Friday, January 13, 2006

Back From Beyond

So what happened to me for the last month and a half? The holidays, for one, the wife and kids on Christmas vacation, visiting in-laws, the whole nine yards. I wrote next to nothing in December. What else? Well, about halfway into the month, I got a call from a very prestigious magazine whose fiction department was interested in one of my stories, but wanted to see a longer version. So the first week and a half of January was dedicated to rewrites. It turned out great and hopefully they’ll love it so much, they’ll buy it and you can find it on your newsstand sometime in the future. I’ll let you know how it goes. Unfortunately even though the new version of the story is about sixteen times the size of the original, I don’t count rewrites as new stories, so my count hasn’t changed.

However, besides having a great new story that I’m proud of, I’ve had a breakthrough in the way I work. I’ve had problems plotting for as long as I’ve been writing. I try to figure out where a story should go and then try to squish the action up and funnel it in that direction. What I end up with is characters who do ridiculous things for stupid reasons in order to come with an ending that sounds cool. It sucks and I’ve always known it but I’ve never been able to do anything about it. With Keys to the Yellow Kingdom (#43) and this story I just rewrote, I now know how it’s supposed to be done:

Once I get an idea, I don’t try to figure out the whole story from the get go. I don’t even try to write everything out at once. Instead I imagine scenes that might be interesting that are related to the idea. I don’t try to think them up in order. As things come to me, I try and flesh the thing out in my mind. I’ll write each scene or bit down as it gels in my mind. This happens over the course of days. When that’s dry, I’ll try to put the scenes in a logical order and then see if I need any other scenes to connect what I’ve got. I’ll think about those and then put them in. Somewhere along the line, the ending will come to me. So there’s a lot of thinking involved. That’s a lot of time that seems like it’s not writing, but it actually is. It’s just writing in your head. It may not be the fastest way to do it, but the plot comes out naturally, unforced and most importantly, it doesn’t seemed contrived. This all adds up to a much better story. Try it and see what you think.

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