because, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, we really write most of our stories in just a few writing sessions instead of writing daily or even weekly. I know with mine it shows by feeling a bit disjointed (something I tried to smooth out in subsequent rewrites). It shows with Aaron’s because I think more time would have fleshed out her character even more and evened out the tone of the past and present tense ‘stories’.

However, where this story stands at the “end” vs where it began is probably the most significant change in any of the stories he’s produced. Well done.

 

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Well, it would appear Derek beat me to the punch today

i’m about halfway through reading and critiquing derek’s story, and thought i’d post an update since it’s been a little while.

i like it.

that is all.

 

the thing i find amusing about this version of our project is that we decided to not use the same topics, but we still ended up writing something similarly based.  the stories are pretty much total opposites in content, but there’s one idea that sort of hinges them together.

based on derek’s post just before, i think i already know what some of his ideas for my story will be.  when i sent him my first draft, i already had about seven or eight things i wanted to change, but i got delayed in finishing it up, so i didn’t want to wait any longer.  conceptually i really like my story, but i’m not sure it worked as well as i wanted it to in this form.

i wrote what basically amounts to a comic book super hero origin story.  which i think worked at times, and others it was a bit difficult to translate into a short story.  if i was working with an artist and actually doing a comic book, it would improve tenfold.  a lot of what i was trying to get across would have been so much easier with narration text and images, instead of what i felt was someone telling you every little detail of the past year of their life condensed into 3500 or so words.

i’m awaiting what he has to say about it, because i think we may be on the same page with a lot of things.  but then again, this is derek we’re talking about, so i’m sure he’ll surprise me and come at it from an entirely different angle than i’m expecting.

 

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Tearing Aaron a new…

Aaron and I are getting together sometime next week to discuss our stories. Aaron is on the right track for his story, though I have a couple of suggestions that I think will really strengthen the story. It’s weird, we allowed so much extra time for this first story (3 months) and by the time we get around to our first meeting we’ll be almost 2/3 the way through. It will still be enough time for a “gutting” if it comes to that, but I have a hunch that we’ll both be pretty polite with this first story and it won’t come to that.

That actually brings me to my thought about my story – what anyone else will think. I feel this could be a “wow” story, or it could be one that has potential but ultimately has no teeth. After all, there is no big pivotal climax, no fight scene. It’s Star Trek (it’s actual concept) vs. Star Trek (J.J. Abrams). Mine is something of a cerebral story which may not fly when it comes out that it’s a story about a theoretical local apocalypse.

In short, I probably didn’t need to write this, but I also don’t expect many people to read this.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in aaron's writing, derek's writing

 

Draft 1 – Done-ish?

Clocking in at over 7500 words, I’m calling draft 1 done. That is with a whole bevy of asterisks, as I haven’t read any of it past maybe 1500 words since writing it (with the only exception of scrolling back to certain parts to make sure I was not actively contradicting something I had written already). I usually like to let the story simmer for a few days, forget what I’d done, then go back and read with fresh eyes. In all honesty, I’ll probably be on a third draft before I turn it in to Aaron for the first “review”.

I will go through and do a pretty superficial round of edits – I doubt I will do any gutting at this point, although I’m already pretty certain that a) I don’t like the actual way much of it is written, b) the enhanced technology might become a distraction, and c) the most pivotal scene of the story is written largely in pseudo-ASL, which may be jarring and reducing any tension I’ve built up. I’ll have to see how it translates.

After that edit, I’ll likely show it to my wife who is usually my first sounding board. I may do more edits at that point, but again, probably nothing large. I’ll take what she has to say and add it to what Aaron ultimately says after we trade stories, which I think we’re planning on doing around the end of the first week of Feb (with hopes to discuss around the 2nd week). That’ll give us plenty of time for major rewrites if needed.

Then, well, this year is different. We have a nice-sized group of writers who seem pretty eager to participate and help out and give ideas and critique. Will I give them copies of my 2nd (4th? 5th?) draft for additional comments? Is that a case of too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen? If I get six people’s notes and they conflict, would I end up just throwing my hands up and keeping it how I wrote it anyway? Part of me is excited about having people interested in supporting each other’s writing, and part of me doesn’t have any clue how that might affect this project that, until now, had just been about Aaron and I kicking each other’s creative butts.

Anyway, I managed to get it done. It’s my longest short story to date as it stands and, despite never deviating from the PLOTLINE I had in my head, took several very strange and unexpected turns in practice. I’ll be very curious to see how it stands up in a couple of days.

p.s. I might be saying “Kim Kardashian” here just so I don’t feel weird putting it as a tag, hoping to get more traffic. #justsayin

 

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In StorySpace, nobody can hear you… do anything

I’m at a methodical pace. That’s a polite way of saying this story is coming along very slowly. One of the unexpected side effects of writing a world where all people are deaf is the subtle changes that need to happen in the everyday vernacular. All words pertaining to sound (hear, sound, volume, noise… etc) don’t exist. I need new ways to describe these. Then I’m also running into the problem that the language they speak is basically sign language, but sign language is a language that exists within a hearing world. So in my world there is no sign for “noise” because as far as everyone knows there is no such thing. People don’t hear, they ear-know. They don’t sign, they use hand-words. It’s a minor hurdle, but I’ve had to strike a few “Are you even listening?” kind of sentences from their speech. Would speech even be a word? Hmmm…

I’m also finding that I’m abstractly taking a few ideas from myself and other authors in creating this story. I’m very politely adapting an idea from Vernor Vinge (in his novel Rainbows End) about real-time interfaces that interact with the environment around them. I figure in a world with no hearing, they wouldn’t use iPods, but they would have iSight, a device that places different veneers on the environment that you can see. It’s close to – but not exactly – his idea, and c’mon, that name is great.

From myself – Aaron and I for a long time had vowed (threatened?) to write a musical called The Great Depression. It was about a ragtag group of poor people who had survived for a long time on their skills of poor-dom. Once everyone else became poor after the crash and were hopelessly lost, this group suddenly rose to prominence because they were already adept at that style of living. They genuinely thought the depression was great news. Naturally, FDR is the bad guy in the play – I envisioned him how most people envision Dick Cheney. Heh. Anyway, I’m definitely taking the idea of a small resistance style group (those that can hear – and there are very few of them) trying to rise up against the government.

And here’s where the real delay is. I don’t know if I’m being unnecessarily wordy, but I’m about 2400 words in and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the government’s involvement yet. In fact, she just met her first other hearing character who is planning on introducing her to the family (the underground movement). It’s quite possible from there it will speed along, but since I’ll have to be doing some explaining at that point, I’ll have to find an engaging way to do so rather than “here’s a video all about it. Watch it and make sure to think very descriptively about what you’re seeing for the readers at home.” After a conversation on the FB page, I’ll probably write it out in a very sage-tells-all kind of way, hoping to go back later and find more interesting ways to reveal the information (and even withhold some that might not need to be revealed).

I find my best stories are the ones where I don’t know how they’re going to end (such was definitely the case in my two favorite stories from 2012, Finding Home and Cornered). This one I have entirely mapped out, and I’m afraid that’s going to make it an anti-climactic story. But onward we go.

Speaking of Finding Home and Cornered, I have started submitting stories to various publications for a shot at publishing them. So far I’ve gotten a few rejection letters, but it feels good to be actually DOING something about my writing.

 

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One of those months

where i had around 2500 words and realized i hated the voice of the story.  i liked the story itself, but man was it starting to get tough to write.  so in typical me fashion, instead of going back and fixing things, i just scrapped it all and started over last night.  i’m sitting around 300 words now (everyone seems sick in this house and i didn’t have much time to actually sit and work) but i’m actually enjoying the story.

i’m not sure why i disliked the first draft so much, but after i got off to a hot start, it just stopped giving me any pleasure in writing.  part of it was that i’m writing a much more visually descriptive story than i usually do.  most of the time i like to give enough description to inform, without going overboard.  one thing that drives me crazy is when an author over describes everything.  it’s just a personal preference, but i don’t need you to describe the thread count of the bed sheets in a room the characters walk past, and never venture inside.  because i’m writing in a sort of comic book style, i have to get in some more description than i’d like, but it feels like it needs to be there.

as for now, i’m going to take a night off of writing to do a little re-plotting – i swear it’s not because i have no ending in mind yet.  we shall see how tomorrow goes with the writing.  i’m pretty sure i can knock out a decent amount of story in a short time, because it’s just fun to write this sort of thing.

when you do it correctly.

perhaps.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in aaron's writing, Uncategorized

 

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