Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Exercise Part VIII

At this point, the exercises have branched off into two separate paths: Those whose five stories are stand-alones, and those whose stories are related as part of a bigger piece. We’ll keep going down each path over the next few weeks.

If the stories are stand-alones:

Last week, you revised the two shortest stories and researched markets for them. You now have two completed stories and a list of potential markets for each.

This week, you will do the same thing with the next stories, leaving the longest of the five for last.

By now, you’ve found a rhythm and system for market lists, and that shouldn’t take long.

Please do not submit anything yet. There’s more ground to cover with them.

If the stories are part of a bigger piece:

In the past week, you’ve written at least one scene per day on the piece. Now, spread out all of your scenes – you should have a total of twelve – and take a look at them. Rearrange them. Get a feel for the looks, the characters, the themes, the connections. Make notes. If something doesn’t work one way, rearrange it. See what other scenes you need to make this work. Do you have a novella? Or are you going for novel-length?

Even if you’re not an outliner, try this technique and see how it gives you a new perspective on your process.

Over the next week, take the four scenes you decided are at the beginning, and write the scenes and/or bridges between them.

My examples:

My two shortest stories are from the two first exercises. However, as I worked on them, I found that they took on a life of their own.

“Not My Vote” was originally the shortest of the bunch, designated as the flash fiction piece. It was inspired by the article about GIs charged for their hospital care, and how some of the accounts are turned over to collection agencies and the GIs lost everything. As I did the revisions, keeping it at 500 words was a disservice to the piece. Through the course of several revisions, it stands at 878 words.

“Needed” was based on the 20-somethings who can’t (and choose not to learn) to change light bulbs in their overindulged New York City luxury apartments. As it went through revisions, 1200 words was too much for it, and, after the revision process, it stands at 838 words.

I’ve created a list of 14 markets for each story. Twelve of the fourteen are paying markets. I’m confident enough in my track record to reach for them first. Several are markets that I know like my work; some are new and desired stretches. I’m especially confident in “Not My Vote”. Two of the markets are not paying, but I know they like my work, I like working with them, and I want to keep working with them.

Next week’s exercise will mean revising “Suppositions”, the 1500 word piece that has Mitch Keegan, the politician character from “Not My Vote”, and the as-yet untitled piece in the first person, through Alexandra Hills’s eyes. Alexandra is a character Mitch met in “Suppositions.”

Even though “Not My Vote”, “Suppositions” and the unnamed first person piece share some characters, at this stage, I believe they are linked stories rather than a novel.

However, we still have a few weeks, and that could change.


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