1. Skaadi
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    Skaadi New Member

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    Need help writing a book of short stories.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Skaadi, Oct 20, 2013.

    Hey guys, I'm desperately trying to get an outline of my stories together for NaNoWriMo (I'm always doing this last minute crap every single year,) and I'd love some advice.

    I was originally going to do the usual novel thing with just the overarching story progression and conflicts and what not, but then I decided to go with short stories (which I have absolutely no experience with,) and I'm really not sure if what I want to do with them would work all that well.

    Basically the stories are just grim-dark military themed Space Opera-y ones set on a ship, (not original I'm aware, but that doesn't particularly bother me.) I've never been all that interested in the whole space battles thing, so I was just going to have a set of 4-5 main characters, and have the stories be about them and their daily lives / interpersonal relationships within the crew / whatever on board the ship. I just don't know if that's the sort of thing that's going to be interesting to people though. so do you guys think it's a good idea, or maybe I should just go with a single long story.

    The second thing I wanted advice on: I'm wanted to focus on themes that I find really important, like 1 - Sexuality (or lack thereof, the main character is asexual.) and 2- Mental Illness. With the second one, one of the main characters has severe depression, and I was going to focus one of the stories on her suicide. I'm a bit conflicted over it though, because I don't want it to seem a) pointless and b) she's black, so one thing I really don't want is for it to seem like she's the token female PoC that dies to help further the main character's story arc. She's kind of an older war hero, so the thing I was going for there is that not all heroes die heroically, for lack of a better way to put it. I work with war veterans in real life, so it's something I have experience with, and is very important to me. Also I was kind of inspired by that scene in Patton where the General is almost crushed by a cart and he says "Imagine if I died like that, after all we've been through."

    I'm intending to self publish it, but honestly I'm getting a bit discouraged, I just don't know if it's something people will want to read. Do you think maybe it's a bit out there? I haven't really found any military themed stories where one, let alone two main characters have a sexuality out of what a lot of people perceive is "the ordinary" (outside of erotica I mean, I should clarify this isn't erotica. One is homosexual, the other is the same but just not sexually inclined.) And people will probably find it depressing....I really don't know.

    Sorry for the gargantuan post, but any advice you guys could give me at all would be fantastic!
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As a NaNoWriMo exercise, your idea could be useful. You might have some promising short stories afterward you can polish up for individual sale. For publication as a collection, though, You're bucking long odds. Publishers won't be interested in a collection of shorts unless you've already made a name for yourself in the short story market. Collections don't sell in today's market except from well-known authors.
     
  3. Skaadi
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    Skaadi New Member

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    Thanks for the input! I'd intended to self publish on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) though. Admittedly, I haven't done much research on it, but surely they're not going to have an issue with the content are they? I thought anyone could publish on that.
     
  4. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Hello Skaadi. I have just joined this forum with the express intent of talking to you about your short story premise, and a possible collaboration. If you are interested, I would be happy to chat with you about your ideas, provide some of my own, and exchange writing samples (I have some short stories of my own, although quite ancient) but you might be more interested in the novel I am currently embroiled with since that is trad Sci-Fi. Anyway, just drop me a line and we can see how things go.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For once I'm gonna quote Cog...

    The story concept means nothing. What matters is how you write it!

    And if written well, there's probably an audience for every kind of book out there. Military, sexuality, suicide and depression are all good topics that a wide variety of people can relate to, or at least imagine and/or have an interest in. Also, are you gonna regret writing it even if no one reads it? On the other hand, are you gonna regret not writing it?

    In short, stop second guessing yourself and write it :D Just have fun with it. If it's publish-worthy at the end, great. If it's not, well, who the heck cares! It's NaNoWriMo - have some fun! :D
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I strongly advise against this. Collaboration should only be undertaken between writers who know each other, and their styles, well, and then only with a detailed collaboration contract.
     
  7. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Hey, it's no skin off my nose. But personally, I think that this is a little bit too much of yours.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    You might not be aware of this, but most writing forums focus on people giving advice - and Cog's statement clearly falls into that category. I also agree with him on those points. Collaboration, particularly when publishing is planned, needs to be carefully thought out and even more carefully arranged legally. I have grave doubts that two perfect strangers could collaborate successfully.
     
  9. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    All well and good. I made an offer based on a desire to experiment in a collaborative process for fiction writing, but if it is 'untenable', for whatever reason, so be it. I am perfectly content to continue to do my own thing. However, I have to say that I have a great deal of success in collaborative writing in scientific fields, and my experience thus far has been very good. I have a number of publications co-written with people, some of whom I have never met in person. This has not harmed the success of these publications in the least!

    While I do not disagree with the need for care, (agreements, contracts, etc) I still consider it a little crazy to say that collaboration does not work unless you know another person. I mentioned already my own experience in research (which is a just as cut throat as the world of fiction writing) but I can even think of examples where successfully published authors have done exactly what I proposed.

    I still like the idea of collaborative writing, and I am quite open to this possibility. However, I am planning on entering NaNoWriMo anyway, so I will probably have my hands full.
     
  10. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Mike Kobernus Don't worry, Cog can be a bit sharp with his comments (or even seem self-centric and rude) but he has good intentions :) I tend to agree, however: I had great experiences in academic colaborations, but lousy experiences in fiction writing in pairs and groups. Partly because people get very touchy about their writing (for some strange reason, even those who are otherwise great to work with), partly because it's hard to match preferences and stylistic quirks... On the other hand, it's just my lousy experience, and I know of several productive and functional literary colaborations - so good luck in finding your compatible colaborator - PM me if you have any ideas :)

    @Skaadi The only time, I think, you should really worry abot the subject of your work is when writing for a specific reading group. Children stories are by default devoid of sexuality and meaningless violence (still, Watership Down is a children's book, sigh). Queer community needs a queer protagonist - it ain't gay book without gay themes. Muslims are very touchy about their religion - don't try to sell a book about Muhammad's love life in Saudi Arabia, you might loose your head.
    Everything else : your readers are grown-ups and they should be able to cope with any grown-up theme. If they can't, they are morons.

    Ps: I never understood what "asexuality" has to do with sexuality. I mean, it's "lack of sexuality" - not a specifically different type of sexuality. Like, a monk should live an asexual (ascetic) life, or an elder couple has an asexual (platonic) relationship.
     
  11. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Thanks Burlbird. I suspect that I may also be a bit sharp myself. I would like to say that it is the fault of this largely anonymous world we live in that promotes speech without internal censorship. But then again, maybe I am just cranky?
     
  12. Skaadi
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    Skaadi New Member

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    Whoa, wasn't expecting replies at all let alone this.

    Thanks everyone for your advice! I feel a bit more confident in my ideas now, so I'm going to get started on this business. My next question though is: does anyone have any experience or opinions on using KDP for publishing?

    Also, do you guys know how I'd go about getting a beta reader? I feel a bit awkward about showing my writing to people I know personally, but it'd be nice if I could find someone I could bounce ideas off.

    @Mike Kobernus - thank you so much for the offer, I'll PM you to have a chat about it.

    @Burlbird - you're right, sexuality was probably a bit of an awkward term to use. But asexuality is more being unable to feel sexual attraction, and not so much of a conscious lifestyle choice.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a clarification of "perfect strangers" is needed as well. Before one collaborates on any work, one should either know the individual personally or know their work. It could be that personality or style just doesn't work well with another's, or one finds out that the writing itself is sloppy and error-ridden. And once the collaboration has started, it's often too late to back out - unless you've got an iron-clad contract in place that allows it under those particular circumstances. And yes, I've noticed, too, that fiction writers can be particularly prickly about their writing; even agreeing on character names can bring some writers to blows (figuratively speaking, of course). One should at least "date" a person before collaboration, and see if a "marriage" is at all feasible.
     
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  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of that from cog and shadowwalker!
    one should never write a single word with a co-writer without having a good collaboration agreement signed and sealed... i've seen too many horror stories ensue when that advice was ignored...

    mike...
    nobody said that... so who are you calling 'a little crazy'?
     
  15. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    To be fair, I am not really calling anyone crazy. I am just disagreeing with the statement, "collaboration does not work, if you do not know the other person". I personally have a lot of experience in exactly this, and it has been extremely successful so I feel entirely justified in my 'statement.'

    However, each to his own.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You've clearly been awfully busy for an 11-year-old! :)
     
  17. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Yeah...I guess!
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you have worked with people you did not know personally nor did you have any exposure to their writing previous to beginning the collaboration? And could you define "extremely successful"?
     
  19. Skaadi
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    Skaadi New Member

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    Without trying to sound like a pain in the ass, does anyone have anything to add to the original topic?
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be wary with comparing academic research papers to fiction. When it comes to scientific research, there's a certain set of principles you agree on, certain facts you agree on (and simply cannot be disputed), and any disagreements you might have over things could be sorted out through logical, scientific conversations. If one of you disagree with another, you could bring up reasons about research data and surveys and laws and principles of known scientific merits. All of this also reduces the chance of either one of the authors taking something personally. To give a highly simplified example, if I wanted to argue 3 + 5 = 10, I could not really take it personally when you come and tell me well, it's wrong. Of course once it gets to the level of academic papers, I'm sure there're many more grey areas, but nonetheless, that set spectrum of what is right and wrong and the fact that you're dealing with a lot of actual facts reduces the chance for arguments and falling out.

    Whereas fiction - well, why should I agree with you when you say our character should be named Tom as opposed to Tony? (this is why some collaborators have their own characters that the other author isn't allowed to touch lol) Why is it better for Tomy (lol) to abandon his crew on the ship as opposed to die with them? Why should I say: "The wind tossed his hair" as opposed to say "The wind blew, ruffling his hair"? One is better? Oh really, your idea is better than mine? Why, exactly? Do you see how fast it could get really personal? The only rule governing whether one idea stays and another idea goes is whether the two authors like it, and not always will the authors agree, and it is extremely hard not to take it personally, esp if the disagreement happens frequently. Writers - fiction writers especially - are a rather sensitive bunch. Even I, and I consider myself to have rather thick skin as it is, can get prickly fast if something wasn't communicated the right way, mostly because (IMO) writers are already second-guessing themselves so often that the moment someone else come along and expresses even an ounce of doubt, we take it as a direct attack. Not because it really was an attack, but because we fear so much that they could be right. We're simultaneously the most insecure and arrogant creatures on the planet sometimes :D
     
  21. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Skaadi that's called "stealing the thread" :)

    Your idea somewhat reminds me of an old sci-fi series, "Space: Above and Beyond"- a couple of space soldiers in cramped spaceship, etc. It could work as an omnibus of interconnected short stories - I actually think the premise may benefit from the format. You could, for example, have a different focal character in each story, having him die suddenly at the end of that story. If you were writing it as a "novel", some sort of fixed pov throughout would be advisable. But in an omnibus, shared themes and characters or setting is enough. I'd make them die one at the time, with that war-time desparation and loneliness and imminent death all around :)
     
  22. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Mckk
    Frankly, academics are worse... The very fact they have or are going to have a diploma is enough to make them hand out signed photos of themselves to strangers :D
     
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  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Looool. Well I do have a friend who's a semi-academic. Got his MA and entered his PhD (which he eventually chose not to finish) both on scholarship. He's like a mini encyclopaedia on history, music, politics and different branches of Christianity. And yeah, also one of the most condescending men I've ever met who CANNOT take any criticism. He'll have no problem trashing you though.
     
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  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hi, Jack.

    Has anyone seen the original topic lately?
     
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  25. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Back to the topic: I have read, but have no statistics to back it up, that short story collections and even anthologies, tend to sell better if they have a theme or a focus--something that might more strongly attract a certain readership...ie serial killers, vampires, survival in the wild, invading aliens, etc.
     

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