Friday, July 31, 2009

Choosing a title

One of the first things a reader sees on any story is the title. Choosing a title for a short story is a little different than a novel. If a person writes a novel and their agent or publisher thinks that the title doesn't work then they will come up with alternative titles. When a person writes a short story the title is all on them. There is no agent. There is no publisher. It's just the writer and the magazine that the writer is submitting too. So, what can you do to come up with a good title for your short story? I've been giving this a lot of thought myself because choosing a title is difficult for me. There are some simple things to do to help you come up with a good title and get your short story published.

1. Sometimes a good title comes without a story. Write it down. Keep a list. You'll find a lot of writer's blogs and books on writing that tell you to keep a little notebook on you to jot down all your ideas. Devote a page to titles. If you don't use one the titles as is it could help you come up with a different title.

2. Read over your story, is there a particular theme or point that your story is trying to convey. Did your character learn or not learn something important? This would also be a good way to come up with a title for your story.

3. Readers and critique groups. If you belong to a critique group or you have people that read your stories before you send them out you could ask for help in coming up with a title. While I've never used a reader's suggestion outright it has given me ideas and helped me out with titles.

Titles are important it's the first thing an editor of a magazine sees. If they don't like your title they won't change it. While in short story writing the writer has more control because we don't have to deal with agents or publishing houses we do have more responsibility for our work. If a magazine editor doesn't like your story you'll just get a rejection and not become published. So come up with a smashing title and reduce your chances of getting your story rejected.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Revamping the blog: July blog chain

There hasn't been a post here in awhile. I was thinking of getting rid of it. But was convinced otherwise. I have changed focus onto something I can feel more comfortable writing on. I'm going to kick off the new blog with an AW Blog chain blog post. This month's blog chain is question and answer. The first person in the chain answers a question asked by the last person in the chain. Then poster one asks poster two a question. Lady Cat was the previous poster in the chain and she asked me:

Do you believe in writer’s block, and if so, what do you do to combat it? If you don’t believe in writer’s block, do you ever suffer from days where the writing just doesn’t want to come and how do you overcome this?

I don't believe in writer's block. I think writer's block is an excuse not to write because the writer doesn't feel like writing that day, or they lost interest in what they are writing and cannot see how to make interesting again. I also believe that it affects newer writers more than writers who have been writing for awhile. Why? The new writers are still learning that writing is work and one can't always be inspired in order to write. I think this where the "myth" of writer's block come from.

How do I overcome when I just can't seem to write? Well, sometimes the best thing to do is to not write for awhile. I'm currently in school, planning my wedding, working, and packing to move in with my fiance. Since I do not depend on writing for my income I don't allow myself to feel guilty for not writing at this point in my life. You have to when you do this I believe set a date when you will start writing again. Otherwise, you'll never get back to it. I'm going to start writing again in the beginning of August after I move and I am out of school. While I will have to find a new job I won't be in school and I'll be done moving. So I'll have more time to focus on writing without having to worry about something else suffering.

During this time I didn't stop thinking about writing. I've come to the conclusion that at this time I'm not really a novel writer. I don't have the attention span needed for a novel right now. So I have decided to focus on short stories. Looking at a lot of magazines the average short story should run around 2,000 words. This I can do and the short story helps me focus on the story because I tend to ramble. The great thing about short stories is if I get stuck or I feel that the story is not going to work I can easily put it aside until later or work on something new without feeling like I'm abandoning a project that I've put loads of time in. There are a lot times when working on a new piece of writing I come up with an idea that will fix or at least change an older work enough in order for me to regain my interest in the story and fix it.

Reality: Mostly because I have not been writing at all I have not really tried out this new method of writing so I don't really know if it will work. During this time I was planning and doing research for a novel but have since decided to write it as a series of short stories and I did come up with an idea to fix a short story I have that I haven't sent out yet for submission. So this new blog is really where I'll be talking about writing short stories and how it works for me.

The next person in the blog is aimeelaine and my question to her is:
Do you write short stories or novels or both? What made you choose that medium? If you write short stories does is it disheartening that you can't make a living writing short stories like in the heyday of short story writing? If you write novels is it discouraging that it is a longer time period to see any return on your writing or that it gets rejected after all the time you put into it?

Here is everyone else in this months blog chain. Please visit their blogs and leave a comment.
Fokker Aeroplanbau
Forbidden Snowflake
Lady Cat

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Elevator pitch and log line

What is your story about? On Absolutewrite a website for writers. A thread came up about what makes your story special? So we had to come up with a Elevator pitch and a log line. So hear is mine.

Elevator pitch: My story is like Sybil and Mutiny on the Bounty in space.
Log line: While fighting for control of her body Emma must stop a mutiny that will put the whole colony in danger.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who are your colonists?

Probably the most important thing in a colony type story is your colonists. After all the colonists are the characters and the characters create the conflict which drives the story. So when you are creating your colonists whether it's too another planet, the moon, or even if you are writing a historical or fantasy and just moving somewhere else on your planet here are some questions to keep in mind.

Who are your colonists? Are they all male? Are they all female? Are they family groups? Are they young? Are they old? Are the ages mixed?

Why are they going? Did they volunteer? Were they forced to leave by their society? Are they persecuted? Are they out for adventure and exploration? Is there something wrong with their homeworld? Did they even know they were going?

Where are they going? How far is it? Do they all want to leave or do some of them want to stay at home? If there are some that don't want to go why are they going? Are they younger people such as teens or preteens and they are forced to go by their parents? Are they going because someone else is going but would never go on their own? Are they starting a new colony or one that is already established?

For example, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy he has 100 colonists that are made up of mostly American and Russian scientists with a handful of scientists from other countries. It's a joint effort between Russia and the US to explore Mars and to see how well it would be for colonization. Only the best and the brightest of the scientists were chosen. They are both male and female and on the older side of the age spectrum.

In Monica Hughes young adult book Invitation to the Game the colonists do not have a clue.

In Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles there are a few different colonists. One man goes in order to avoid the censors and censorship that have taken over Earth. Another man moves there in order to plant Apple trees. Another moved there with his wife in order to make a lot of money.

In Paula Danzinger's young adult book This Place has No Atmosphere a teenage girl is forced to go with her parents to spend a year on an already established colony on the moon.

As much as I hate outlining and answering questionairres these questions will help you when writing your own colony story. Don't say just because I need it to go this way to work for my story. Give them a real reason. Remember fiction has to be more rational than reality.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I have a plot

After creating 122 characters I finally came up with a plot. It has internal conflict, external conflict that involves overthrowing the existing government power. I knew it would come to me eventually. Although I don't know if you would call this outlining. I'm not much of an outliner and when I do I seem to lose interest in the story.

In order for this story to work I'll only need the 1400 original colonists, the first generation and possibly the second generation. Of course they have by no means reached the new home planet. I smell a sequel and so it might just be a trilogy because they are oh so popular in science fiction and fantasy.

The ever popular question: Do you outline or wing it?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From the bookshelf - off world colonies

I thought I'd put up a list of novels from my bookshelf that have off Earth colonies. I haven't read for enjoyment for awhile. Being a history major is a lot of reading and writing and leaves little time for reading for fun. After looking and trying to remember what each book is about I found four books that deal with off Earth colonies. I haven't had a chance to read everything I own and while I have a lot of science fiction I didn't realize how few dealt with off world colonies.

Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card- While Ender's Game doesn't really deal with off world colonies it does open the door to the rest of the series which does deal with off world colonies or rather one off world colony in particular, the planet Lusitania. These three books are set far in the future after Ender's Game and could be read without having reading Ender's Game. They are, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind. Although it is recommended that you read
all four books.

The next set is the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. It follows the first 100 colonists to Mars. It has politics, economics, science, culture, and religion. A must read for all people who love Mars.

My first adult novel about an off Earth Colony was Lear's Daughters by M. Bradley Kellog with William Rossow. My dad bought it for me at the public library for a quarter. It deals with humans studying an alien culture so a lot of soft sciences in this one. Sociology, anthropology, the study of the culture and religion. It is one of my favorites although I need to buy a new copy because mine is falling apart. I received it already used when I was in high school which was over ten years ago.

The next four books take place on Mars. I have a little bit of a crush on Mars and try and get any story set on Mars to see how other writers portray the planet. Mars Underground by William K. Hartmann is about looking for life on Mars and answering the question, did life begin on Mars? The next book isn't really a novel but a collection of short stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Gordon Van Gelder. It is called Fourth Planet from the Sun. One story in particular jumped out at me it's titled "The Wilderness" by Ray Bradbury although the whole book is just smashing. The third book is a classic also by Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles. This book is a classic SF piece and should be read by all lovers of science fiction. The fourth book is by Greg Bear who is becoming a fast favorite of mine. If you like politics and revolution you'll like Moving Mars.

My last book on my shelf dealing with off world colonies is Saturn by Ben Bova. It's a colony ship story because they never actually go planet side but there are interesting things going on in the rings. This book is all about politics. A very fun read.

I have read all of these books numerous times. They are always a fun read when you want to get away for a little while. So, readers have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you know any other titles about off world colonies? I'm always looking for more titles about off world colonies to read. What have you read lately?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not much happening...

I did some more characters so I now have 110/1400 characters complete. My first 100 characters have American surnames. I've decided for my next 100 characters will have French last names. This is my attempt at getting some racial/ethnic/cultural diversity since the default especially in science fiction it seems to be white.

Does anyone know of any books where the main character is not a white American guy? The only book that comes to mind that I've attempted to read is Aftermath by Levar Burton who played Geordie LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm always looking for some great reads so if you have one please leave a comment.