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Old 01-28-2014, 07:51 AM   #1
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B&N Week 162: How Often Do You Set Stories Aside?


Tuesday is upon us! While the northeast part of the country gets snow, here in Tucson itís sunny and getting into the mid 70s during the day. The days are getting longer, too! Iím loving it. Know what Iím also loving? Some Bolts & Nuts.

This weekís question is simple: how often do you put stories away for later? Letís talk about that for a while.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I overheard some of my superiors talking about guns. Bullets, specifically: how to make them, how much they cost, and so on. I was also reading Roger Zelaznyís Amber series for the umpteenth time, and he gave me information about bullets as well. I then had a vision of a guy being killed, cremated, and his ashes put into bullets so he could have revenge on the people who killed him. I wrote that idea on a post it, put that post it in my wallet, and literally sat on it for about 10 years.

Why? A few reasons, to be honest. The first was because while I had the vague idea, I didnít have a story to go with it. The second was because I was just thinking about getting into comics, and didnít really know much of anything yet. The third was because I didnít feel I had the storytelling chops to tell this particular story. Not the way I wanted it to come out. So I put it aside for a while, and would bring it out every so often, turn it around, look at it from a couple of angles, and then put it away again. It hadnít finished cooking.

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Old 01-28-2014, 10:45 AM   #2
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A number of years ago, DC Comics had their ELSEWORLDS imprint going that I had written a bunch of single issue and mini-series concepts for. When they closed down the imprint, those ideas all went into file folders. Why didn't I throw them out? They would never see the light of day in a DC title, but I figured I could always re-evaluate the stories and maybe use them, in whole or in part, as something new and original. The same thing applies to characters I have created who don't yet have a story to go with them. And then there's a story concept I came up with that I just don't think is mine to tell, which does happen to writers all the time. All of these sit in file folders in plain view, waiting for their time to be opened and added to. As a matter of fact, I just opened a file from a few years ago recently and have been developing that into a mini-series, with the ideas flowing out like a raging river. In my housekeeping, the one thing I will never throw out is ideas because you never know when that little voice will peep up from the ether and your creative muse will excitedly want you to write.
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Old 01-29-2014, 04:25 PM   #3
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I feel ya. I have a list/folder of story ideas so big that I could stop coming up with ideas today and still have enough to create works for the rest of my life.
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Old 01-29-2014, 11:10 PM   #4
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I'm the same. I have file folders, post-it notes, random scraps of paper. It drives my wife nuts! I only recently decided to try and get it all saved on the computer so its a little more organized.
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:01 AM   #5
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My problem is that I don't have the skills to produce any of my ideas.

My "baby" project that's been gestating for years is a huge mess with multiple VP characters, decades-long story arcs, pretentious themes, et cetera, et cetera, that I don't have a fraction of the writing skills to actually carry off. So I keep trying to come up with short, simple stories that I'm less invested in, in order to develop my chops. I then, almost immediately, let the story become over-elaborate and get too attached to it to watch myself butcher it.

I know I'm being stupid, I just don't know how to stop!
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Old 01-30-2014, 12:10 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newt View Post
My problem is that I don't have the skills to produce any of my ideas.

My "baby" project that's been gestating for years is a huge mess with multiple VP characters, decades-long story arcs, pretentious themes, et cetera, et cetera, that I don't have a fraction of the writing skills to actually carry off. So I keep trying to come up with short, simple stories that I'm less invested in, in order to develop my chops. I then, almost immediately, let the story become over-elaborate and get too attached to it to watch myself butcher it.

I know I'm being stupid, I just don't know how to stop!
That's usually where the editor comes in.

Just sayin'...
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Old 01-30-2014, 12:53 PM   #7
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Yeah...but I'm broke.
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Old 01-30-2014, 01:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newt View Post
My problem is that I don't have the skills to produce any of my ideas.

My "baby" project that's been gestating for years is a huge mess with multiple VP characters, decades-long story arcs, pretentious themes, et cetera, et cetera, that I don't have a fraction of the writing skills to actually carry off. So I keep trying to come up with short, simple stories that I'm less invested in, in order to develop my chops. I then, almost immediately, let the story become over-elaborate and get too attached to it to watch myself butcher it.

I know I'm being stupid, I just don't know how to stop!
I really have no idea what you're talking about...but something called a "baby" project containing "decades-long" story arcs seems funny to me.
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Old 01-30-2014, 01:40 PM   #9
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Newt, have you taken writing books out from your public library, have any at home, or have you gone online to search for information on writing for beginners? There are plenty of books and websites out there to learn from. As for how to tell a short story, the best way to learn is by reading them, studying their structure, how they deal with their characters, how the characters speak, and so forth. Read and take notes. The same can be applies to comics, whether short story, single issue, or multi-part storylines. Study and you'll see how it's done.
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Old 01-30-2014, 01:56 PM   #10
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Thanks, Steve. I have read a few books- I've got an old Writer's Digest collection of articles on writing short stories, and I've read some other creative writing books. I feel like I understand the concepts, it's just a matter of applying them.

I have attempted to analyze some short stories of a few writers whose stories I particularly like (R. E. Howard, Lovecraft, Wodehouse), but I don't think I've done a very good job, and I'm not sure these particular writers are very concerned with fundamentals. I'm sure I ought to work on the classic short story writers- Chekhov, Maugham, Henry James, etc., I just haven't yet.

I get bogged down by plot holes, or distracted by minor details, or else frustrated with how my stories are developing. I know I just need to keep at it, and I am making some (very slow) progress. I will hopefully have a finished draft of a 10-page-ish comic done in a week or two here, which I'll post for scathing.
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Old 01-31-2014, 12:45 AM   #11
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Two books that I remember reading that helped out a great deal: "The making of Star Trek" by James Blish (1968) and "On Writing" by Steven King (a few years back).

There's also the eight rules of writing created by Kurt Vonnegut:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two thingsóreveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to themóin order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
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