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The Barbossa Philosophy

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Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
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Topic starter
 

There’s a lot of writing advice in this world--more than any one person can absorb. New writers often run themselves ragged trying to figure out which advice is correct. (I know I certainly did!) Worse, some might try to follow all of it at the same time. That will never work, because writing advice is often contradictory: Show, don’t tell! Except telling is good under certain circumstances, actually. Use the seven point outline (which means a character in a place with a problem, three try fail cycles, etcetera)! Except that’s super eurocentric and there are tons of other story structures from across the globe, all of which have their own unique benefits and disadvantages. Write in third person past tense! Except that stories have sold in everything from first person present to second person future, so clearly that rule isn’t applicable all the time.

Let me tell you a secret: There is no set of “writing rules” that will work for everyone.

 

guidlines pirates of the caribbean

Alt Text: Captain Barbossa stating, "The code is more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules."

Everyone who gives out writing advice is really explaining what worked for them--and what worked before may not work again in future! The biggest reason I’ve been wary about giving out generalized writing advice in the past is because I have yet to find a single method for completing a first draft that works for me 100% of the time. For years, I thought that not having a consistent method meant I wasn’t a Good Writer. However, as time goes on, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what method I use to finish a draft--just that I get it done.

I should also note that, earlier this year, I was diagnosed with Inattentive Type ADHD. It really helped to explain why I had such a hard time sticking to one consistent writing method (not to mention a good number of my other struggles in life). My brain is wired to prefer novelty, and it’s almost impossible for me to focus on something if I’m bored--boredom can literally be agonizing. I literally can’t write the same way every time.

So, if no one set of writing advice works for everybody, how do you find out what works for you? By experimenting! Give yourself permission to try new things, to do things wrong, and to make mistakes--it’s a lot easier to fix something that’s broken than to fix something that doesn’t exist. Here’s a list of things that have helped me finish stories I was struggling with (although it is by no means exhaustive):

  • Outlining if pantsing doesn’t work. This is most helpful to me with longer stories, but that won’t necessarily be true for everyone.
  • Pantsing if outlining doesn’t work. This is most helpful to me with shorter stories--but, again, that won’t necessarily be true for everyone.
  • Switching perspectives or tenses. For a long time, I thought I should only write in third person past tense because I was informed that was An Important Rule when I first started trying to write competitively. Thing is, when I started experimenting with first person again--and even with second person, in a couple cases--I started having more fun. Same thing goes for past tense versus present tense. While I haven’t sold many of my second person stories, I’ve sold multiple stories in first person present tense, and it’s possible I just haven’t found the right editor for my second person stories yet.
  • Writing a different scene. Sometimes I’m stuck on one scene because I really want to be writing another. There’s nothing wrong with writing a story in order--but there’s also nothing wrong with writing it out of order, because you can always go back and edit for consistency later.
  • Literally drafting in a different style. When I’m struggling with perfectionism in my prose because I’m having a hard time with things like getting the internals right, it can be easier for me to chuck that out the window in the rough draft and write in screenplay format because it’s all actions and dialogue and I can fill in the internal psychology of things when I convert to prose format (which usually involves a heavy rewrite, anyway--my screenplay format rough drafts are essentially very detailed present tense outlines, and I consider nothing in them to be sacred). When neither screenplay format nor prose format works, it’s probably got something to do with the fact that I’m writing on my computer, in which case I switch to writing the rough draft in long hand. It’s also important to note that I mix and match as necessary--I’ve got some stories where I wrote one scene of the rough draft in prose and another in screenplay format, or I drafted some scenes on the computer and others long hand. (I was going to say I have yet to do all three, but then I remembered my novel-in-progress. While I eventually settled on screenplay format for my rough draft, I tried all three options before I found my stride--four, really, because I wrote a screenplay format scene in long hand at one point. Then I had to put it down for a year and a half, so hopefully my chosen method still works for me when I pick it up next spring. If not, I’ll get back to experimenting.)

If there’s anything I want you to take away from this, it’s that Pirates of the Caribbean quote from earlier: “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” There will always be people who tell you how to write. There will always be people who swear that Their Way is the Only Way. And maybe it is--for them. But that doesn’t mean it has to be for you.

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 8:36 am
CCrawford, N.V. Haskell, Kary English and 7 people reacted
crlisle
(@crlisle)
Posts: 342
Silver Star Member
 

This is very helpful. Thank you grinning  

2019 Quarters: 3rd -- R, 4th -- R
2020 Quarters: 1st -- R, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- SHM
2021 Quarters: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- HM
2022 Quarters: 1st -- SHM, 2nd -- RWC, 3rd -- RWC, 4th -- HM
2023 Quarters: 1st -- WIP
To be published in: Martian Magazine
Published in: Galaxy's Edge magazine, Daily Science Fiction, LTUE Anthology Parliament of Wizards, Sci Fi Lampoon

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 12:05 pm
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Posts: 915
Gold Star Member
 

I love this! Reminds me of what Stephen King says about this idea - that we have a toolbox full of tools for our writing, and each story is going to require different tools, but we need to have a fully stocked toolbox just in case we need a particular tool. The more I learn about writing, the more overlap I see between what the result should be but that the process varies between every single writer. There isn't any one particular way to write our stories - like you said, the best way to write the story is the way that gets it on the page and communicates to the reader. I remember searching for a prescriptive method when I started out, but sadly, writing is too subjective and individual for that. Thanks for sharing, DisgruntledPeony!

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: (P)F, SHM, F, F
V39: SHM, SHM, HM, SHM
Pro’d out Q4V39
Always Available for 5-page Critiques
CV & Editing Services: www.rebeccaetreasure.com
Reviews & Short Stories: www.patreon.com/rebeccaetreasure

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 12:28 pm
CCrawford, AliciaCay, David Hankins and 1 people reacted
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
Platinum Member
 

For this month I have put all other distractions to the side. The way I see it if a person has to write a million words, then nanowrimo should be a required exercise. If you write nothing else for twenty years, writing a fifty thousand word novel once a year will get you there. Start with an idea that appeals to you and write until you achieve your goal. This is my fourth time doing this, I highly recommend it. 

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 2:30 pm
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Posts: 915
Gold Star Member
 
Posted by: @storysinger

For this month I have put all other distractions to the side. The way I see it if a person has to write a million words, then nanowrimo should be a required exercise. If you write nothing else for twenty years, writing a fifty thousand word novel once a year will get you there. Start with an idea that appeals to you and write until you achieve your goal. This is my fourth time doing this, I highly recommend it. 

Speaking directly to Peony’s point, I’ve done NaNo 4 times and hated it every time. I finished all but once, but it made me stressed and unhappy working on my manuscript. NaNo works great for some people! But for some people it doesn’t. I’ve still managed to finish six novels and am 18k into a seventh. Whatever works is the right way! 

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: (P)F, SHM, F, F
V39: SHM, SHM, HM, SHM
Pro’d out Q4V39
Always Available for 5-page Critiques
CV & Editing Services: www.rebeccaetreasure.com
Reviews & Short Stories: www.patreon.com/rebeccaetreasure

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 3:45 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 
Posted by: @storysinger

For this month I have put all other distractions to the side. The way I see it if a person has to write a million words, then nanowrimo should be a required exercise. If you write nothing else for twenty years, writing a fifty thousand word novel once a year will get you there. Start with an idea that appeals to you and write until you achieve your goal. This is my fourth time doing this, I highly recommend it. 

I sincerely wish NaNo worked for me, but it always leads to me hitting a barrier of some kind and giving up less than 10k words in. My brain just doesn't work well with the prospect of failure. I do worlds better with positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement, and the fear of failure is often enough to lock me up on a larger project like a novel.

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 4:38 pm
N.V. Haskell reacted
Cray Dimensional
(@craydimensional)
Posts: 477
Gold Star Member
 

I love your advice here @disgruntledpeony. I find myself getting torn by advice.

As far as NaNo, I can't  pull it off right now with a full time job that extends beyond normal hours. However, I plan to try it once I retire.

Small steps add up to miles.
V38: R, R, HM, HM
V39: RWC, HM, HM, SHM
V40 : P
"Amore For Life" in After the Gold Rush Third Flatiron Anthology
Forthcoming “Freedom’s Song” in Troubadour and Space Princesses LTUE Anthology

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 5:08 pm
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
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I believe it's committing to the project before you. In the long run to get to the success you desire you have to invest the time.

Writing a novel can be a daunting endeavor. At the end of the day you just have to do it. Write on!

 

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : November 2, 2021 5:10 pm
Morgan
(@morgan-broadhead)
Posts: 303
Silver Star Member
 
Posted by: @storysinger

For this month I have put all other distractions to the side. The way I see it if a person has to write a million words, then nanowrimo should be a required exercise. If you write nothing else for twenty years, writing a fifty thousand word novel once a year will get you there. Start with an idea that appeals to you and write until you achieve your goal. This is my fourth time doing this, I highly recommend it. 

Some day I might have time to write novels AND short stories. At this period in my life though, it's either one or the other. And since I can't boast any pro sales under my belt yet, I'm sticking with short stories until I've mastered that form. Maybe once I have a dozen or so sales to brag about, I'll move on to novels. I just can't justify spending a year writing and polishing a novel when I can write and submit half a dozen shorts in the same amount of time.

But some day...

"Writers WRITE. And they finish what they start."
— Chuck Wendig
Drop me a line at https://morganbroadhead.com
SFx1
HMx2
Rx4

 
Posted : November 3, 2021 4:40 am
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 
Posted by: @storysinger

I believe it's committing to the project before you. In the long run to get to the success you desire you have to invest the time.

Writing a novel can be a daunting endeavor. At the end of the day you just have to do it. Write on!

 

Sometimes, with writing (and with life in general), I run into this thing called the Wall of Awful. Larger projects (like novels, or editing anthologies) are really hard for me to focus on, because mental roadblocks can be very difficult for me to get around. It's not laziness or lack of desire--it's perfectionism coupled with executive dysfunction, which is an absolutely awful thing to experience from the inside. Sometimes I want to do the thing, but I literally physically can't bring myself to do it, and that causes me a lot of mental anguish. Realizing it's not laziness, but a difference in how my brain works, helped tremendously, because that meant I could look up strategies to help me cope. Medication helps. ADHD-friendly planning strategies help. Just being aware of what's going on so I can figure out ways to combat it (or wait out the rough patch and try again later) helps.

There's a trio of videos by How to ADHD that I'm linking below; they really helped me think about things in a different light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo08uS904Rg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlObsAeFNVk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7eWb0nINPg

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : November 8, 2021 9:36 am
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Posts: 915
Gold Star Member
 

Which, again, hearkens back to the brilliant original point and post - there is no one right way to write. If it works for you, it works, but that doesn't mean it's the way, it means it's a wonderful way, for you! All we have a strategies, tools in our toolbox, tricks up our sleeve, brains in our jars ... oh, that's just me?

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: (P)F, SHM, F, F
V39: SHM, SHM, HM, SHM
Pro’d out Q4V39
Always Available for 5-page Critiques
CV & Editing Services: www.rebeccaetreasure.com
Reviews & Short Stories: www.patreon.com/rebeccaetreasure

 
Posted : November 8, 2021 11:07 am
CCrawford, N.V. Haskell, Kary English and 4 people reacted
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
Platinum Member
 

That's too funny Rebecca, brains in jars. laughing  

I'm currently doing the nanowrimo exercise. This time I'm manually typing my novel project.

My first three times of doing this I used the Dragon to make it so. But it didn't always hear my words the way I meant them.

So I learned to type. I'm not all that fast but I don't have to back up near as much. Write on fellow forumites!

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : November 8, 2021 12:22 pm
SwiftPotato
(@swiftpotato)
Posts: 585
Silver Star Member
 

Oooo, Liz, I like this. (Wait, what? I exist on the forum? It do occasionally happen!)

I'm finding this to be true the more I write! Knowing the rules is important, sure, like grammar and whatnot, but once you know them? Then you can start figuring out the best ways to break them! Your job as a writer is to communicate. It doesn't matter what words or punctuation you use, or whether your grammar is pristine. It matters whether your intention is understandable.

I'm betting a lot of people on here have seen that thing where when something breaks, it's mended with gold instead of glued back together or thrown away, and that break/mend is a whole form of art unto itself. So too with writing and grammar rules, IMO! I mean, everyone tells you not to do multiple POVs with short stories, but have y'all read The Enfield Report in Volume 37? More than one POV, won first place. Is there risk to that? Yep. But sometimes you gotta risk to do art! At this point I've sold stories in first, second, and third person, both past and present (no future...yet), with increasingly weird structures. As long as your story is understandable, that's all that matters. If you can pull it off, you can pull it off.

Some interesting reading to this effect below! (Sorry in advance, I've been obsessed with some of the work Apex Magazine publishes, so there'll be a lot of that here, and Diabolical Plots because weird structure is totally their thing.)

Root Rot by Fargo Tbakhi has absolutely some of the most wild punctuation, or lack thereof, that I personally have read. But it's what that story needed, and it's understandable. Fair warning: this may be an emotionally difficult read. Didn't stop thinking about this one for days after I read it the first time, and it still hits like a gut punch on reread.

Your Own Undoing by P H Lee is some seriously effective second person. If you don't usually like second person, try this one on for size. My fingers hurt after this one.

Audio Recording Left by the CEO of the Ranvannian Colony to Her Daughter, on the Survival Imperative of Maximising Profits by Cassandra Khaw and Matt Dovey (holy crap, that title is a mouthful) is another really effective use of second person, and also it made my brain explode. In a good way.

Rebuttal to Reviewers’ Comments On Edits For ‘Demonstration of a Novel Draconification Protocol in a Human Subject' by Andrea Kriz (another mouthful title, this is fine) is formatted as, literally, rebuttal to reviewers' comments on a research paper. Weird format for a short story? Yes. Did it work? Yup. Really cool use of text formatting as a storytelling device here as well.

Anyway I'm not gonna leave, like, an entire novel worth of reading here BUT I think these are some cool explorations of what can be done when you know where to snap a rule that'll leave the prettiest marks. Sometimes a story, a book, a poem, a sentence needs to be broken to work! I mean, are we not all humans? Would we be human if we weren't all broken in some interesting ways? Smile Go forth and break some rules! Like with any writing endeavor, you may not get it right the first time, or the second, or the hundredth, but sometimes it takes that 101st try for it to click. I've certainly got some dud experiments sitting on my hard drive, but some of them also got contracts...it's always worth a shot!

R, 3rd place Q4 v36!!!
Stories in Apocalyptic, Cossmass Infinites x2! PodCastle, Spirit Machine; forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, Human Monsters

 
Posted : November 13, 2021 9:19 pm
CCrawford, czing, Morgan and 4 people reacted
Kary English
(@karyenglish)
Posts: 669
Gold Star Member Moderator
 

On breaking rules - YES!

If I told you that I had a story that:

  • happens 100% in the MC's head
  • in the space of maybe 10 seconds
  • while she is literally in bed and can't sleep because the light is bugging her
  • nothing *actually* happens, she just thinks about it
  • it's in first person future POV (who does that?!!)

You would probably think some version of "I don't think that will work."

The story's called Cold, Silent & Dark, and it made the preliminary Stoker ballot, coming in through the juried side.

Once you get your feet under you, you can do anything as long as you do it well enough.

WOTF: 1 HM, 1 Semi, 2 Finalists, 1 Winner
Q2,V31 - Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
Hugo and Astounding finalist, made the preliminary Stoker ballot (juried)
Published by Galaxy's Edge, DSF, StarShipSofa and TorNightfire

 
Posted : November 15, 2021 10:02 pm
CCrawford, AliciaCay, N.V. Haskell and 3 people reacted
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 
Posted by: @karyenglish

On breaking rules - YES!

If I told you that I had a story that:

  • happens 100% in the MC's head
  • in the space of maybe 10 seconds
  • while she is literally in bed and can't sleep because the light is bugging her
  • nothing *actually* happens, she just thinks about it
  • it's in first person future POV (who does that?!!)

You would probably think some version of "I don't think that will work."

The story's called Cold, Silent & Dark, and it made the preliminary Stoker ballot, coming in through the juried side.

Once you get your feet under you, you can do anything as long as you do it well enough.

^^^ I definitely recommend people read this story, by the way. It's freakin' epic.

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : November 15, 2021 10:31 pm
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Posts: 1261
Platinum Member
 

That's a good story Kary. Enjoyed the surprise ending.

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1
HM-V38/Q4
HM-V39/Q2
Published Poetry
2012 Stars in Our Hearts Notions
Silver Ships

 
Posted : November 16, 2021 5:27 am
Kary English
(@karyenglish)
Posts: 669
Gold Star Member Moderator
 

OK, now that I've had some sleep and some coffee, I can share some further ruminations on this topic.

Writing rules / guidelines are all about risk. Whether you think of it as a palisade with rule-followers inside, rule breakers outside, or you think of it as a bell curve, with rule-followers in the middle and rule-breakers out on the tails, the key concept is that the farther you stray from the middle, the higher your risk of rejection goes.

Unusual POV - some markets don't go for that. Rejection risk goes up.

Story starts with a character waking up - rejection risk goes up

Big infodump that starts on page 1 - rejection risk goes up

The rejection risk never goes all the way to 100, though. In fact, with many of the so-called rules, they're merely polarizing, and this is why you have to know your markets. The Universe Annex likes fairly straight-forward adventure stories with a traditional structure and first or third past POV. If you hit them with a 2nd person future, ambiguous ending, mood piece with no action, they're probably* not going to take it. Apex, on the other hand, might really like it. So know your markets.

Julie Frost sold a werewolf story to an editor (David Farland) who hates werewolf stories. I sold a brain-in-a-jar story to an editor (Mike Resnick) who hates brain-in-a-jar stories. My Hugo nominee is a revised WOTF HM that technically starts with a character waking up. Once you hit a certain level, how you do something matters more than what you're doing. Once you reach that level, a really good how can negate the risk of bending a rule.

If you're a new writer, and you're still figuring out the nuts and bolts of how to put a story together, then I'd suggest sticking to the middle of the bell curve, or following the so-called rules. But if you're nearing the pro level or past it, go break some rules! Just understand that you're raising your risk of rejection. In writing, as in the stock market, greater risk often means greater reward as long as you know what you're doing.

*probably - doesn't mean never  Smile

WOTF: 1 HM, 1 Semi, 2 Finalists, 1 Winner
Q2,V31 - Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
Hugo and Astounding finalist, made the preliminary Stoker ballot (juried)
Published by Galaxy's Edge, DSF, StarShipSofa and TorNightfire

 
Posted : November 16, 2021 9:38 am
CCrawford, Yelena, David Hankins and 5 people reacted
Kary English
(@karyenglish)
Posts: 669
Gold Star Member Moderator
 
Posted by: @storysinger

That's a good story Kary. Enjoyed the surprise ending.

Thank you! It was a fun one to write.

 

WOTF: 1 HM, 1 Semi, 2 Finalists, 1 Winner
Q2,V31 - Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
Hugo and Astounding finalist, made the preliminary Stoker ballot (juried)
Published by Galaxy's Edge, DSF, StarShipSofa and TorNightfire

 
Posted : November 16, 2021 9:39 am
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 
Posted by: @karyenglish

OK, now that I've had some sleep and some coffee, I can share some further ruminations on this topic.

Writing rules / guidelines are all about risk. Whether you think of it as a palisade with rule-followers inside, rule breakers outside, or you think of it as a bell curve, with rule-followers in the middle and rule-breakers out on the tails, the key concept is that the farther you stray from the middle, the higher your risk of rejection goes.

Unusual POV - some markets don't go for that. Rejection risk goes up.

Story starts with a character waking up - rejection risk goes up

Big infodump that starts on page 1 - rejection risk goes up

The rejection risk never goes all the way to zero, though. In fact, with many of the so-called rules, they're merely polarizing, and this is why you have to know your markets. The Universe Annex likes fairly straight-forward adventure stories with a traditional structure and first or third past POV. If you hit them with a 2nd person future, ambiguous ending, mood piece with no action, they're probably* not going to take it. Apex, on the other hand, might really like it. So know your markets.

Julie Frost sold a werewolf story to an editor (David Farland) who hates werewolf stories. I sold a brain-in-a-jar story to an editor (Mike Resnick) who hates brain-in-a-jar stories. My Hugo nominee is a revised WOTF HM that technically starts with a character waking up. Once you hit a certain level, how you do something matters more than what you're doing. Once you reach that level, a really good how can negate the risk of bending a rule.

If you're a new writer, and you're still figuring out the nuts and bolts of how to put a story together, then I'd suggest sticking to the middle of the bell curve, or following the so-called rules. But if you're nearing the pro level or past it, go break some rules! Just understand that you're raising your risk of rejection. In writing, as in the stock market, greater risk often means greater reward as long as you know what you're doing.

*probably - doesn't mean never  Smile

Really solid advice, here. grinning I definitely agree that it's important to balance risk factors when thinking about stuff like this. It's important to learn the rules, if only because that will help you to determine when you should or shouldn't break them. Every story is a new monster, with its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and techniques that work well for one story might be completely antithetical to what you're trying to do with another. (For example, I will freely admit that at least half the stories I've written work best in third person past tense. I've got nothing against it--it's an important tense and perspective to learn. However, if I hadn't started experimenting with other options I might never have finished my winning story, and that's a stone cold fact. While I can't give details until after the gala, there were very specific reasons I chose the perspective and tense that I did.)

Knowing markets DEFINITELY helps, and that's something that takes practice and preparation. I've gotten lucky with a few story sales, but most of the ones I've made have been specifically targeted to the markets they sold to in one way or another.

I've personally had pretty decent luck with writing fresh for themed anthologies--and, in rarer cases, I've been lucky enough to already have a story written that fits the bill. I know that the themed anthology route probably isn't for everyone, though. I have to keep an active eye out for limited markets, and those can be few and far between if you're stubborn about things like pro-pay (and I've been stubborn about primarily submitting to pro or high-paying semi-pro markets since I first got started--everyone has arbitrary personal standards from time to time, and that's one of mine). Also, some anthologies have VERY specific criteria for the kinds of stories they're looking for, which means that a story specifically written for that market might be difficult to sell elsewhere if they end up passing on it.

I think the reason I've landed on the Barbossa Philosophy at this point in my career is that, when I was first getting back into writing about six? seven? years ago, I was involved in a writing group that talked a LOT about what should/shouldn't be done. They had some Very Specific Criteria, and it was always deemed very black and white. While some of the things I learned at that group helped me, I think some of the things held me back, too. For example, there was an adamant insistence that third person past tense was The Correct Way to Do Things, and I definitely think my writing capabilities grew stronger around the same time I relaxed enough to experiment more with tense and perspective.

Another thing I heard a lot when I was first getting into the swing of things was Show, Don't Tell, and I made an earnest attempt to take it to heart--but I accidentally had the screenwriting version of Show, Don't Tell in mind, because that's the only place I'd heard the phrase up to that point. As a result, I didn't include any internal thoughts in my stories for the better part of a year or two, because in screenwriting you want the story to be told as visually as possible. You can't really do internal dialogues in screenwriting without the aid of voiceovers, and that's considered to be a highly polarizing element of screenwriting (or at least it was when my mom was taking classes on it and I was sniping her homework because my teenage self was very interested in writing movies). When it comes to prose, on the other hand, the exploration internal thoughts and emotions is one of the things editors are looking for when they bring up Show, Don't Tell!

So.

Yeah.

(It's amazing how the same phrase can mean something completely different depending on your format, isn't it? laughing tongue )

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Posted : November 17, 2021 2:26 pm
CCrawford, Yelena, AliciaCay and 2 people reacted
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This is a great thread, thanks for all of this.

Much like you @disgruntledpeony I get incredibly bored and frustrated writing the same way. I've been struggling to come up with something new and this thread inspired me to revisit a half-written story and rewrite it in present tense with a less-formulaic ending. 

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Posted : November 17, 2021 5:01 pm
SwiftPotato, AliciaCay, Disgruntled Peony and 1 people reacted
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Posted by: @nvhaskell

This is a great thread, thanks for all of this.

Much like you @disgruntledpeony I get incredibly bored and frustrated writing the same way. I've been struggling to come up with something new and this thread inspired me to revisit a half-written story and rewrite it in present tense with a less-formulaic ending. 

Oooo, I like this. And honestly, whether it sells or not, sometimes an experiment is good for the soul! And plenty of markets out there like experimental stuff - Apex, like Kary mentioned, Air and Nothingness Press (on the themed antho route), Diabolical Plots, etc. We're creatives - have fun! Smile

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Posted : November 28, 2021 8:35 am
storysinger
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smiley

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Posted : November 28, 2021 11:08 am
Disgruntled Peony
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I got ambushed by an essay, and this seems as good a place as any to leave it, so here we go:

Show and Tell: When and How I Do Each

For me, at least, "Show, don't tell," has proven to be one of the most confusing axioms in writing. It rolls right off the tongue; it seems so simple.

The thing is, it isn’t simple at all. “Show, don’t tell,” means different things for different artistic mediums. In prose, for example, the modern reader often wants to be shown everything the POV character experiences. In screenplay format, on the other hand, describing a character’s internal thoughts outside of dialogue is considered telling, because that’s not something you can generally show in a primarily visual and auditory medium--the use of voice-overs to deliver narration or show internal thought is considered by many to be a controversial topic or even outright wrong (but, as with most things, voice-overs can be a wonderful tool when used properly).

Figuring out how to get important information to our readers is the crux of every writer’s dilemma. How do we determine what the reader needs to know, or when they need to know it? How do we deliver that information without battering the reader over the head with a sledgehammer? How do we know what not to tell the reader?

The answer, of course, is that it’s complicated. Every story is its own monster, and every monster has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. You can look at the act of writing as the act of slaying the monster--or of building it piece by piece, all Frankensteinian and weird, so you can release your beautiful terror on the world. (I’m fond of both analogies, because writing a story can feel like conquering or defeating a foe, but it’s also a profoundly creative act.)

I’m going to be speaking on what I’ve learned about Show and Tell specifically with regards to prose. I’ll freely admit, this is something I’ve struggled with in the past--but when I started to find my balance with it is when I started to sell stories more regularly. I still regard myself as a journeyman writer (and I doubt that will ever change, because the day I decide I know exactly how to write is probably the day I stop experimenting with new things, get bored, and move on to something else). However, showing where I’m at on the path might help other people who are struggling with the same things I did (and do), so that’s what I’m aiming for here.

Part I: What it Means to Tell

Let’s get this out of the way, right now: Telling isn’t always bad. There’s a wonderful video in the Writers of the Future Online Workshop that talks about when telling in a story is appropriate, important, and useful. However, for the sake of our purposes here, I’m going to define the act of Telling as I understand it in prose:

Telling is the act of summarizing an event or detail that, while important to the plot, isn’t actually interesting enough to merit a full scene. This summary gives the reader context for what happens in between the exciting parts of a story, and gives the writer space to detail the fun bits while skimming the bits that would slow the story down.

Every writer tells sometimes. Every writer needs to tell sometimes. If we detailed every moment of a character's life, from morning routine to meaningless small talk to bathroom breaks, the reader would put the book down in a huff and wander off to find something more interesting.

Part II: What it Means to Show

When I first had someone tell me “Show, don’t tell,” I was more familiar with the cinematic definition of the phrase. So I made what David Farland describes as a cardinal mistake in his article, “Showing, Telling, Making”: I started describing what my characters did, and what kinds of physical reactions they had to things, but I stopped describing why they did those things or what thoughts and emotions drove those physical reactions. Because that was telling. Right?

Nope! Not in prose. When it comes to short stories or novels, the act of Showing doesn’t just describe the actions your character takes. It involves: Describing a specific event with whatever sensory details are necessary to make it feel real, and then describing the POV character’s reaction to that event so the reader understands how it personally affects the character.

My general order of operations when it comes to showing seems to be: What physical reaction does the event that just transpired cause in the character, if any? What do they think about what just happened? How does it make them feel? Does it bring up a memory of something that’s happened in the past, and if so, how does that memory make them feel?

After I detail the character’s reactions, I ask myself the following questions: How does the character respond? Does it drive them to take action? Does it drive them to further thought, and if so, where does that train of thought and emotion lead them? Is the event they’re responding to traumatic enough to trigger a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response? How does their response, or lack thereof, affect what happens next? (Cause and effect is always important in a story.)

And then I analyze things from the other side, thinking about how the other characters respond to the POV character if other characters are present--how the setting responds if the POV character is alone--and so I move on to describing what happens next with whatever sensory details are necessary to make it feel real. The cycle repeats again and again, a sequence of actions and reactions that drive my scene from start to finish.

(I would also like to note that describing your character’s reactions to an event doesn’t necessarily mean your character is reactionary--or that being reactionary is a bad thing. However, the issue of Character Agency and Active Versus Passive characters is a topic for another time, because let me tell you, I could write a whole essay just on that subject--and I’ve read several good ones, one of which I’m linking here.) 

Part III: Finding the Balance

So how do you know when you’ve shown enough? How do you keep from showing too much?

Again, it’s complicated. Sometimes you only need a quick sentence or two to provide mental emotional context for the reader and you can move on to the next beat in the action. Sometimes you need whole paragraphs, even pages, of internal thought and emotion before you can delve into the next action/reaction sequence. At this point, it becomes a matter of analyzing the pacing you want your scene to have. What’s more important in this specific action/reaction sequence: The reaction your character is having, or the action it leads them to?

When I’m writing a high-action scene (and I use “action” in this case as a generic descriptor for anything from a fight scene to an argument to a skill challenge), I want my mental and emotional beats to hit swift and hard, then twist right back into the action.

If it’s a high-emotion scene (where the events that transpire may technically be small, but they have a big emotional impact on the character), then it’s important to me that I give the POV character plenty of time to think their thoughts and feel their feelings.

Part IV: Example (Echoes of Meridian)

I hesitate to use my own work as an example, but those are among the stories I know best, so I’m going to delve into one of my short stories, Echoes of Meridian. I picked this story because it went through multiple incarnations and edits, but in the end I think I got the balance of action and reaction to work decently well. I should note that I did NOT focus on the structure-related elements of this story nearly as much in my initial draft as I did during subsequent rounds of editing. I discovery-wrote the first draft of this story, then went back through in the course of later drafts to bring out the elements I wanted to appear in the story (and to polish the ones that were already there).

BE WARNED: I’ve tried to keep this analysis as spoiler-free as possible, but in some cases spoilers were unavoidable. I’ve linked the story above, so feel free to read it before continuing if you’re so inclined; if, on the other hand, you don’t care about spoilers, feel free to read on. (Hell, if you don’t care about the analysis, feel free to skip to the end--I won’t be offended.)

The opening scene, which takes place from Drora’s point of view, does a lot of balancing between action and emotion--I’d classify it as a medium action scene, because there’s some emotional detail involved but there’s also a lot that happens. There are two characters interacting, and there’s certainly conflict, but this is also our first introduction to Cers and Drora, so the scene is as much about establishing the status quo as it is about establishing conflict. I’ve tried to take some knowledge I got from a Jim Butcher class on characterization to heart: The way you introduce a character will give the reader their first impression of that character, and all subsequent things they learn about that character will be analyzed in the context of that initial introduction. With that in mind, the things I wanted to illustrate about my characters were: Drora’s impatience and impulsiveness, Cers’ distaste for violence and creative nature, and the way that Drora’s lack of knowledge about Cers’ past affects her in the present. Those elements combine to form the crux of what I feel to be the internal conflict of the story for both characters (what each character perceives to be the nature of violence, and when--or whether--violence is an appropriate response).

The second scene, which takes place from Cers’ POV, starts out as a high-emotion scene, but transitions into a medium-action scene a few paragraphs later when the antagonist, Tirian, arrives (which heralds the beginning of the story’s external conflict). Cers tends to be more emotionally reserved than Drora as a general rule, which means that a lot of his mental and emotional conflicts manifest internally. The feelings are definitely there, and they can be very intense--he’s just more likely to repress his outward physical reactions, because he has a strong personal desire to maintain personal agency and self-control, and part of that involves retaining control of his own reactions whenever possible. This scene ends with Cers essentially being abducted, which leaves the external conflict of the story firmly entrenched. (While this story doesn’t quite follow the traditional try/fail structure, it does follow a three-act structure, and this is the scene that starts pushing us toward the end of the first act.)

The third scene, from Drora’s POV, is high-emotion. (Most of my scenes that involve only one character tend to be higher on the emotional scale than the action scale, I’ve noticed.) This is where Drora learns that her status quo has been disrupted (Cers is unexpectedly gone--where did he go, and with whom?) and gets looped into the external conflict of the story. The end of the first act officially takes place here.

The fourth scene, from Cers’ POV, doesn’t have a lot of PHYSICAL action but I’d definitely consider it a high-action scene. There’s a lot of dialogue and a lot of tension. There are not, however, a lot of internal observations, if only because a lot of the details of the scene come out through the dialogue. (This is actually the first scene I drafted, because the tension of the scene was what drew me into the story, and the rest of the story grew forwards and then backwards from there.) If we’re thinking about things in terms of three-act structure, this scene heralds the beginning of act two.

The fifth scene, from Drora’s POV, starts out as high emotion, but transitions all the way into high action about midway through (it’s the second-longest scene in the story, and makes up the bulk of act two). There’s nothing wrong with shifting the balance between action and emotion back and forth throughout the course of a single scene as the need for action rises and falls. Pretty much any description I can give of this scene counts as massive spoilers, so I’m just going to... move on, now...

The sixth scene, from Cers’ POV, is one of the highest emotional--and, in my opinion, highest tension--scenes in the whole story. There are only six lines of dialogue through the whole scene, and there’s no actual verbal interaction involved; all of the spoken lines are Tirian’s, which really hammers home the power dynamic between him and Cers at that point.

The seventh scene, from Drora’s POV, is the longest in the story--in part because it’s actually three scenes, two of which take place immediately after each another. I wanted to keep things from Drora’s POV, throughout--nothing exciting was happening to Cers at any point in the interim between the two scenes I wanted to show with her--so I made use of some tell to transition from each mini-scene to the next.

Scene 7A starts off as the other emotional high point of the story. This scene serves as the transition from the second act to the third act. It also combined with scene six, serves as our low of lows--neither character has what they want, and both stand to lose a hell of a lot. After Drora examines her feelings about what transpired in scene five and decides to push on with her efforts to rescue Cers despite personal misgivings, we have our moment of tell.

This transitions us to scene 7B, which is pretty solidly a medium-action scene throughout. (There’s a LOT of tension involved, and a lot of action, but the feelings involved are also very important, so I did my best to balance them as appropriate.)

The end of scene 7B dovetails directly into scene 7C, which serves as the climax of the third act, starting out as high action and then pivoting back to high emotion as the external conflict is resolved.

The eighth and final scene, from Cers’ POV, is definitely high emotion. (I tend to prefer high-emotion denouements, because they give the reader time to decompress from the intensity of the third act.) This is where the internal conflicts of the story get resolved, and a new status quo is established as a result. It’s definitely a bittersweet ending, because both characters have changed--and not entirely for the better--but it illustrates the ways that they’ve grown and come to understand each other’s perspectives from a new angle.

Part V: Final Thoughts

I don’t necessarily think it’s wise to focus too hard on the balance of showing and telling in an early draft--in my experience, it’s incredibly hard to balance something that doesn’t exist yet. (Outlining can help with the balancing process when I’ve got the right mindset for it, because I can get a rough idea of what kind of scene I want to write beforehand. I will admit, I don’t tend to outline my short fiction very often these days; outlining does help me immensely when it comes to figuring out the pacing for longer projects, though.) During revisions is when I really start to focus on what needs to be shown versus told, and how much showing needs to be done in a given scene.

I’ve noticed that, when people complain that a story I’ve written needs stronger or bigger stakes, that actually tends to mean the existing stakes in that story haven’t been sufficiently developed or clarified--which means there probably isn’t enough showing going on in my story yet. Nowadays, whenever I get feedback like that, I go back through my story and do a heavy pass for thoughts, feelings, and memories to make sure I’ve included enough context for the reader to understand and care about what’s going on.

Important side note: Not all stories need the same level of stakes. A single POV character having a really bad day can be every bit as compelling as a group of characters who are trying to save the world--more so, in some cases, because the more personal the stakes of a story are to a character, the more the reader will care about what’s happening. There are a ton of different conflict options in between those two extreme ends of the scale, and all of them can be incredibly poignant so long as sufficient effort is put into showing what the characters involved in the story are going through and how it affects them at a personal level.

Learning when and how much to show in a story is a difficult process--I should know, because it took me six years to figure out how to do so with anything close to reliable consistency. However, it’s absolutely worth taking the time to learn. And relearn. And then relearn again. Because every story is a different monster.

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Posted : December 26, 2021 12:05 pm
TimE, CCrawford, Kary English and 4 people reacted
twdad
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This thread is super helpful as a new writer, thank you all! The connections to the WOTF workshop are also great for providing more insight and expanding on the concepts.

 
Posted : December 26, 2021 1:59 pm
storysinger
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That's an awesome essay Liz. Thanks for the lessons.

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Posted : December 26, 2021 2:24 pm
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@disgruntledpeony Oh gosh. I hit Wall of Awful (or something similar to what you're describing) often. I'm going to check out the videos you linked.

v35: Q4 - HM
V36: R, R, R, R
V37: SHM, HM, HM, SHM
V38: SHM, HM, HM, HM
V39: HM, R, SHM, HM
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Short story "Our Kind" published in DreamForge Anvil, Issue #5, and also "One Shot at Aeden" published in DreamForge Anvil, Issue #7!

 
Posted : December 28, 2021 8:24 am
CCrawford
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Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

Show and Tell: When and How I Do Each

This was super helpful. Thank you!  Also, I just went and read Echoes of Meridian and I loved it!

v35: Q4 - HM
V36: R, R, R, R
V37: SHM, HM, HM, SHM
V38: SHM, HM, HM, HM
V39: HM, R, SHM, HM
Indie author of The Lex Chronicles (Legends of Arameth), and the in-progress Leyward Stones series--including my serial, Macchiatos, Faerie Princes, and Other Things That Happen at Midnight, currently available on Kindle Vella.
Website: http://ccrawfordwriting.com. I also have a newsletter and a blog!
Short story "Our Kind" published in DreamForge Anvil, Issue #5, and also "One Shot at Aeden" published in DreamForge Anvil, Issue #7!

 
Posted : December 28, 2021 9:17 am
Disgruntled Peony
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Topic starter
 

Someone recently asked me to explain my drafting process. My first instinct was to respond, “I have a process?” This is because I don’t have one single drafting process so much as three or four different drafting processes, and which one I use depends entirely upon which one vomits that particular story out of my head and onto the page the fastest. My first drafts aren’t generally pretty. I’m a big fan of editing--one of the biggest things that helps me as a writer is the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try, that I can fix it in post.

That said, the specific process I was asked about is the one where I utilize screenplay format for a rough draft and then go back to rewrite it into prose format later. And there is a particular way in which that works for me. So I’m going to break it down for everyone, and if you want to try it, awesome. If, on the other hand, you simply think I’m strange, a) that’s definitely true and b) I revel in it. (I’m also going to detail some of my more general drafting methods after the screenplay-related stuff, so even if the screenplay stuff doesn’t interest you, there still might be helpful things for you if you skip down to the end.)

Before we can get into why I write screenplay drafts, I feel it might be wise to explain how a screenplay is written. (I also feel it important to note that if you like the idea of this method but don’t have the energy to learn a whole new format, there’s a far simpler version of this that I’ll be detailing further on down the line.)

The first thing to understand is that screenplays have a very specific format and it is nothing like prose. (This is part of what I personally find helpful! More on that later.) The site I’m about to link isn’t perfect (there might be popups and the like), but it gives a basic guideline for the way a script is supposed to be formatted and explains the technical terms for everything in a quick and concise way: https://writersstore.com/blogs/news/how-to-write-a-screenplay-a-guide-to-scriptwriting

If you want to read actual screenplays to get a feeling for how the writing can go, there are a number of scripts that are available to read at Drew’s Script-O-Rama, free of charge (as a mother of twins in a low income household, you’ll find I’m generally a big fan of ‘free’): http://www.script-o-rama.com/snazzy/table.html These are all screenplays for finished films, many of them famous--although I should note that many of the screenplays available to read aren’t the final version that you’ll see when watching said film. Some are! Just not all.

Because formatting screenplays is so difficult, having a program to make that simpler is always a good idea. There was a time that the only good screenwriting software I knew of was Final Draft (which I consider to be entirely too expensive for my purposes, since I’m not actually trying to write a finished screenplay). These days, however, there are a lot of options with varying price points you can find with a quick Google search. Some of them upload to the cloud, but I wasn’t interested in that, so I decided to opt for Trelby, which is a) free and b) functions a good deal like I remember Final Draft working when my mother was, in fact, trying to write and sell screenplays 20 years ago. (I learned the format because she was learning the format and I was a curious homeschooler who got to self-direct a lot of my learning.) https://www.trelby.org/

Now that the mechanical details are out of the way, let’s get to the important question--what am I actually using this for, and why?

I suppose, in the end, what I’m doing when I draft a piece in screenplay format is akin to writing a weird amalgamation of an outline and a first draft. (Hence why I often refer to it as a rough draft or a zero draft.) Writing in screenplay format gives me an opportunity to explain what happens in a story without having to worry about the parts of the story that frequently give me difficulty in my early drafts (explaining what a character is thinking or feeling, for example, or writing detailed descriptions of a setting).

For the record, when I do this, I’m not actually ignoring the things that I’m not putting on the page--I’ll usually leave a few sentences of setting description that I can embellish into something prettier later, and I’ll leave myself hints via the characters’ dialogue and body language that will help me embellish the POV character’s internal narrative when I convert my screenplay draft into prose.

Once I’ve got my rough draft down, I copy/paste from Trelby into a more standard document and go through the whole story, rewriting everything into prose format and deleting the screenplay version as I go. (I still save the original version in a Trelby file.) This generally doesn’t produce a final story draft for me--not by a long shot--but it gives me the chance to start detailing the things that I skipped in my rough draft (so, my first thoughts on the POV character’s thoughts and feelings/the description). After that, I do a second pass to make things prettier and put in the things I know I missed. That point (when I’ve essentially finished my second proper draft) is when I tend to send things off to my critique partners.

As I said earlier, I don’t do this with all of my stories. Sometimes I get really excited about a story but the fancy words aren’t there yet--just the ideas. This lets me get the ideas down on the page so I can worry about the fancy words later. I wrote my first semi-finalist this way. I wrote Echoes of Meridian this way. I’m halfway through a novel-in-progress that I’ve been drafting this way. However, I did NOT write my winning WotF story this way, and many of the other short stories I’ve sold were also drafted in a more traditional sense.

The more short stories I write, the easier it is for me to figure out thoughts and feelings in my early drafts, and the less frequently I need this step to get me past the Wall of Awful. However, this method is really helpful for me with longer stories. Every time I’ve tried to write a novel in prose format I’ve given up in utter despair by the 5k mark because the story wasn’t yet what I wanted it to be. One of my biggest struggles as a writer has been working past my own perfectionism and learning to trust that an early draft doesn’t have to be a good one. This is one of the methods that’s helped me to do that.

If this works for you, great! If you’re not up for learning screenplay format but you still want to try the method out, there’s actually a very simple solution: aim for theater play format in your rough draft instead of screenplay format. The basic principles are still there (it’s all description and dialogue, with no space for internal details because plays are a visual medium), and the learning curve is significantly simpler (there’s very little in the way of special formatting--you can write a theater play in anything from Microsoft Word to Notepad). I wrote my first semi-finalist this way, because I hadn’t discovered Trelby yet and no longer had access to Final Draft. You can find examples of theater play format here: https://www.lazybeescripts.co.uk/Scripts/

I often utilize brackets to denote a thing that I don’t have the energy to write a proper description for. After my initial draft is penned, I CTRL-F for said brackets and fill in the blanks. What sort of things might I put inside brackets? ANYTHING. That’s the beauty of it. I’ve bracketed everything from [character name] to [location] to [insert description here] to [insert emotional reaction here]. As long as you don’t use the same bracket for different things (if you’re bracketing multiple character names, be sure to denote them as [Name1], [Name2], etcetera), the sky’s the limit.

If I’m writing a prose draft on the computer and I’m stuck on one specific scene, drafting it on paper and typing it up afterward can help, especially if I write in pen as opposed to pencil. Why? Because it’s a lot harder to go back and rewrite things on paper, and it also gives me more time to think about what I’m writing. (That last bit might not be true for everyone, but I’m a decently fast typist, so writing things out longhand forces me to slow down and think about things differently.) If, on the other hand, I’m writing things longhand and getting stuck, I’ll try shifting over to the computer. (This doesn’t happen nearly as often, but only because I’m more likely to write on the computer than longhand because of how fast I type.)

None of these methods are going to work for everyone, but I find them to be useful tools that let me move past whatever I’m stuck on so I can stay in drafting mode. (Drafting mode and editing mode are two very different mental places for me; slipping from the former to the latter with an unfinished story tends to result in glacially slow writing at best and abandoned stories at worst.)

Should I care about a story enough to keep writing despite abnormally difficult struggles with the drafting process, odds are good I’ll end up shifting through multiple methods until I find something that works. When I was trying to find a format that worked for my novel-in-progress, I tried everything I’ve detailed above before eventually settling on screenplay format, because that was the thing that most consistently worked. Some of my rough drafts have been hodge-podge mixtures of screenplay format and prose format depending on which scene I was writing.

The goal of my drafting process is never to write a finished product on the first try--my brain isn't made for that kind of thing. When I write a rough draft, no matter which method I choose, I'm building a skeleton to slap the meat of the story onto later. Some bones come with more meat already attached than others, and some of that meat might need to be trimmed off so I can attach the meat that actually needs to be there. (If you prefer a more wholesome metaphor, my rough drafts are the seeds from which a finished story eventually grows.)

I suppose that the biggest thing I'd like people to take away from this is: You don't have to write the same way every time. Your first draft doesn’t have to be clean or pretty, and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. No story is EVER perfect, not really, because no two people have the exact same opinion on what a perfect story would entail. Give yourself grace, try new methods if the old ones stop working, and write for the joy of it, because isn't this essentially play in the end?

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
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Posted : January 18, 2022 10:40 am
Cray Dimensional, RETreasure, Yelena and 1 people reacted
Yelena
(@scribblesatdusk)
Posts: 224
Silver Member
 

Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss this method!

I've never heard of the screenplay draft until I saw you mention it somewhere on the boards a while ago. It's interesting you delete the screenplay as you go. It makes sense. Lately when I've started rewriting from my 1st drafts, that are really more like 0 drafts, I open in a new page, start writing, and don't delete as I go. Then both rough versions wind up taking space in my head--in a growing wall of awful--and make it painful for me to write on. I never thought about using something other then word or google docs for a screenplay zero draft so even in that I've learned something new. 

 

 

V36:Q3 HM V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM V38: R,HM, F, HM V39: HM, SHM, SHM,

 
Posted : January 18, 2022 12:54 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 
Posted by: @scribblesatdusk

Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss this method!

I've never heard of the screenplay draft until I saw you mention it somewhere on the boards a while ago. It's interesting you delete the screenplay as you go. It makes sense. Lately when I've started rewriting from my 1st drafts, that are really more like 0 drafts, I open in a new page, start writing, and don't delete as I go. Then both rough versions wind up taking space in my head--in a growing wall of awful--and make it painful for me to write on. I never thought about using something other then word or google docs for a screenplay zero draft so even in that I've learned something new. 

 

 

I'll keep the old version of the file, but with the new document I get rid of the old stuff as I revise. I don't usually go back to look at old drafts of my stories, but I like to have access to them just in case. Any time I make a major revision (restructuring a scene, for example, as opposed to basic edits like word cuts/additions/changes), I save a new version of the file so I have the old stuff available just in case. This can (and has) resulted in me having multiple "drafts" of a story that isn't even finished with the rough draft yet. giggle  

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : January 18, 2022 5:19 pm
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