Tag Archives: Daily Science Fiction

One picture is worth a thousand drafts

You’ll see that these notes for a short story aren’t notes at all. Not in the usual sense:

As a first draft, recently I started making schematics of stories instead of writing pages of words that might or might not be changed later.

Using a schematic lets me think about the story without falling in love with or worrying about how it’s going to be written. It frees me from the words, structures, cadences the story will be communicated by, and lets me concentrate on the story itself.

You see a beginning at the left top, the story progression along the middle and the end at the top right. The piece of paper torn from a small spiral notebook shows the first ideas about the story captured in a sketch.

Those sixteen cartoons along the bottom represent possible endings, of which fifteen have been rejected. The ending I’m still considering is represented by the little car, which isn’t crossed out yet. There’s still room in the middle to add other possible endings or sketch some significant details.

The theme of the story is shown by that sequence starting with the word, “why.”

Doesn’t look like much to you, does it? But it doesn’t have to. Preverbal, I guess it’s called? This isn’t communication yet because it doesn’t have to be. This picture shows the state of the story in my mind. The communication–the writing–will come after the story has a form.

Once I get used to this new method for short stories, I’ll probably try it at novel length. Already that sounds like a great relief to me–not to be bogged down in all those words just to plan a story. And the words will be fresh since they’ll come later.

Do you think this technique might be useful to you?

Maybe we could start NaNoSkeMo–National Novel Sketching Month!

By S.J. Driscoll

Two sides to my head

I was elated when Daily Science Fiction accepted “In Vivo,” one of my speculative fiction stories.

That’s my third pro level spec fiction publication since I had a story in Asimov’s and one in Interzone under my previous name.

For the last few years, I’ve been learning to write novel-length contemporary romance. I’ve garnered helpful editorial rejections that taught me to focus on strengthening my plots. Selling this little story in my old genre came as a delightful surprise.

I was uneasy to return to the quicker pace of short story writing after the long, slow haul of writing at novel length, but my mind’s boiling over with spec fiction ideas and there’s now a sheaf of drafts/ideas on my writing desk.

Which to concentrate on is the question, isn’t it? All I can do is write both spec fiction and romance, and see where it all leads.

So these days I’m getting up earlier. If the birds have started twittering, I’ve stayed in bed too long. (And sometimes I do.)