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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Only one story?

   
Author Topic: Only one story?
I am destiny
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I actually have more than one story in my head/on paper waiting for rewrite. (3 others) However this ONE is the main story in my head. It is from my HS days and MC is completely dominant. This is the story that demands to be told, and everything else in my head is on hold by force because if it.

If I get it to a point that it is ready to be published and it is rejected what do I do then. How do you let your baby go? Am I a writer? or just a story teller of some childhood fantasy? I just saw a post of a woman that had submitted 100 MS and all were rejected. Yikes!!!! I really want THIS story in print, not 15 others.

Am I unrealistic? Are there others out there that only have a few stories or do all of you come up with lots of stories. I love writing and cant imagine having nothing to write.

I'm in need of some reasurance I guess... Maybe it is because I'm attached to my first story. My readers like it (not my mother LOL)... and that gives me hope.

D~


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pantros
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yes you are unrealistic.

But, don't let that stop you.

Write what you need to write. However, overwriting one story will kill it. If you really want to make the story better. Write something else between drafts. It will allow you to build your craft as a writer without your emotional attachment to this one story getting in your way too much. Use the between stories to grow your skills.


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pantros
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I am curious - who are your readers?
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Balthasar
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I've been there, thinking that old HS stories would make good fiction. In my experience, they usually don't.

Here's my question: Do you love the story, or do you love the nostalgia the story creates? In my case, I loved the nostalgia the stories created. The stories weren't that good. My life wasn't that interesting.

Whether or not you have a lot of stories to tell, well, that depends on a whole host of things. Harper Lee seems to have only one story to tell. Flannery O'Connor had a few more. On the other hand you have writers like Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates -- writers whose wells seem bottomless.

My advice would be to put this story aside for a LONG time. Months. Write 15 or 30 more stories about things other than HS. Then go back to it and see what you think.

One last thing: The rejection letter is part of a writer's life. If you can't handle it . . . you're in the wrong profession.


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Leigh
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I'm still relatively fresh from high school, graduated September, 2004 So the experiences I had during that time I could easily put into writing but I fear that if I did I wouldn't be writing for my love of writing, but I would be writing because the nostalgia that it brings.

So as Balthasar has said, try different stories and plots other than HS memories, then come back to writing a HS memory as by then you'll probably have improved a whole lot more as a writer by then.

I may eventually do it but make a more emotional and charactor driven novel, rather than a setting and plot story. The greatest memory I could do is when I got my heart broken, my dad being sent away for the beginning of the Iraq War, beginning at a new school, letting myself reach into the dark depression which lead to an attempted suicide and then the recovery afterwards from a kind and caring person. All of this happened in the same 6 month period so I have an at least 50k word story there and if I write it the right way, then I sure as hell would be able to be published with it, I hope anyway

But before I do do it, I'll write other things first, improve what skills I do have and keep going.

EDIT: Had to fix up some miss spelt words.

[This message has been edited by Leigh (edited April 13, 2007).]


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DeepDreamer
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It doesn't matter whether this story is from HS days or not. That's irrelevant information, really. All that matters here is that it's a story you feel very strongly about. It has characters in it that are real to you. Your job now is to take it and make it into a story that readers feel as strongly about as you do, and to breathe life into your characters in such a way that they feel real to readers.

Plain and simple.

If you do that, then it will sell. It might take a long time. It might make the rounds and get rejected so many times you feel like giving up. Don't. Put your heart and soul into this work. Then when you're done, set it aside for three or four months and work on other stories. Go back to it, read it over critically. Make any improvements you need to, then send it out.

While it's out on submission, work on your other stories. If after a year it doesn't sell, look at it again. You'll have learned more about writing in that year of working on other stories. Look at your story objectively. Read it over and revise as necessary. Then send it out again, and go back to working on your other stories.

Repeat until it sells, or until you find another story you feel as strongly about as this one.

Simply put, if you truly have a passion to tell this particular story, the writing will show it. The effort you put into it will pay off. Have faith, stop worrying about what will happen after you write it, and just write it!

(edited to fix a smiley-gone-wrong)

[This message has been edited by DeepDreamer (edited April 13, 2007).]


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Spaceman
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No successful writer has only a few ideas. One of the traits of a successful writer is the ability to create a story idea out of thin air. (This topic is addressed at great length in Uncle Orson's Writing Class.)

Bottom line is that you need to teach yourself to create stories on demand, or change to non-fiction. If you can't make stuff up, you writing career is severely handicapped.


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I am destiny
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Pantros, I have one writer friend, and two more friends that are serious readers and they are giving me feed back as I re-write the original. I just joined two real life groups and I am in three online critique groups. I hope that these work for me.

The story is actually A SF epic (6-7 books at aprox 90,000 words a piece.) I love the story and yes I am very fond of it and the MC.
I am ready to do this I think, it has been a year and a half since I touched book one. and will follow suit through the series as I rewrite.

Maybe when they are finished being re written, I will be able to concentrate on making more stuff up. HMMMMM

Thanks for all of your advice I will consider everything you have said.

Destiny the hopefull...


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Christine
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I'm actually rewriting that old HS story right now...BUT...

I have written other things. LOTS of other things. I have a novel about to be published that was completely conceived and written in between there. Not to mention that my baby is barely recognizable from what it was back in high school. I've changed just about everything except a few names. The story has grown and changed and it is better for it.

I don't think you can learn or grow as a writer by constantly rewriting the same thing.

But you have to do what makes you happy.


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mfreivald
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Okay. On one thread, a poster is investigating the merits of writing one story a week. On this thread, the poster is concerned about having only one story.

These seem like two extremes of the same issue to me. Both are questions that - at root - want to know what is meaningful. To I_am_destiny, I would encourage you to start asking yourself what is meaningful to *you*, and in particular what is meaningful to you in your "one." If you have been able to hold onto a story for as long as you say, there is probably something of particular meaning to you within it. I think if you can figure out what that is, it will open up other ideas that surround that meaning.

By the same token I would consider how many other things are meaningful to you. Certainly there can't be only one thing in your life that has any significance sufficient to bring satisfaction in fiction. There are probably any number of stories that may spring from them.

My suspicion is that you have not really identified what is meaningful to you about the "one" story, so you have a hard time getting loose from it.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure I like the idea of a story a week. I guess I would know better if I actually had the luxury of time to try it, but it seems to me that forcing stories in rapid succession would cheapen the meaningful things I want to convey. (Any story worth a darn is worth a darn because it is meaningful - and that goes for straight action or absurd humor.)

A couple of good books on the matter were written by Linda Seger. She mostly writes about movie scripts, but I think what she says applies to short and long fiction. She devotes a lot of text discussing theme and understanding the meaning of your work to develop good story. (No, I don't work for a publisher.)


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mfreivald
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quote:

A couple of good books on the matter...

I didn't mean to imply that her books only covered theme and meaning. Her books are generally well-rounded covering multiple topics. The ones I have read to which I refer are: _Making_a_Good_Script_Great_, and _Advanced_Screenwriting_.

Good stuff.


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Balthasar
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In my experience, and I am speaking from experience, it's impossible to write "meaningful" stories until you've achieved a certain level of mastery of the craft; and the only way to achieve this mastery is by write a lot and reading a lot.

Further, I've found that it's impossible to write a meaningful story until it's actually written. You can't start with meaning, and you can't put meaning into a story; all you can do is find what's meaningful in a story you've written and rewrite it to set that meaning in relief.

I believe this because I believe that the artist cannot NOT write meaningful stories -- that is, stories that are meaningful to him. But the meaning of a story often comes to the artist during the process of telling the story. So tell your stories, and don't worry about anything else.


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Robert Nowall
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Usually I've got several ideas...sometimes I write them down before I develop them, but other times I do that in my head and occasionally forget all about them.

As for which one you write...unless you've got someone on the line waving a check around, write the story you want to write at the moment. I've had one stab at a novel flare up repeatedly over the last, oh, geez, has it really been fifteen years since I first conceived it? Well, never mind that...it's come up, I've worked quite a bit on it, but then it usually settles down and dies on me and I move onto (or back to) something else.

I've had well over a hundred manuscripts rejected, often multiple times. (Over one hundred eighty right now, if you exclude everything but SF and fantasy.) The few acceptances consist of (1) non-paying markets, and (2) one "pay on publication" magazine that folded without publishing or paying. I'll keep sending things out as they're ready, but I'm not that hopeful...


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mfreivald
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Balthasar,

I respect your experience and your comments.

Personally, I think my story ideas would just about dry up – or become flat and lifeless – if they were not inspired by something meaningful. I take a lot of satisfaction in developing the meaning of the story. If I were to write just any story without having some idea of the meaning behind it, I think it would become tedious and pointless to me. I would feel like I was wasting time. Doing one story a week would not give me adequate focus upon the meaning of it, and it would certainly cheapen my work.

You may be far superior to me in the ability to make good, meaningful stories at the rate of once a week (I am not making fun; I seriously accept this possibility), but I think the average writer would lose sight of really meaningful writing that way. So I wasn't trying to criticize your practice, I was simply trying to emphasize that someone trying to become a good writer might want to avoid both extremes.

There is a world of difference between writing every day and writing a different story every week. The first is good advice; the other is a specific personal challenge that is not necessary for practicing your craft. I also think it is good advice to occasionally stop writing and just think about things for a while. (The writing will draw you back when the thinking is done.)

I completely disagree with this:

quote:

Further, I've found that it's impossible to write a meaningful story until it's actually written. You can't start with meaning, and you can't put meaning into a story; all you can do is find what's meaningful in a story you've written and rewrite it to set that meaning in relief.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that a huge contingency of masters in the craft would also disagree with you. Sure, there might be some "backfilling" of meaningful stuff, but that backfilling is focused upon the meaningful stuff that is already there.

So back to my original emphasis, I think it is important that _I_am_destiny_, with her particular issue at this moment, start to focus upon what is meaningful. I would advise her to ask the question, "What is important?" about her one work, and I would also advise her to allow herself sufficient time with each new idea to flesh out that meaning, and not get into a blitz of stories that are not meaningful to her.

I would advise _you_ to do whatever the heck you want, and I do not begrudge you getting satisfaction out of a story a week.

Good writing,
Mark


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Balthasar
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Actually, there isn't that much of a difference between writing daily and writing a story a week. I know; I've done both. If you write 1,000 words a day, you're already writing the word equivalent of a short story a week. I find it's much easier to write when I have the pressure to actually produce something. Others might not.

Let me rephrase what I said about the relationship between meaning and story. As I noted elsewhere, all writers outline -- some use note cards, some use synopses, others plow their way through a full draft. I'm a full draft outliner, so to speak. Regardless of how you outline, you cannot start with the meaning of the story before you begin to outline; the meaning of a story emerges with the process of finding the story, or developing the story, or crafting the story -- whatever you want to call it.

In fact, I'm now calling my first drafts "sketch drafts" to remind me that I'm doing the same thing artists do as the prepare their final work. (Michaelangelo had worked out several versions of the Sistine Chapel before actually getting on the scaffold.) So don't think of it as writing a story a week. Think of it as sketching a story a week, and don't presume that these sketches are good and meaningful. The better ones have potential to be rewritten into good and meaningful fiction; the poorer ones stay in the drawer until I get a second idea that zaps them back to life.

[This message has been edited by Balthasar (edited April 14, 2007).]


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Christine
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I agree with Balthasar on this one. Or at least, I'm pretty sure I do. The way I put it is: You can't build a story around meaning but you can built meaning around a story.

A long time ago I started lists of story ideas and I put them into categories -- character, plot, setting, idea and theme/moral. And in order, that is how successful I was with turning those ideas into stories. I have never successfully started with a theme or moral and built a story around it, although my themes and morals have often managed to slip their way into the stories I do end up writing.


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Balthasar
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I think we're saying the same thing, Christine. I certainly agree with you when you say "you can't build a story around meaning." I'm not quite sure I agree with the second part--that "you can build meaning around a story."

If you mean that once you find the meaning of the story within the story and re-write in order to highlight that meaning -- then I agree.

If you mean that once you have finished a story and then try to impose a meaning on it -- then I disagree.

I don't believe you can impose a meaning or a theme on a story, but I do believe every story has a meaning or a theme, and part of the rewriting process is to make that theme clear -- so that the reader grasps the story's meaning.

[This message has been edited by Balthasar (edited April 14, 2007).]


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mfreivald
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Well, first I think I need to curtail equivocation between meaning in general, and "meaning" as I intend to deal with as concerns theme.

In the case of meaning in general, there is no such thing as story without meaning. You simply cannot write a single sentence without having some kind of meaning in it. That might be what Balthasar referred to a time or two, but I'm not sure. There is no chicken/egg problem here. Meaning and story are integrated sides of the same coin.

However, I think most of us are referring to meaning in terms of theme, and it is certainly what I intended from the beginning. Now I will entertain the possibility that – at the psychological level – someone could write a story with absolutely no meaning/theme in mind, and only later try to put meaning to it. I would probably not like those stories very much. My hunch is, though, that there is some psychological interest in what they are doing that might reveal more meaning to it than they realize. But I am not prepared to argue the point. It's just a hunch – and working from that hunch has paid off when I have helped others to develop their writing ideas.

On the flip side, I think it is a bit presumptuous to say that you can't build a story around meaning/theme. Especially since I have done that several times. My proudest works are when story follows theme, and I'm pretty sure that Linda Seger (mentioned above) at least would agree with me that it is an effective way to write. There are any number of writer's workshops that *start* with fleshing out everything that is meaningful to you, and only get into writing stories once you have exhaustively worked through that.

Anyway, I have to say that I am baffled by this adamancy that you cannot write a story around meaning. Even if it is not your preference, I don't understand why you say it *can't* be done.

Whatever the case, I didn't really want to get into this kind of discussion. My intentions were to assist _I_am_destiny_. It seems to me that giving her the impression that she should really be able to mass produce story after story in rapid succession is not a healthy thing to tell her when she is struggling getting past just the one. I used your method as an example (which I kind of regret now) simply to let her know that it wasn't necessary to build her "numbers" to feel like an adequate writer. And I still think that she should focus upon what is meaningful to her, and allow what is meaningful to her help her generate story ideas and work out the one.

Trying to force a square peg of meaning into a round story that wasn't written for the purpose of that meaning seems to me like it would produce some rather awkward stories. Note that I am not saying that Balthasar or anyone else cannot do that or cannot get effective practice from it. But I don't think it is healthy to downplay meaning to someone who is struggling with her confidence in her own ideas. She needs to get in touch with that meaning so that she can build the importance and find confidence in what she is doing. Confidence that her star peg meaning will fit her star hole story.

ciao,
Mark


[This message has been edited by mfreivald (edited April 15, 2007).]

[This message has been edited by mfreivald (edited April 15, 2007).]

[This message has been edited by mfreivald (edited April 15, 2007).]


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mfreivald
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By the way, I have real life experience with this issue of meaning and theme.

I have already alluded to more recent times where I have helped other aspiring writers. Several years ago, though, I was a sixth grade school teacher.

Very early in the year I made theme central to the reading comprehension I taught my students. For example, there was a story about a kid, his mentor, and mountain climbing. I would ask the students what the story was really about, and naturally they would talk about climbing, mountains, and danger. Then I would tell them that they could not tell me anything about mountains, climbing, working with ropes, or even the outdoors, and ask them what it was about. And they got it! They offered teaching, responsibility, and most of all trust. I didn't have to tell them. (We would make out story maps with setting, characters, problem, events, conclusion, and theme).

Then I would turn it around on them. I would tell them to decide what theme they wanted to write about and then make a story around it. It was very effective.


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Balthasar
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Mark --

I think we're talking about completely different things. This, by the way, is why you shouldn't fear getting into a healthy debate about writing. If anything, it will help clarify things in your own mind.

What you call meaning -- teaching, responsibility, friendship, trust -- I would call "thematic topics." And I do agree that all writers enter a story with a certain number of thematic topics in place.

But I wouldn't call a thematic topic a story's meaning. Many, many stories are about friendship, but not all of them say the same thing about friendship. One story might demonstrate the necessity of being a friend at all costs, but another might demonstrate the harmful nature of friendship. What a story says about a thematic topic is what I'd call a theme in the proper sense of the word.

I amend what I said earlier, namely, that one can't build a story around theme. I will say that in my experience, starting with theme is unwise.

That being said, I can see how having your thematic topics firmly in mind can help in the story writing process. I've never tried it. But it's Sunday, which means I need to start another story tonight. I'll be paying closer attention to my thematic topics as I write.

See the value of intense debate?

[This message has been edited by Balthasar (edited April 15, 2007).]


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kings_falcon
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getting back to the question asked . . .

Destiny, write the story that is pounding on you. Also, write other things. My antagonist is very demanding. He'll push other story ideas out of my head until I do the scene that's been brough to the forefront. But that tends to mean I'm working on more than one thing at a time.

Right now, for example, I'm

(1) re-re-re- working my query;
(2) editing the second book;
(3) writing a book in another story;
(4) editing a short;
(5) outlining what's likely to be a novel in a different world setting than the other two; and
(6) writing two other short stories.


How do you let your baby go? You stick it in a drawer and don't look in on it.

My first novel is currently in a "drawer" while the query letters on it are out. You can't let one story consume all of your writing passion. If you only want "X" story published, or it must be published first, you'll probably not get published. It's one of the reasons I'm trying to learn how to write short stories. I know my chances of getting a short published is better than getting a novel published when I don't have publishing credits.

The woman who submitted 100 MS is to be applauded. She's still working on it. Take a lesson from her.

Finish the first story. Work on others.



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mfreivald
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Balthasar,

Sure - I think this is good healthy debate. I appreciate the challenges you present me, and I have benefited by thinking about what you have said.

I think when I consider the meaning of a story, I probably mean something a little more specific than your thematic topics. For example, I might begin a story focused on the meaning of "friendship/love through sacrifice" (or the flipside "the emptiness of friendship that refuses to sacrifice"). But I suppose that could still be viewed as a "thematic topic," because there are any number of directions or approaches you could take with it. I would also agree that the meaning will become more developed as you write and rewrite the story.

It seems like we have a decent understanding between us, though we could probably have a long discussion hashing out the nuances of theme and meaning if we wanted. (I'm a bit bleary-eyed to attempt it now.)

Let me know if you notice any difference in your stories when you focus anew on meaning as you are making them. I am very curious to see if it makes a difference.

In the meantime, I hope this has been helpful to I am destiny.

ciao,
Mark


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