Saturday, March 18, 2017

One Story Per Week - One Year Retrospective

Michael Salsbury
A little over a year ago, I started this project. The main goal was to push myself to write fiction, as opposed to blog posts, beer reviews, journal entries, technical articles, and other material. The secondary goal was to produce one new short story per week.

It's Been a Mix of Success and Failure

I think we can agree that the secondary goal failed. Out of the 52 weeks between March 8, 2016, and March 8, 2017, I did not produce 52 stories. In fact, I produced only 20. Even among that 20, two or three didn't reach their ending because I hit some sort of block.

The primary goal, however, was met extremely well. Taking the posts and dropping them into Microsoft Word for a word count, we have:

  • Week 1: The Emissary - 5434 words
  • Week 2: No Good Deed - 3345 words
  • Week 3: Clunker - 5285 words
  • Weeks 4 & 5: Anaka - 10624 words
  • Week 6: Agency - 7862 words
  • Week 7: Legacies - 4479 words
  • Week 8: Golden - 3478 Words
  • Week 9: The Connected Ones - 5281 words
  • Week 10: Planting Seeds - 5024 words
  • Week 11: U1 - 2838 words
  • Week 12: Making a Difference - 4525 words
  • Week 14: A Killer Cupcake - 5421 words
  • Week 15: The Golden City - 5637 words
  • Week 16: Chuckie Ain't Right - 2211 words
  • Week 17: Free - 4059 words
  • Weeks 18 through 22: CORA - 6223 words
  • Weeks 23 through 30: Tork - 7820 words
  • Weeks 31 through 36: Kernels and Bits - 18180 words
  • Weeks 37 through 41: Gods of Creos (NaNoWriMo story) - 50,033 words
  • Week 42: The Return of the Chief - 6644 words
If you add all that up, I wrote 154,403 original words of fiction in 2016. I'm pretty sure that's a personal record for a single year. I often participate in National Novel Writing Month and write "a little" during the rest of the year. Last year I went well past the usual amount of writing.

That being established, the last story I posted here was on Christmas Eve 2016. That's almost three months ago, so I've very badly broken the string I started last year.

I also said late last year that I would spend some time rewriting these because I know they could be better than they are. I have not done that either.

Moving Ahead

There are three "universes" I've written in more than once during the past year:
  • CORA - the group of outlaws in Sylkaran space who want to bring down the government there
  • The Cockroach - a career criminal being courted by the mysterious Agency, who keeps saving planets from themselves and making the Alliance universe a better place
  • The Prospect - an Alliance flagship that explores the galaxy to build new alliances, protect Alliance citizens, and increase scientific knowledge
The more I write in these universes, the more I realize that I've made some mistakes and bad choices within them. To give some examples of what I mean:
  • The CORA Universe
    • The characters Brell and Mills have names that are too much alike.
    • Because the ship CORA can fly itself and is artificially intelligent, I'm questioning why I have the character Monroe aboard. Her expertise as a smuggler and perhaps as a starship engineer might be enough, but I struggle with understanding her place on the crew.
    • Although all these characters have some degree of motivation to change the Sylkaran Empire for the better, they're not really doing it in the stories I've written. That needs to change.
    • The origin story is too much like the opening episodes of the BBC series Blake's 7. 
    • In general, I feel there is a lot I could have (and should have) done to better establish the characters and universe.
  • The Cockroach
    • I know that in the long term I want him joining The Agency and helping to make the universe a better place, but I don't have a clear plan for that yet.
    • I'm thinking I want him to have a companion, and I'm pretty sure I know who and what I want the companion to be, but he's been a total loner.
    • I've never covered his "origin story" although I know (mostly) in my head what it is.
  • The Prospect
    • It would be relatively easy for someone reading these stories to see them as a rip-off of mainstream sci-fi universes like Star Trek, Babylon 5, or the like. I won't argue that they are inspired by my love of those shows. I need to more clearly establish how this universe differs from those.
    • A core element of these stories for me was that Captain Garrick, the man in charge of The Prospect, doesn't really want to be a starship captain. He's been pushed into the role by his superiors, because they needed someone like him. I've not really established that or used it effectively in the stories.
    • I don't really have a good handle on the names of key crew members or their backstory details. I really need to work on that.
In general, I know I need to work on my story structure and my use of sensory detail. I've always had a "white room" problem that I need to fix if this stuff is going to become publishable.

I'm hoping to sort out the changes I want to make by the end of March 2017. Then, I want to start acting on the revised universes. That could mean total rewrites of existing stories or I may just pretend those old stories don't exist and move forward.

I hope you'll stick around for the changes and come back to see what I've done with the place...

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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