• Mark Meier

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about outlining, and this morning I may have turned into a born-again outliner.

I’ve been planning and plotting a series I’ve decided to call The Archives. The stories won’t be written in chronological order, but rather which one speaks to me most when it comes time to work on one. This first one to get significant work is about a woman named Neora, and takes place about a quarter of the way through the ten thousand years of my overall story.

So after outlining Neora last week I went to work on another story - The Brotherhood. When walking our Bichon Frise (named Stitches, AKA The Dog Who Would Be King) this morning, I realized an entire half of my story is merely a lead-up to Neora. The real story arc belongs to another woman, named Amira. She’s part of the story from beginning to end.

If I hadn’t outlined, I might not have realized that for months. By that time I’d have a significant portion of a first draft, and have to dump most of it in the trash. (I’d really have saved it. I don’t think I delete anything I write.)

The beginning of the story has Amira and her husband watching a red dwarf star flare, killing hundreds and wiping out cropland in the “grain belt” of galactic civilization. Now that I’ve realized the story is really about Amira, I can build my story about what that flare means for HER instead of Neora.

Stephen King is a big proponent of seat-of-the-pants writing. “Put your main character in a difficult spot and discover through your writing how they deal with it.” But what if you get half-way through the story before you realize your main character isn’t who you though it was?

The King model may work well if your story is a one-off. If it’s part of a massive series, it’s hard to see that leading to success.

So scratch the novel of Neora. Welcome Amira to The Archives.



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  • Mark Meier

I’m not exactly the most impressive author on the planet, but some things I’ve learned. Top of that list is EDIT!

The next thing on that list is “It’s not ready yet.” That’s the battle I’m fighting with The Brotherhood. Five stories, four of them have seen extensive critiquing, and I’m getting close to being ready to submit. “It’s not ready yet.”

The Final Spell (published in the anthology Shadows and Teeth: Vol. I [Darkwater Syndicate]) is the first story. This is followed by The First Horseman (published in the anthology Lost and Found: Tales of Things Gone Missing [Wagonbridge Publishing]), then The Prophet of Death (unpublished), Windowed the Soul (unpublished), and finished off by Victory (“it’s not ready yet”).

My critique groups are only about half-way through Victory, but my first pass of self-editing the whole collection is almost done. That makes me eager to throw caution to the wind and send it off to agents and publishers.

But, “it’s not ready yet.”

That’s a rookie mistake I still fight against, and it Must Be Resisted. An editor or agent can usually tell within a couple of minutes if a piece might sell. Is that unfair? No. They’re the experts, and the project an author has labored across years to produce boils down to how the first couple of pages strike the gatekeepers. They know the industry in ways authors never will.

They know if a subject or genre is selling at any given moment. That’s their job. Are dragons overdone? Are publishers looking for flawed superheroes? Maybe a new hit about a drug addicted piano player from an alien planet just sold and everyone wants to read about a hominoid who gets high on lime smoothies.

Who could have predicted THAT? Answer: nobody. But if you have a story ready to submit when something like it goes viral, you’re in. If you try to quick write the lime smoothie story when it first hits, the buzz will be gone before you get it done.

The point being, you can’t time the publishing market any more than you can time the stock market.

Write what you like to read. Practice your craft, and don’t make rookie mistakes. I’ve made most of them, though I’d never claim to have done them all.

And yes, I’ve violated the one I’m fighting now.

“It’s not ready yet.”

Though, if an agent or editor wants to look at either of the anthologies listed above, I’m nearly done.

Any takers? No?

Sigh.

That’s okay.

“It’s not ready yet.”



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  • Mark Meier

I’m not sure if it’s my background in broadcasting, or something else, but I’m insulted by advertising. There are some commercials which are fun, some are funny, but today I saw one so beautifully done I had to smile.

And now I’ll share.

For those who don’t know, I’m an author. Almost everything I see or do is fodder for a story. Even the shows I watch are mostly about learning more of effective storytelling.

Enter Youtube. There’s a plethora of videos about how to construct a plot, which books some author or another finds helpful, and why “this” movie or book works and “that” one doesn’t.

Today’s video was How to do a Fight Scene. For the most part it reinforced what I already knew about storytelling an action sequence. If it doesn’t advance the plot then it doesn’t belong. BTW, that’s the rule of thumb for EVERY scene. Talking about a person’s morning routine isn’t very interesting . . . unless it’s followed up by (never mind. Watch this movie).

Back to my comment on advertising. In the middle of that video on fight scenes there’s a commercial for

BUFFERING

The narrator of the video comes back on. “Don’t you hate that? If only you’d installed NordVPN.”

I wanted to cheer, and it was so well done I watched the whole commercial. It wasn’t entertaining exactly, but it also didn’t offend me with “drink this beer or eat these chips or drive this car and your life will suddenly make sense.”

Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve seen it and wanted to share. The commercial appears around 6:30 into the video, for those who only want to see what I’m raving about. For writers, the whole video might be a good reminder.

Back to your regularly scheduled day.



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