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Author Archives: esoderek

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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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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Off to the Races

Lots of things have happened so far in this project and none of them are me physically writing down any part of my story. But the groundwork has been laid for a) this story, b) this year, c) the social networking aspect of this project, and d) Aaron’s fleas. He doesn’t have mange anymore, so I gotta talk about what’s what.

We’ll go in reverse. The social networking stuff Aaron touched on a bit in his email. We’re going to have a Twitter account, which is pretty monumental as I have never actually sent a tweet before (despite this being my third Twitter account – it’s a long story). We have our email (shortstoryproject2012@gmail.com). And now we have a Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/633656743446717/) The Facebook group will be something of a hub. We’ll post links to new blogs we’ve written, we’ll try to figure out a way to get our Tweets over there. It might be the way we send out our stories, I’m not sure. Either way, most people have Facebook, so if you’re interested, go there and get into the group. It’ll probably be quite light at first until more people get interested, so at least you don’t have to worry about reading the updates taking up too much of your time.

Speaking of which, people are interested. I’ve had a couple of people so far express some interest in possibly being a part of the group in various capacities, from reading stories to possibly writing stories and whatnot. That’s an intriguing prospect and one we’d have to hammer out logistics on. For now, we’re keeping the official project just between Aaron and I, with the possibility open down the line of having “guest writers”. That being said, we are definitely encouraging all writers to join the Short Story Facebook group as a community of writers who are sharing info about their projects, tips, ideas… everything. If it ever gets bigger (which we’d love), we’ll cross that bridge later and figure out ways to get more people directly involved if it comes to that. Or we’ll just write these four stories and then take another 2 year vacation.

As for my story, I am using one of Aaron’s suggestions. Many didn’t leap out at me but one did: “a teenager fears they have lost the ability to hear”. I’ve been interested in deaf culture for years and can sign to some degree and communicate with deaf people. I’ve actually befriended a surprising number of deaf disc golfers over the years, so at least I’m not writing totally from imagination here. As per our guidelines, I’m not sticking to the suggestion by the letter, but I am using it as my springboard.

I envision a world where only one person, (my main protagonist, a 13 year old girl) can hear. Everyone else is deaf. Not sure if it’s a world, an island, or what. Also not sure if they’re human or not, but I think that is largely irrelevant right now. So for part of the story she has to figure out why that is, and also how to explain hearing in a UNIVERSE where it doesn’t exist, essentially. I like that idea. I already have a rough outline of the story in my head with some fun turns along the way, and in doing so I will actually end up using one of the ideas I supplied for Aaron. Well, it wasn’t one of my ideas, it was an idea given to my by another Facebook group I’m a part of. I won’t tell you what that one is, as it might give away the ending (should I decide to go the route in my head right now).

I was going to put a Google Image here, but deafness is pretty hard to encapsulate in a photo. I did like the cartoon of the Asian girl signing “You go restaurant?” but it seemed more racist than helpful. (Yes, I am aware that’s how ASL would sign it…)

 

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The Short Story Project is BACK

It is with a dash of pride that I announce that the Short Story Project is BACK for 2015, although it will have numerous changes this year. So yes, for BOTH of you who are reading this now because it’s on your RSS feed, there will be stuff to do this year. Aaron and I were pretty concerned with what happened the last few months of the 2012 project – that it seemed more like a chore than a joy. So this year, we’re not doing it monthly. But that’s only the first of many changes.

– We are doing 4 stories total, once every three months. This will hopefully prevent burnout. The extra time MAY allow us to write longer stories. We had generally aimed for 4000-6000 words, but I know I’m mentally considering 5000-7500 my target for this year.

– The point of this year is less about turning out quantity, and more about quality. That’s not to say we didn’t have some good stories in 2012. Actually, I’m currently in the process (hello belated!) of submitting two or three of my stories to various short story publishers because I think they’re that good. One is requiring I’d say minor tweaks and the other is receiving almost nothing at all in terms of revision – that’s how well they stood the test of time. But part of the goal for the first year was seeing if I could do 12 stories in one year. I can, though some were duds. This year, we want to produce 4 excellent stories each.

– As we are giving more time, the project will focus less on the END RESULT and more on the PROCESS. We’ll be exchanging what we have written (even if not complete) after the first 4-5 weeks for the other person to review. This way, if the story is in major need of a total overhaul, it can still be accomplished. If, however, we’re already on the right track, then we can use the time for more subtle criticism. Then we’ll probably do more work and hopefully hand over the first completed draft sometime around the 8 to 9 week mark. One more set of critiques will allow us time to still do a somewhat substantial revision if need be. Then we can have a final get-together to touch up the little things. We think this will produce better results.

– We are abandoning the idea of each using the same topic. In fact, topics now will be more guidelines rather than rigid structures. We’ve each supplied the other with a list of topics (ranging from full plotlines to a character we’d like to see to simple ideas). The other can use one of these, three, part of one, or none at all. Again, we’re focusing more on the storywriting process itself rather than simply seeing how varied we can make a topic.

– Because of there being no need for secrecy, we’ll be posting more details about our stories on the blog itself. I think there are other ways to get the word out, but I’ll leave that up to Aaron’s first post.

– We will each give the other person $1billion if they write the best story of the year. I can pretty much guarantee it will end in a tie.

 

These are the major differences. As it was in 2014, we’ll also be using each other as sounding boards (and always we listen to readers too. Actually it was a comment of one of my readers that gave me GREAT direction for what would ultimately become my favorite story). Also, we’ll offer the stories up at the end of the writing period to anyone who wants to read them. Hey, if all goes well, you can be one of the lucky ones to say “I read this BEFORE it was published.” All you need to do is leave a comment her contact us at shortstoryproject2012@gmail.com.

Now, I wonder if either of us knows the password for that email address…

 

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