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Short Story Boot Camp!

Short Story Boot Camp. Day one, August 12, 2015.

I’m trying to teach myself how to edit better. Usually my editing process involves a lot of flailing around, spell checking, some conceptual thinking, and then a lot of quitting. Does not make for very good stories, do not recommend.

Right now I have 10 short stories, including 3 flash stories, 1 Novella, and 1 full novel to edit. I can write. I can produce. I can knock out words with the best.. Okay maybe with the second best of them. No one can keep up with Seanan McGuire so don’t even try. I just hadn’t figured out the editing process.

Lately I’ve been doing some more reading and thinking about writing and backing up to that conceptual process. Two things that have really sparked me is Mary Robinette Kowal’s lovely answer to a Goodreads question I posted about process.

The second is, yes you can giggle. Writing Fiction for Dummies.  What these two authors did here that’s different than most writing books was simplify some basic steps for editing that either hadn’t been explain this way before or I just hadn’t grokked the way it had been explained.

OK three things. My good friend Erin Hoffman also answered the same question I asked MRK about process that helped me tweak my ideas. [ go read Erin’s books now pls. I want her to write more. ] Erin is the most plotter of plotters in that her outline really is her first draft. Erin’s second draft is the actual word flow, her outline fleshed out. She finishes that, then edits, and third draft is what’s submitted. Her outline might take her a month or better, but from there, it’s fast, clean, and rather elegant. Much like everything Erin does. That’s how she’s taught her brain to work and I am hella jealous. I’ve come to realize that I’m the exact opposite. My first draft is an exploratory exercise so that I can write an outline from there.

Helpful hint I learned from this: What kind of writer you are will dictate what kind of editor you are.

What I’m finding out for me is that once my exploratory is done, I have to go back and do what Erin did in the beginning. I start by reading through and creating an outline, do some conceptual thinking, then apply these next few steps:

1. Storyline/concept. What is this story? What is the elevator pitch? Distill the entire story into 25 words. Does this feel right/match expectations? If not, tweak until it does.
2. Three Act Structure outline. What is my opening act structure and the inciting incident that opens act two. What is the body of act two and identify the middle inciting incident that twists the story, then the third inciting incident/disaster that forces act three. What is the climax to the story and the aftermath/wrap up.
3. Character synopsis. Who are these people? What do they want? How does the action in the story help or hinder them? Are they really necessary or can I combine characters to make the story flow better. Sometimes this happens after the next two steps.
4. Chapter by chapter synopsis. Going back through the outline and deciding what changes need to be made on a macro level. Is this incident really powerful enough? Or can I twist it harder to make my characters cry more.
5. Scene by scene synopsis based on the CbC synopsis. (these two steps are combined in a short story, of course) This is the papercut under the fingernail before slicing lemons level. For both me and the characters. Does each scene do what it needs to do to advance the action?
6. Third draft. Send to my awesome friends who have agreed to beta read.
7. Take beta reactions, read through story again, make those edits.
8. Submit. Make sales!

Back to Short Story Boot Camp. I’m going to take these concepts and 7 steps to make step 8 happen. I’m taking those ten stories and the novella and applying this new way of editing to see if the flailing stops and actual work happens. Ironically, the easiest ones aren’t the shortest ones, but the ones that make me the most excited. So I’m tackling Makewater Station first. It’s my prairie punk story with an alternate history of the US.

I use Scrivener to write with so I created a blank project just for Boot Camp. Each story has it’s own folder and the most recent copy of the text after previous edits pasted into them. I love the split screen option and side note screen to work in to keep track of characters/things/etc. And I’ve created a folder to chronicle/write blog posts in about my adventures in editing.

My goal is to make some sell-able short stories as well as figure out how to tweak my editing process in order to tackle the book. Here goes!

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