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Writing the Rough Draft - and other writers' resources
« on: March 26, 2018, 02:52:17 AM »
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  • From the thrilling 90s and Star Trek fandom, a nice trio of articles about plotting and structure, used by permission of the authors -except Jane, whom Mylochka says we don't have to ask- she'd want to put the help out there like we do.

    There's a CENTRAL meta-lesson here, that three accomplished writers disagree about something as basic as how to generate that first draft; what works for you works.  It's idiosyncratic.  Try different approaches and find out what's for you.  Then don't overthink it - write.  Get that story on the page and fix any problems in subsequent drafts.




    Writing the Rough Draft
    By Myochka


    I like to use this outline form to help me organize my random ideas about scenes and characters into a story. The important thing to remember about using an outline is that it exists to serve you; you don’t exist to serve it.


    Don’t feel compelled to fill out the blanks in order. Write what you are most certain of first, and come back to elements that require more thought later. Discard parts of the outline that don’t clarify your ideas. Stop filling the form out when you feel sufficiently inspired to write -- People want to read your story, not your beautifully completed outline.

    Below are explanations of the elements of the rough draft form. Click on the phrase "Go to Outline Form" that appears at the bottom of the page for a copy you can print out and use.
     

    1. Title

    Although this element appears first in the rough draft form, this is usually one of the last lines I fill in. I like titles that directly quote lines from the story. Be warned, though, that using story quotes as titles can sound hokey if the story seems to be written merely as an excuse to use a certain line.


    2. Description of Main Action:

    Under this heading write a brief description of the events of the story. For example, here is the description of the main action in Mylochka’s "La Belle Dame:"

    While the Enterprise is on leave at a mysterious planet suffering from a rash of vampire-like murders, Chekov must choose between a beautiful woman whom he finds himself irresistibly drawn to and his duty to Star Fleet. (Last sentence omited to protect the ending.)

    Write this brief plot outline in order to clarify the story's focus in your own mind. This should discourage you from wandering off into non plot-forwarding tangents (Even using this discipline, it's a struggle to keep my own plots more focused and linear than a Twin Peaks episode.)


    3. General description of form:

    Identify the genre that your story falls into. Is it a comedy? tragedy? action-adventure? romance? supernatural thriller? unabashed angst-fest? The purpose is to clarify your focus. If you want to write a comedy, something funny should to happen. If you're writing tragedy, you’d best think up something tragic.


     This isn’t a question that you’ll need a rocket scientist's help to answer. You should know immediately what kind of story you want. However, mentally fitting your story into a genre will give you many clues as to the sort of tone, mood, scene, actions, and characters readers will expect in your story. You have then only to decide how you will fulfill or frustrate their expectations. It's a mental starting point.

    Knowing the genre will help prevent you from starting a story as a tragedy and finding it has ended up a comedy.


    4. Prior Circumstances:


    I highly recommend you take time to think about this. What has happened between your primary characters a month, day, or an hour before the events you describe? Which characters have had good relationships? Which ones are enemies? What did each one think of the others upon their first meeting? Knowing this sort of information helps you create richer more realistic characters and scenes.


    Even when writing fan fiction, in which much of the background work has already been done, take time to consider the state of events and character relationships just prior to the beginning of your story. Knowing where to begin can be quite difficult. A list of prior circumstances can help you determine what elements of exposition the audience will need immediately, and which can be recalled later in character flashbacks, if at all. 


    5. Theme:

    Although fan fiction tends to put emphasis on character and action rather than the development of strong themes, it doesn’t hurt to spend some time reflecting on the underlying message of your story. What sort of general moral principles do the actions of your characters seem to promote by example? Courage requires sacrifice? Friends are more important than money? Never give a sucker an even break?

    As with deciding on a title, this is another element of the outline that I do not immediately write down. I tend to pencil in a phrase and modify it several times as the general outlines of the plot and the inter-relationships between the characters coalesce in my mind.


    6. Cast of Characters :

    Ah, yes! Another one of the fun parts! These lines, I usually fill in right away. Who do you want to be in your little drama? Who will play the parts of hero and villain?

    After you’ve created a simple list, I recommend you fill out a character sheet on each. It asks for the following information:



    Character Sheet
    Name:__________

    Age: ___________

    Height: _________

    Weight: _________

    Eyes: ___________

    Hair: ____________
     

    Although readers of your fan fiction will already know what most of the characters look like, don’t omit descriptions. Fans never tire of descriptions of chocolate brown eyes or delicately pointed ears -- that’s one of the things that makes them fans.

    Be sure you know how large or small characters are in relationship to each other. Many actions are dependent on relative size. While nicely done, original, and accurate descriptions are the icing on the fannish cake of fiction, inaccurate depictions of characters can ruin your credibility.


    Family Background:

    Education:

    I feel quite safe in assuming no one reading this sprang fully formed from the forehead of Zeus. Each of us has a past that shaped who we are. A realistic, fully developed character has the advantage of such motivating information. Was her/his family rich or poor? Was s/he the favorite or the black sheep? What do his/her parents and/or siblings think of him/her? Did s/he do well in school? What were his/her nicknames?


    Description of Personality:

    Motivations:

     Don’t be satisfied with writing a stereotype. Think about how your characters' minds work. What events and encounters made them the person they are? What goals, desires, and/or fantasies drive them forward or hold them back in life?


    7. Setting:

    Just as it is important to know what your characters look like, it is also important to know the details of the location or locations you have chosen for your story. Take time to create a fully developed setting that has realistic animate features as well inanimate features. For instance, to give a reader a picture of the room I’m in right now, rather than giving only the bare details of chairs and computer equipment present, it would be more accurate and interesting to mention the housefly buzzing at the window and the occasional dog wandering in the open door.

    Know what your setting looks like in detail. Share this information with your reader.


    8. Conflicts
    :

    Despite (or given) the example of a notable Science Fiction TV series I could name, good drama requires forces in conflict. Something needs to be at stake in order to keep the reader’s attention. Will the villain succeed or fail? Will the hero live or die? Will the couple remain together or break up?

    List persons or events that are at cross purposes in your plot. What forces are present to potentially prevent your main character from achieving his or her goal? In order for your story to have dramatic tension, you must provide some road blocks on your protagonist’s golden road to success. 


    9. Narrative (beat by beat recounting of plot):


    The narrative is, in simple terms, all the things that happen in the story, listed point by point. Here is the place to really roll up your figurative sleeves and go to work.

    When I am writing, I usually try to first do a rough blocking in of the events of the story, answering three main questions: "How does the story begin? What are the three most important things that happen in the story? and, How do I want the story to end?

    (As Jane Seaton and I can tell you from our experience in writing "Friend in Need," it is very, very, very helpful to know where you’re going to end up when you begin the story. Writing a story never knowing how it’s going to end can be very... adventurous. In this case do as I say and not as I sometimes do. Don’t begin a story until you know how it’s going to end. Most of the poor unfinished stories sitting on neglected disks in my computer room were begun without conclusions in mind.)

    After you have a rough outline, continue to refine it. Add plot twists and details as they occur to you. When you find you’ve got so many details written your outline is beginning to sound like a story, stop working on the outline and write that story, kid! We’ll be waiting for it eagerly!
    « Last Edit: March 26, 2018, 03:22:52 AM by BUncle »

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    Not Writing the Rough Draft
    « Reply #1 on: March 26, 2018, 02:54:16 AM »
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  • Not Writing the Rough Draft
    by Jane Seaton


    Once again, I'm forced to conclude that Mylochka and I have our origins on different planets. I'm sure her suggestions for fanfiction writing methods will work for some people. Vulcans, maybe. But to prevent too many potentially brilliant Chekov writers giving up in despair, I'd like to suggest that there are other equally valid methods of creating a finished work of fiction. While I'm not particularly consistent in the way I write, I usually adopt some variation on the approach outlined below.


    Title

    Well, yes, you have to call the file something. 'Chapter One' works well for me. I find it's much easier to dream up a title after you have some idea of what the story is about.


    Description of Main Action:

    I'm not sure about this one. All too often, a story that was supposed to have a big space battle in it can turn out to be an intense character driven two-hander that happens almost entirely in the corridor outside auxiliary control. And space battles are so hard to write anyway. I'd like to replace this heading with an alternative:


    Theme and Teaser:

    Paramount uses a hook to get the casual viewer to watch an episode. As writer, you'll need a hook to make you open up this file on nights when you'd rather be watching Third Rock. For me, the hook is a tasty scene that takes place some way into the story, and needs to be justified by 'the plot'. If your idea of a good scene is simply your favourite characters enjoying an already established relationship, this method won't work for you. If it's the violent break up of that relationship, you have a hook. What, you want to know, is going to make them fall out?


     My hook is usually Captain Kirk and Chekov disagreeing over something and then making up again. Because I use it so often, I need a variety of ways to get there, so that my readers won't notice they're reading the same story yet again. This is where the 'theme' comes in. Pirates, vampires, pon farr, beastly aliens and the injustice of third world debt have all proved fruitful. If you're stuck, try reading Shakespeare or your newspaper. 


    General description of form:

    You won't know this until you've finished the story. If it ends up as a tragedy, you may want to go back and take out all the cynical and humorous dialogue and sly parodies of actual episodes, but you don't have to. If you do take them out, make sure you save them somewhere for use in your next story.


    Prior Circumstances:

    It is vital to think carefully about these, LATER. When you meet someone in real life, they don't immediately tell you their life history, or worse, send you a resume in advance. There is no reason why the people who turn up in your story should do so either. Just make sure that they're interesting. Imagine you're putting together a dinner party. Invite a real mixture of characters. Give each one a 'handle', something that makes it easy for the reader to keep track of them. Don't be afraid to ask them to leave if they turn out to be boring or surplus to requirements.


    So why did I say you should think about them carefully? Because of the 'old flame' rule. If two or more of your randomly invited dinner party guests turn out to have a shared history, or even a shared secret, you must come up with a convincing reason for them all getting together in your story. One old girlfriend per episode is acceptable, two is stretching things.   

    Mylochka also suggests that you decide 'the state of events and character relationships just prior to the onset of the events in your plotline'. I think this can be done as you go along. Sometimes it's necessary to have your character exhausted, injured, disillusioned or elated, but you can either explain why this should be when you realise you need to, or even go back and insert a 'scene-setter' paragraph or two once the story is half-finished. There's really no need to worry about this yet. You'll probably have to change it if you write it now.


    Theme:


    See above under theme and teaser


    Cast of Characters :

    This is fan fiction, so relationships are all. Once you've realised that, there is only one golden rule. Sulu must misjudge Chekov, then suffer horribly as a result. Mylochka is beginning to tire of my relentless loyalty to this rule, but I stand my ground. Just in case you haven't read Lois Balzer's Second to None, and don't know what I'm talking about, I'll phrase it a little more generally. 
     In order to generate angst, your central character needs to be under attack. If that attack comes from a character who should be a friend, lover, loyal subordinate or idolised superior, the angst factor is magnified tenfold. If you are a truly great author, the attack will be sparked off by external events, but thereafter fueled by the believable inner contradictions of your hero. See reference to Shakespeare, above. This option concentrates the angst to the point where the paper may spontaneously combust when you print your story. 

    Details of your characters' appearance, history and personalities will emerge naturally as you write. Make sure you mention everything that interests you about the characters in your story. Most of it will come in useful. Feel free to go back later and plant evidence if you forgot to mention that a character was acting suspiciously, carrying an ill-concealed weapon, or harbouring a grudge. Don't worry if you don't find out something vital about a character until after everyone else in the story has spotted it.

    Motivation is the most important thing you need to keep in mind. So long as you are sufficiently motivated by the desire for feedback and/or royalties, you will contrive to keep your characters in order.


    Setting:

    Have somewhere in mind, preferably somewhere fairly distinctive that you are reasonably familiar with. Don't bore yourself and your reader with long descriptions, but mention the parts of the environment that your characters are interacting with, like the curiously wrought manacles or damp and rodent infested dungeons. If your story is set somewhere off the ship, the same rules apply.


    Conflicts:


    Try not to make your mind up about anything in your story. If you are faced with decisions over what your characters should do next, or how they should feel about something that has happened, share all the options out among them and let them argue amongst themselves.   


    Narrative

    Never let your story plan run more than a paragraph or two ahead of your word processor. Even if you can't help knowing who the villain is, and what he's up to, try to avoid deciding how your characters will react to discovering it for themselves. If you are using this method for constructing a story, never, never, never agree to publish in instalments something you haven't yet finished. If you get stuck, simply leave the story to 'mature' for six months or so. Your subconscious will continue to work on it silently and painlessly, and one morning, you will wake up knowing exactly which half of it needs to be deleted in order to make it work.


    Warning

    None of the above applies if you expect to start your story at the beginning, work through it in roughly chronological order and end by unmasking the murderer in the library. As I write, I usually find I'm working on the whole story all the time, adding scenes at the end, but amending existing scenes too. This means that progress gets slower and slower as I near the end, allowing more time for the various loose ends to bed down in my subconscious, so that the final scene should happen quite spontaneously.
    « Last Edit: March 26, 2018, 03:24:11 AM by BUncle »

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    A Moderate Approach To Writing (Or Not) the Rough Draft
    « Reply #2 on: March 26, 2018, 03:04:48 AM »
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  • A Moderate Approach To Writing (Or Not) the Rough Draft
    With Fannish Peculiarities In Mind
    By Buster's Uncle

    Writing can sure be a quirky craft. Mylochka and Jane are both right; and given their audience, both wrong.  Look- you're reading this on, not just a Star Trek page, but a Chekov page.  I daresay you're a fan.  I'm here, so the pot must be black, too.   Given my experience of fan fiction, a few remarks are in order- on writing in general, and on fannish writing in particular.

    Fandom tends to focus on narrow obsessions, to the utter exclusion of outsiders, and even other fans.  I know of no fen writing Star Trek stories who are fixated on the same things I am.  I have always felt alone as a fan; I'm male, yet neither an adolescent nor a misogynist---  and the way TV and movies have taken over Fandom, to the detriment of books, disgusts me.  Starlog is the Devil's sci-fi Bible!  (Believe it or not, this is leading to an on-topic point; bear with me.)  My perspective can be a useful one to the fan/aspiring writer who'd like to hit the big-time, because it's doubtless different than yours, and a good storyteller understands that different people have different world-views.  My objection to most fan fiction isn't that it's bad, though it often is, but that it wasn't written for my tastes.  Ms. Seaton and Dr. My-Sister are fluent, adept storytellers- who tend to lose me somewhat by writing stories focused on a character who appeals to me no more than any other on the show.  Why Chekov and not the whole crew?  I just don't get it.  It's something to overcome; they have to be even better writers to keep my interest.

    Ever read any of John Norman's Gor series?   Do you share the author's bondage fetish?  I don't, and what would be otherwise a more sophisticated, realistic take on Burroughs's John Carter of Barsoom is instead a disgusting amoral trash-wallow that I'm a bit ashamed to have read.

    Of course, this is not a remedial composition course; that's what schools are for.   The three of us offer our humble advice on the assumption that you're fluent enough in written English to benefit. (I tutored too many friends in college in writing to take it as a given.) Write even if you're not ready.   Writers learn their craft by writing. (Also by reading.) Everything you ever learned in school is applicable to writing Trek stories, especially the stuff about writing in general. And the only difference between writing in general and writing science fiction is that you have to give enormously more thought to situation (milieu) and explanation (exposition) of same. (And it really helps if you understand science, Mylochka.) Just as what Jane and Mylochka's articles tell us is true of story writing regardless of genre, any generic advice or insights on the subject are useful. Just as these two lay out different approaches that work for each of them, you'll find much of what other authors say about their individual processes is contradictory, because there is no one correct approach to writing. What works for you, works for you, and may or may not for me.  But fan fiction has some all-too-common failings that should be addressed, if you wish to grow as a genuine writer, as opposed to a mere fan writer.  I fear both the ladies' essays, while being fairly solid general guidelines, sometimes encourage Bad Fan Writing. I'll follow their format in responding.


    1.  Title:

    Ditto everything Jane says.  I usually dislike lines from the story as title.  It tends to catch my attention and remind me that what I'm reading isn't real.  You want your readers to invest in your reality.  Reminding them that it's only fiction is counterproductive.  I'd recommend never getting closer than a loose paraphrase.


    2.  Description of Main Action or Theme and Teaser:

    Many excellent stories have had their origin with the author having a scene in his or her mind and building a story around it.   Larry Niven's "Relic of Empire" originated that way.  The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.  You could easily sketch out a scene you have in mind and outline basic plot structure as well.  Jane's approach has the advantage of accommodating laziness; I'm not inclined to engage in the kind of heavy prep Mylochka does.  But, and this is important, my experience informally tutoring beginning writers taught me that some sort of prioritized list of elements, i.e. a very rough outline, makes all the difference.   Without it, the beginner would write a paragraph and say "what now?"  After I began making them jot a list of points they wanted to cover and numbering the elements in a logical order, they rarely asked, and when they did, I just told them to write about the next thing on the list.   If you find you get blocked easily, you absolutely want to take Mylochka's advice to heart.  Jane very rightly asserts that stories have a way of becoming something you never intended.  A huge advantage of having Mylochka's skeletal plot outline is that you can change your mind and set it aside.  Don't throw it away-  you did the prep work and you might still come back and write the story you originally intended.


    3.  General description of form:

    A beginning writer is best off keeping things fairly simple.  Yes, jokes can fit superbly into a tense thriller; but that's a bit of an advanced technique.  For now, try to focus your style.  Again, I think Jane is dead on about this one.   To amplify on her remarks, this is something you shouldn't worry much about until you've generated your basic copy, also know as the first draft.  Personally, I rarely seem to make it as far as anything altered enough to call a second draft.  I read over what I've done, fix technical mistakes I spot, and do a bit of line editing where I feel it needed- cutting to tighten the story, adding to amplify points, and rewriting lines to untangle sentence structure.  I also transpose whole paragraphs where I feel it's needed.  The conclusion of this essay began as a second paragraph of the previous section; I realized I'd gotten too general halfway through, but went ahead and finished it while I was on a roll.  It's a good paragraph, and a simple matter to move it to the bottom when I get that far.  This is the point of the process where you should decide of kind of story it is, and change elements that don't agree.  It's also a good spot to seek a second opinion.  Almost everything I know about writing that I didn't pick up simply by being a prolific reader, I learned by looking at my sister's manuscripts and discussing them with her.  She gained a different perspective, and I've come a long way from "this part sucks".  As you practice the craft of writing, you learn how to write.  That's why you should take the plunge and try to make a go of even the lamest ideas- it might be salvageable in the editing process, especially if you bring in a good editor, and even if not, should have been a learning experience.


    4.  Prior Circumstances:

    I believe Jane is just dead flat wrong on this one.  You've all read the Dune and Lord of The Rings books, right?  Next time you glance over an installment of either series, you might notice that it's really too long and the characterization is weak; the writing itself isn't all that good.  The genius of both Herbert and Tolkien is in milieu creation.  Both series are truly great because the worlds they take place in are so well and thoroughly thought out.   Writing The Hobbit as a children's book in the 30s, Tolkien makes references to background history he didn't codify for thirty years with publication of The Silmarilion.   As I assert in the conclusion, don't use up all your ideas at once.  It is a good idea to work out all sorts of background you don't explain because you don't need to yet.   Heck of a lot easier to write good sequels that way, too; you kept the earlier effort consistent with the background that wasn't pertinent to the story you were telling at the time.  You also need to practice milieu creation for the day you're ready to leave Roddenberry's sandbox and build your own.  Jane's "make it up as you go" tactic is fine for a light, frothy, fun romp, but only a hack would write a serious story, intended to have depth, her way.  Point, Mylochka.


    5.  Theme:

    Is there a message in your story?   There doesn't have to be.  I certainly can't think of a theme to "Amok Time," a great episode exploring Vulcan society, but lacking a message.  "Omega Glory," Mylochka's least favorite, and a bad episode any way you cut it, has a fairly clear theme of " all men are brothers and we shouldn't kill each other over things that happened a long time ago."  But one of the things that made Star Trek truly great and lasting was its enlightened message.  A serious flaw in the pro novels is that they're rarely about anything.  They're just stories.  This is one you'll just have to work out for yourself.  If you have a theme, you certainly need to be aware of it by the time you prepare your final draft.


    6.  Cast of Characters:

    Hoo boy.  Just keep in mind that your reader may not share your obsession with your pet character's enormous tangled mane of flaming red hair.  Mylochka and Jane encourage you to run that sort of thing into the ground.   Constant descriptions of some trait are one of the Bad Fan Writing conventions that  annoys me the most.  Really; give the chocolate brown eyes and delicately pointed ears a rest.  DON'T mention EVERYTHING that interests you about the character.  At least content yourself with mentioning a trait once, and leaving it alone for a few chapters.  And Jane- I disagree about Sulu.  Don't be bustin' on my boy.


    7.  Setting:

    Again, give details on a need-to-know basis.   Is it important to the story that I, the reader, know what color the curtains are?   In something like a mystery involving an interior decorator it could well be an essential plot point.  The rest of the time, you should probably spare me.  As with the previous section, it is good for you to have worked all this out for yourself.   You'll spend much more time writing your characters in their setting than I will reading the results.  Sometimes the point of view character is waiting for something, or otherwise in a situation that seems to go on and on.  That is precisely the time to show off your narrative description skills; bored people look at their surroundings.   More importantly, a detailed description of the room would give a sense of suspended time, like the p.o.v. character is feeling.  On the other hand, if he runs through the room while being chased, you simply do not have time to relate all the details the eye can take in in a second; you'd destroy your pacing.  The most detail you'd want to give might be "Chekov ducked through a drawing room with purple curtains" and then only if the curtains will be important later.


    8.  Conflicts:


    There's a saying about the writing process that goes:  In act one you introduce your character, by the end of act two you get her stranded up a tree, for all of act three you throw rocks at her, and in act four you get her back down.  I have little else to add.  Conflict can be character based, or circumstantial.  If there isn't some sort of problem, what's the story about?  How can anything happen without conflict?  Writing vignettes is an advanced technique that few pros who try have mastered.  Don't waste my time with something artsy fartsy.  I just won't read it.  Neither will anyone else.


    9. Narrative (plot outline):


    Once more, I'd recommend a compromise.   Jane's way is obviously just for the fun of fooling around on paper, and not with the quality of the end product in mind.  She's good enough to mostly get away with it; you may not be.  I mean, at least begin writing the story with an idea of the ending.  Mylochka's way is too much work for my blood.  As I said in my opening, different things work for different people, so you might try the extremes, and compromises thereof, before settling on what works for you.  You could do a great deal to correct the inherent shortcomings of the laisez faire approach with a ruthless editing.   Don't know where to begin the story?  Just pick a place, sit down, and generate the copy.  If you realize, when you've finished, that you began too early, don't be too stingy with your efforts to throw away a few pages.  If you realize you've begun too late, it's much easier now to write more.  The process of filling in the details should have solidified things in your mind.  I've already discussed the usefulness of a prioritized list of elements; you don't really even need to number your list.  In addition to having some vague idea of your ending, this is the compromise I'd recommend; at least keep a scratch pad beside you as you compose.  Elements you'd like to include later will occur to you while you write.  Jot down a one or two word note, so you don't forget while you're wrapping up the passage you're currently writing.  On a word processor, you can easily keep rough notes at the beginning of the file while you write.  I've lost more great ideas or lines to forgetting before I got to the point I could use them.

    Jane is correct, by the way, about the power of your subconscious.  My writing style varies enormously according to my mood.  Some days I just ain't got it.  If I'm not up against a deadline, that's a good time to switch to another project, and let things work out in the back of my mind, or at least return on a day that I do got it.  The problem is, sometimes you never go back and finish.  Caveat Emptor.


    Conclusion:

    The most important part of the writing process is that you sit down and just do it.  Jane correctly tells us that you can work out much as you go.  Again, you can fix a lot with a ruthless editing process.   Someone to whom you can show your manuscripts and get useful feedback is more precious than gold.  This is especially true for you as a fan writer.  My sister started sharing her stories with me when I was too young to be that much help.  I nonetheless provided a perspective outside her own, and I believe the work benefited as a result, even back in my "this part sucks" days.  Fan writing tends to be far too personal to be enjoyed by anyone who doesn't see, for instance, Chekov the way the author does.  If you want to write something personal, that's fine; but if you're aiming for a wider audience, you'll need to open up a bit.  So don't go looking for someone who thinks exactly like you do.  That's a sort of masturbation.  Find someone who thinks enough like you do for you to work with.  There are many pleasantly passed hours to be had in talking story possibilities with a friend.

    Other than that... spare us all the fannish tendency to put cute, in-jokey elements into your story.  It's either a waste of space if I don't get it, or reminds me the story isn't real if I do.  Do you really need to drop that Quantum Leap reference into a Star Trek story?  No less than Orson Scott Card himself once gave me down the road for putting an illusion-breaking in-joke into a story.  To quote him: "But it's a good fan move."  He didn't mean anything nice by that.   Don't go there.

    A disadvantage of Jane's technique is that your story can wander all over creation and end up making little sense.  Writers have to pace themselves and use their ideas one at a time and not all at once.  (Although writing a story that's about eight things at once -all covered badly- could earn you $200 and a story credit on a Voyager episode.)  Mylochka's heavy prep, on the other hand, can positively leach all the life and enthusiasm out of a story.  I've certainly seen her go through so many drafts of a story that even though the end product was flawless, it just wasn't as good as earlier draft that didn't make sense, but was bursting with energy.    Both these angles of approach can lead to typical extremes of Bad Fan Writing; Jane's intuitive approach, in the wrong hands, could produce something so convoluted and personal that no one but the author can enjoy it.   Mylochka's "Vulcan" approach would tend to encourage an especially pedantic fan to write something just plain dull.  Which is why I suggest a moderate approach.  If you ask around, your friends might be able to tell you which kind of fan you are.  Then you'll know what sort of tendencies to moderate against.  It all depends on whether you're writing for an audience or only for yourself anyway.  I know many of you have professional aspirations; you probably need to broaden your focus just to reach me.   You'll need to broaden it a lot to reach to kind of audience a pro has to.   Keep in mind that no one seems to be making a living just writing Star Trek novels.  Some day you'll have to build your own playground if you want to take it to the next level.  Some fan writers evolve beyond Star Trek stories; some are content to write Chekov stories forever even though they're good enough to go pro.  That part could be entirely up to you someday.  It's all good.



    Author's note, lo, 21 years later.  It stands up pretty well, IMO, though the lady's entries need me to bother to fix up line spacing.  Jane didn't know I was going to chip in -no one did until the first two were up- and her reaction where I ended "point, Mylochka" was a sarcastic "I want to marry him". ;lol
    « Last Edit: March 26, 2018, 03:25:20 AM by BUncle »

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    « Reply #3 on: April 23, 2018, 06:47:09 PM »
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  • On the principal that we don't want to sticky Planet Tales to death, the rest of the Teegar Taylor's Chekov Page (pure gold) writing resources, used by permission, ought to go in this thread...

    Nothing has been checked for if the 20 year-old link's still good, so caveat emptor and no refunds.  -I 'spose, though, if anyone wants to check and post a list of bad links and/or additions and updates to the list, I can do edits...



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    Fan Fiction's Ten Commandments
    « Reply #4 on: April 23, 2018, 07:41:25 PM »
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  • Fan Fiction's Ten Commandments

    Authors anonymous/unknown; compiled by Nancy Brown


    1 - art a fanfic writer, not God. Unless thy name is Roddenberry (or Carter or Weisman) thy stories are not canon, nor are the characters all thine own. Disclaim them as such.

    2 - the newsgroup holy; do not repost thine stories each week. That is the purpose of the archive.

    3 - shalt not take the First Amendment in vain. Thou dost have the right to express thine opinion. One doth not have the right to do so simply to cause a flame war.

    4 - thy spellchecker and thesaurus.

    5 - shalt not release a story that another hast not proofread.

    6 - thine friends and thy self into thine stories can be vastly entertaining for all. Telling the world all thine fantasies through thy character is a little disturbing. Telling thine fantasies about thine friends through thy character could be grounds for stalking charges. Use thy best judgement.

    7 - mayst commit adultery with thine characters as thou might please, but thou shalt post a "Mature Readers Only" warning.

    8 - shalt not use another author's characters in thine stories without permission.

    9 - shalt not play in another author's (or authors') universe without permission.

    10 - is thy greatest friend. Learn to both give and take it constructively, and thou shalt live long and prosper mightily.
    « Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 07:59:59 PM by Buster's Uncle »

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    How to Write Angst
    « Reply #5 on: April 23, 2018, 07:59:21 PM »
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  • How to Write Angst

    by Jane Seaton

     What is angst? Why are some Trek episodes mere action-adventure, while others, the ones the fans replay until the tape snaps, are pure, emotional goldmines? And how can a writer be sure to bury those nuggets of twenty-four carat feeling throughout her story? 

    A Starfleet officer (and let's face it, all Trek fiction heroes are Starfleet officers or as near as makes no difference) has certain characteristics. They are, for the most part, morally sure of themselves and their role in the universe. They may have to take difficult decisions, particularly where the Prime Directive is concerned, but this rarely causes them to suffer sleepless nights. They are highly educated and technically competent, and have set up on their computers pro forma letters with mail merge, so that the occasional tragedy can be appropriately and compassionately resolved. They support each other in moments of crisis. They know that there is always another Starfleet Officer at their back, armed with a phaser.

    Space, however, is a risky place to be. Aliens may attack you, technology fail you, and the very fabric of space-time itself plunge you into unthinkable weirdness, but this doesn't always give rise to angst. No one would ever describe Scotty's battles to save his engines as angsty. Such occurrences are mere plot devices. As an exercise for the reader, I suggest you try to write a Scotty angst fest. Sure, the engineer fell in love with Mira Romaine, and suffered a few anxious moments when she was taken over by the luminous Zetarians, but that was romance, or possibly melodrama, not angst. Scotty is simply too practical, realistic and self-sufficient to suffer a believable emotional crisis. A few stories exist which deal with his resentment at young green officers rising at warp speed towards command, and at the closeness of the 'triad' of senior officers, but is resentment, envy if you like, really a basis for angst? Surely resentment and envy are the result of feeling that you deserve more than you are getting. Angst flourishes when the protagonist is subjected to untold awfulness, and lacking sufficient self-confidence and objectivity to blame fate, Klingons or the incompetence of Starfleet, turns to blaming himself.

    Lacking self confidence? How then can anyone write Kirk angst? Objectivity? What of Spock?

    Kirk's self confidence derives from his ability to defeat the no-win scenario. Forced to depend on someone else, or forced to fail someone else, his whole self-image comes into question. In the case of K/S fiction, he is not necessarily a self-confident homosexual. And he has made mistakes in the past which he has not resolved, and which come back to haunt him from time to time. He has no conviction that he will learn from his mistakes and avoid repeating them. Instead, they seem to exert a strange fascination, drawing him irresistably into a cycle of failure.

    Spock, when faced with feelings of intense friendship or lust for his captain, or anyone else, is as objective as a teenage boy experiencing his first crush. He neither admits the attraction and acts upon it, nor denies it and purges it from his thinking. He allows it to influence his actions in a disorganised and unpredictable fashion, causing problems for himself and his colleagues. He then feels guilty, as he should. He is living a lie, and knowing this in his heart of hearts, he is a hothouse for angst.

    But why, I hear you cry - or even Vhy? - are we talking about Spock, Kirk and Scotty? What of Chekov?

    Chekov, by contrast to his esteemed superiors, has no worries. He is the pick of his year at the Academy, or he wouldn't be on the Enterprise. Starfleet has trained him to deal with all known dangers in space, and to be flexible and resourceful in dealing with the unknown. He serves under the best captain in the fleet, who is dedicated to ensuring the safety of his crew. He is mentored by the objective and dispassionate Vulcan science officer, and has as his close friends those wonderfully sane and compassionate people, Lieutenants Sulu and Uhura. His physical health is the first priority of a near-legendary duo of medics. His family is close knit and black-sheep proof, and his girlfriends are too vapid and flighty to cause any concern, while being just numerous enough to leave no doubt of his sexual orientation. He will, being young, make occasional mistakes, but his captain will counsel him wisely and he will be a better person once the dust dies down.

    Or, alternatively:
      •Chekov, being the lowest form of life officially acknowledged by Starfleet, is encouraged to feel inadequate and undeserving at every turn. He is disposable. He knows this. His parent's address is at the head of the letter_of_condolence.data file. All the external dangers seem to target him remorselessly. He asks himself whether this reflects unknown inadequacies in his character, or merely Starfleet's plan to avoid ever having to pay him a pension.

      •His captain has an unfortunate tendency to identify with the young officers under his command and project on to them all his unresolved guilt. Kirk also has an aversion to taking security guards on landing parties, so that navigators and the like are thrust into the front line when things go wrong. The captain fails to control his over-active sex drive, and might at any moment focus his attention on someone else's girlfriend, or indeed, simply 'someone else'.

      •Spock finds it difficult to discuss emotional issues, and uses his Vulcan mindmeld to resolve difficult situations, with scant regard for the side effects.

      •Sulu is a devil-may-care flyboy, with a taste for alcohol, swordplay and plunging obsessively into the fad of the week. He may, or may not, harbour repressed homosexual feelings for his helm partner.

      •Uhura is a career woman, with no patience for younger officers encountering problems which she has successfully resolved through hard work and discipline.

      •Ensign Chekov's family is small and claustrophobic. His parents have high ambitions for him, and he is not sure how they will react to failure. He has no siblings who could help him to develop a more balanced view of his parent's expectations. An older brother or sister might also have intervened, or alerted the authorities, when his father psychologically and physically abused him.

      •Doctor McCoy is still tormented by his failure to spot the replacement of Nancy Crater by the salt vampire, and consequently remains icily aloof from his patients, in case he has to kill them.

      •Chapel regards Chekov as a rival, since he spends so much time with Spock professionally.

      •His relationships with girlfriends rarely last longer than a week, and if they reappear later, they are only interested in exploiting any lingering regard he may have for them. Strange alien women, or possibly men in drag, are irresistably drawn to him.

    Chekov knows that life should live up to the first of these two scenarios. After all, he inhabits Gene Rodenberry's twenty third century (where schoolchildren daily salute the Great Bird for his benign influence). He is still young enough to believe in liberty, equality, fraternity and cabbage pie. His high expectations cry out to be disappointed. He has a lot to learn.
     

    Copyright © 1998 Jane Seaton.

     

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