School’s In Session

So, the first week of school is over! I got into most of the classes I wanted to. Unfortunately, my Astronomy class was canceled last minute, and I had to take an online computer information class instead. So here is a breakdown of what I am taking:
Cardio Cross Training
Argumentation and Debate
Business Law
Statistics
Computer Information Systems
English Composition “B”

I spoke to a transfer councilor, and my grades are good enough that, assuming I keep them up, I can pretty much write my ticket into any Cal State school, and any of the U of Cal schools, except Berkley (They require an extra 4 semesters of math!). I’m at a California community college, and my GPA for transferable classes will be in the high 3s, around 3.6 or 7. I am very excited about all that. Three of my classes are online, and I finished the last of this week’s homework five minutes ago, so I am sitting in the coolness of my in-law’s back yard enjoying a very fine cigar my wife bought me.

Naturally, school forces my writing to the back burner, but I am still managing to do some. I am working on an old story I’d abandoned called Charlotte and Caldor, after the two main characters. For some reason, my writing process involves starting, stopping, and restarting a story line before I get to the point where I actually get something finished. I also think I like to write an essay about what I want to happen, before I outline. I am still not sure if I want/need to do a formal outline or not. I did for the Bastard Prince, but somehow it just does not feel right to me. We will see how this goes. I am trying to take just a few minutes a day to expand the plot essay, and when its done, we’ll go from there. I am also working on the Undying, set in yet another universe.

While ‘Bastard’ is set in a low-fantasy world, the others are high-fantasy and are more in line with classic sword-and-sorcery. I am thinking of reopening a science fiction story about a cold-sleep ship that lands on a planet already colonized by humans from a collapsed FTL civilization. My unknowing mentor, Sarah Hoyt, recommends having at least three universes going, just to stave off the boredom.

Lastly, tomorrow is Labor Day in America. I will be off with my family and friends for an annual BBQ. I hope your day is as fun and carefree as mine will be.

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The Bastard Prince

I finished the fourth revision of my short story, A Bastard’s Choice. As promised, I’m going to post both the first and final versions of the story to show how much the editing process has changed things. After that, I’m going to set it aside for a bit and come back to it with a fresh brain in a month or so.

A Bastard’s Choice and

A Bastard’s Choice v 4

Feel free to make any comments or suggestions to make it more enjoyable.

Writing Lessons

Sorry to have left you in the lurch for over a week. I promised you three posts a week. I feel a bit guilty for not posting when I should. I need more discipline.

I am learning that good writing is good rewriting. I’ve read that somewhere, but don’t know where. I have gone over A Bastard’s Choice dozens of times since I wrote it, and shown three versions to a writing group of mine. Just after I posted the third version, though, I realized one glaring omission. I did not have any descriptions of what the characters looked like, or the scenery, or the setting! Its all conversation and a little action.

Objectively speaking, it is good, even close to publishable. My group has helped me to see things in a different way, and shown me the flaws in my work. I tend to tell what happens instead of showing. I put in too much unnecessary detail, but do not give enough detail to set the scenery. I need to work on word pictures.

I need to keep working on other story lines. The advice I’ve gotten is to work in two or three unrelated worlds to prevent burnout. So I am resurrecting The Undying, set in a world where the royal family has bodyguards who cannot be killed, and do not age, so long as the person they are linked to is alive. The second is called Charlotte and Caldor, about a young couple who must take charge suddenly as their nation is under attack from the forces of evil. I am also thinking of working in a science fiction setting, set on a world that humans with faster than light drives colonized. Then interstellar civilization collapses. A thousand years later, the cold sleep ship sent a hundred years before the planet is colonized arrives.

And the troubling thing is, as I am researching, I keep getting more ideas. A dhampir and a zhudac team up to solve supernatural riddles. Someone goes back in time to prevent the Russian Revolution. A story based loosely on the life of WW1 Canadian general Sir Arthur Currie. I just need the discipline to sit at my computer for a couple of hours a day and write.

The Silence Broken / Lessons on the Short Story

Oh, boy. What a week I’ve had. On Monday, my wife, my in-laws and I drove down to Mexico. We came down to help out an orphanage my church runs and to help build houses for the needy. Well, my father-in-law was part of a lecture series for the workers, and I had the homework. My wife helped build, though Internet has been spotty, and I’ve used most of it for working on my homework. Montezuma‚Äôs Revenge made it difficult for me to do a lot of things as well. That’s my excuse for not posting for a week, and I’m sticking to it.

Right now, one of the biggest influences is Sara Hoyt, who blogs at http://www.accordingtohoyt.com and http://www.madgeniusclub.com (the last with several other authors). If you are interested in reading some good human wave fiction, please check her out. She has been holding an online workshop on how to write a short story which I’ve been participating in. She has her stuff on Amazon, and usually has at least one free story there so you can sample her work.

Even in just a few lessons, I have learned a lot. I submitted a short story I had started, and the feedback I’ve gotten from the others helped me to improve it greatly. I need to learn to show, and not explain things, and to keep out extra information that isn’t necessary for the story at hand. This last is a balancing act if you are planing a series, however, and want to foreshadow future events.

It is important to do a little plotting, even if you don’t normally plot. For the first ‘Bastard Prince’ story (It’s a working title.) I had written it, and deleted it, and rewritten it about four times before I wrote the final first draft that I submitted. I finally made myself a detailed outline like the ones we did in high school:

1. The First Story
1. TBP’s older brother, the new king, is not trusting TBP.
1. Ambitious advisers have convinced him that TBP is plotting a coup.
2. This is not true
2. Enemies are circling the kingdom, intent on using the discord to gain an advantage, possibly overrun the kingdom.
1. TBP cannot allow this to happen
1. The lack of trust and the emergencies are forcing his hand
2. He must act, for the good of the kingdom.
etc.

Then I read about the W plot. It starts by introducing the character at a high point, giving him an obvious problem, and a less obvious one to drag him down, (try/fail one) raising him up (but not as high as at the start) and then back down (try/fail two, facing the problem), and finally reaching a triumphant conclusion. The plot would look like a capitol W. So, here is the W plot for my second story. There are obvious variations but for a short story, this format works 90% of the time.

Character: The Bastard Prince, Rowan Barnard Suroni MhacEdric.

The obvious problem: An imperial duke has arrived to arrange a treaty to marry one of the emperor’s nieces to the king, Edmund. Parties in the empire, as well as Ilkadumia (the name of the kingdom), oppose the proposed marriage.

The hidden problem: Someone murders the duke! Not only is the treaty in jeopardy, but if the murder is not solved, the Empire will likely declare war against Ilkadumia, which will probably loose.

Try/fail one: negotiations are going well, until the duke is murdered. His second in command, his son, refuses to negotiate further until the murder is solved. He gives a one week ultimatum.

Try/fail two: Jal and Rowan believe they know who the murderer is: the duke’s son. He has motive and opportunity, and his opposition to his father’s plans are well known. The two have displayed hostility before the murder. But he proves his innocence when confronted.

Facing the problem: After reexamining the evidence, Rowan nearly gives up hope.

Try three/Triumph: A new discovery shows who the real killer is. Rowan tricks him into confessing. He attacks Rowan, hoping to escape his just punishment. At Rowan’s urging, the murderer is given to the duke’s son to be taken to the Emperor for justice. The son concludes a treaty with Ilkadumia.

I’m not sure if I prefer to do the outline method, or the W method. I may well end up using the W to inform the outline, and write from both. I’m currently writing the second story, and continuing to edit the first. I have a new goal of having at least 10 Bastard Prince stories by the end of the year. Wish me luck!