Tag Archives: meta

Best Genre Treatment 2

Best Genre Treatment 2

For the best genre treatment 2, let’s take a look at my best stories in four more genres. Hence these are what are (to me) my best Star Trek fan fiction stories in particular writing genres.

Historical

There can only be one for the Best Genre Treatment 2.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Concord | Best Genre Treatment 2
Concord

While I also love Crackerjack, and all of the HG Wells stories, I believe that, by far, my best historical fiction story is Concord.

I have never, ever worked so hard to get a story right, than I did with Concord.

From its cover (that’s the bridge leading from Lexington to Concord and, yes, there was an engagement on it), to determining whether men would tip their hats to women (yes), to figuring out Colonial Era market prices, to even deciding the name of one of the cows, Concord is an absolute labor of love.

The premise of the story is an interphase: Malcolm is transported to April 1775 Lexington, Massachusetts, and takes the place of an ancestor, just as a future time traveler, during the time of the Genesis Project, takes the place of his own ancestor, who is fighting alongside Malcolm’s ancestor. Injured in the fighting, Malcolm and the time traveler, Robert Lennox, are quartered in a home, where they meet, among other people, Benjamin Warren.

IDIC

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Future Matches | Best Genre Treatment 2
Future Matches

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations brings to mind LGBTQ story lines. In this genre, my favorite (which is also a reader favorite) is Detached Curiosity & Idle Speculation.

Working as both a prequel to There’s Something About Hoshi and a sequel to the E2 stories, Detached tells the story of how Dave Constantine and Frank Todd started dating.

With what is almost 20/20 hindsight, the men know that they were together and that their relationship worked out. But it’s still tentative and a little strange. But when they kiss, you want to cheer.

Romance

This was easily the most difficult decision, to figure out which was the best of these many stories.  Three stories get an honorable mention here. First is The Reptile Speaks, which is a Gorn romancing a Cardassian.  I loved the idea of putting together a rather different couple, and how someone who looks so menacing could, at bottom, be a truly good person.

Reversal has to be mentioned, as it is not only the love of the dark stranger for the light, but it’s also an amazing kick-off story. A ton of roads lead straight to Reversal.

The Honky Tonk Angel also deserves mention, as it’s another odd couple type of story, as Kevin O’Connor and Jhasi Tantharis go on their first date.

But the winner, the best one (and I might change my mind tomorrow) is The Three of Us .

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Three of Us
The Three of Us

All of the E2 stories were labors of love, but Three is really the big one. That is also due to, in part, its size.

Characters move from misbehaving and acting childishly, to acting criminally, to eventually maturing. Kindness, friendship, and togetherness, lead to more.

As you might expect from such a title, the relationship is an unconventional one.

But the parties persevere, and grow, as time pulls them along and they experience not just romantic love, but also brotherhood, fellowship, parenthood, and, ultimately, tragedy.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Sparrow and the Blue Jay
The Sparrow and the Blue Jay

This image becomes particularly important, and is a part of one of the story’s many high points.

I love this story, from its tentative, scared, damaged people, to its criminals, to its hopefulness, to its sorrow. As Lili O’Day says in Fortune, “There is something there.”

Tragedy

Nothing really comes close to Seven Women, when it comes to tragedy.  From the very start, I tell the reader that Tommy Digiono-Madden is going to die. A fireball is coming, the fire door is shut, and he cannot outrun any of it. He knows this is it. But instead of having his life flash before his eyes, Tommy instead thinks of seven pivotal women in his life. They range from the three women he called mother, to his first girlfriend, and more.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seven Women
Seven Women

This was a character I had only written little snippets of, and very few as an adult.  As readers got to know Tommy, so did I. The best decision I made in that story was to not bow to internal pressure to give him a happy ending.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t get one.

Upshot

The best romance story was easily the hardest of these decisions to make. Tune in; I may do this again next year.

Best Genre Treatment 1

Best Genre Treatment 1

I  write in all sorts of genres. Hence I have put together what I think are my best treatments of them. This is in conjunction with all of the story reviews I have been posting, and future reviews.

I have written a good 200 or so stories. Choosing what is ‘best’ is subjective and certainly my ideas change over time. These stories are not necessarily the ones with the greatest reads or review counts. Sometimes it’s just the best in my mind. I don’t always agree with my readership.

Comedy

One of my favorite genres to write, comedy speaks to me.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before | Best Genre Treatment 1
Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before

I love to make people laugh, but I also don’t want to create mindless slapstick.  This is why I love Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before.

From the amusing title, to its start as Chip Masterson is busted by Deb Haddon for keeping Tripp‘s stuffed gerbil toy, Stella,  to their romance, to Chip’s nascent to friendship with Aidan, the story celebrates a number of below decks themes.

Canon characters abound, as the story is also one big shout-out to the canon First Flight episode. Jonathan Archer, Liz Cutler, AG Robinson, Soval, and Admiral Forrest all show up.  There are even very brief cameos by T’Pol and Jay Hayes.

The basic premise is a prank war. This all happens during the invention and perfection of inertial dampers. This canon piece of equipment is about the dullest bit of Star Trek technobabble, so it was the perfect backdrop for a ton of hijinks. After all,  this would mainly bore the inventors (it’s a competition). They would be itching for something to do.

And then there’s the goat ….

Drama

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Saturn Rise | Best Genre Treatment 1
Saturn Rise

I write a ton of drama and it can sometimes be difficult to sustain. Right now, today, as I write this blog post, I feel that one of my better, if not my best such stories, is Saturn Rise.

I had wanted to not only showcase more of Pamela and Treve’s relationship, but also to attempt to resolve some of the unfinished business in Intolerance, Temper, and Fortune.

Further, I wanted Malcolm to have to deal with introducing his parents to Lili, and possibly risk their disapproval.  Done within the context of introducing them to Declan, I also wanted to present an alternate point of view regarding the acceptance – or not – of Lili and Doug‘s open marriage.

Just as Pamela has to have it out with her mother, Malcolm has to have it out with his parents.

Holidays

One of the first Star Trek fan fiction stories I ever completed, The Light covers Chanukah on the NX-01 and a lot more.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Light | Best Genre Treatment 1
The Light

As Ethan Shapiro learns of his great-aunt’s death, young Jewish crew members are brought together. Part of this is to properly mourn the woman’s death, but another reason is a budding romance, as Andrew Miller is looking to ask out Karin Bernstein.

I introduced not only these original characters (plus Josh Rosen), but also covered the subject of the existence of a Starfleet Rabbi, Leah Benson. Because I love these characters so much, they all have fan fiction futures. And this includes Mirror Universe stories, as they meet dissimilar fates. Leah in particular is very different on the other side of the proverbial pond.

Horror

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Day of the Dead | Best Genre treatment 1

I have never been a fan of slamming doors, zombies, things going bump in the night, etc. Plus I don’t like them as stories or films. I just plain don’t like terror for my entertainment. Hence I hit upon an idea, and that was to show what I feel is far, far worse. And that’s the Holocaust.

Taking place over the course of Halloween weekend, Tucker, a classic horror film buff, has helped Chip line up several classic horror movies. October 31st gets the old John Carpenter film.

Canon characters such as Phlox and Amanda Cole sit through the picture, as do a number of my own original characters.  And then Tucker disappears.

As a crossover story, he’s whisked to 1945 Upper Bavaria, and becomes a part of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, which includes freeing Milena Chelenska, her sister, and their neighbor. Furthermore, he witnesses a war crime. This is where the managers of the camp (by this time – true story – they were mainly just kids, as the real management had fled) are shot to death by firing squad, without trials.

It turns out that he’s been interphased rather deliberately, as Wesley Crusher and the Traveler work to get him back, thereby neatly tying into Crackerjack.

Upshot

Beyond the fact that I think these stories are some of my best work, my peers have agreed. Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before and Day of the Dead are both award winners.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

In order to dovetail with my recent blog post about the Trek Blogging Community, here’s a post about the Writing Blog Community I hang out with that isn’t Trek.

There are non-writer bloggers who I follow, too (well, of course everyone who blogs is actually a form of writer, but what I’m really talking about here are bloggers who also dabble in fiction writing). But this post is only going to be about fiction writers who blog – with one notable exception. These aren’t really in any particular order.

Puckishwird’s Blog

Joshua C. is an experienced blogger – he’s been doing this longer than I have! I love the old-timey look to the pages. The prose is fascinating, but the writing samples are even better. Very well-organized, this blog is clearly the work of someone who’s been doing this for a while, and loves it. I know Joshua from a NaNoWriMo group on Facebook.

The Frog Blog

Katrin Hollister is a friend from Wattpad who is new to the blogging scene.  She’s a far busier student than I am, and is balancing a new blog, Pinterest, Deviant Art (she is also an artist), and of course her studies. One great use she recently made of her  new blog was for a cover reveal for her Wattpad epic, The Windcaster.

RAvishing Thoughts

Miriel of Gisborne is a writer who I’ve seen on several sites, both Star Trek and non, over the years.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Currently, she’s immersed in writing Bilbo/Thorin Hobbit slash, and so her Tumblr blog is devoted to actor Richard Armitage.

Like most Tumblr blogs, hers is very visual. There are some great images of Armitage, mixed in with terrific covers that she has made herself. The blog also links directly to her fiction and acts as a cross-promotional vehicle.

Howlarium

SeeThomasHowell is another Wattpad friend. On Wattpad, he doesn’t just write, read, and review. Jason also conducts interviews of fellow writers. A lot of these interviews end up on the Howlarium, which is a mix of his own writings and promotions, interviews, and promotions of others’ work. It’s a grand and generous collection of cross-promotions.

Alex Karola

Another Wattpad friend, and another brand-new blogger, Alex is both a writer and a teacher. She is looking to break into the YA market.

Maniac Marmoset

Jessica B. is another NaNoWriMo Facebook pal and another new blogger. Her blog has been mainly devoted to writing snippets and all sorts of original poetry.  She is currently in the query part of the process of becoming a published author.

Special Guest Star Blogger

Give it up for my publisher, Riverdale Avenue Books!

A mix of promotions, announcements, and guest blogs, RAB’s blog is intended as a cross-promotional vehicle for their books. This blog feeds a number of their other social media enterprises, such as their GoodReads page.

Beyond Blogging

For me, this kind of a blogging community advances more than one purpose. It’s a place to cross-promote works, of course.  But it’s become more than that. For me, it’s become another vehicle to making friends. It’s a joy to be able to, just like with my Star Trek friends, be able to talk to these people about a lot of things. And for them to immediately get it.

Blogging Community (Trek)

Blogging Community (Trek)

As a part of Blog Like a Boss week, I wanted to comment a bit on the blogging community we have here, at both Ad Astra and also how it branches out a bit.

Keeping Up With the Bloggers

Blogging Community (Trek)

A dirty little not so secret bit of information is that there are a ton of abandoned or semi-abandoned blogs out there.

Hence I decided to showcase blogs which have at least one post in calendar year 2014. Fortunately, there were quite a few.

Been There, Geek’d That

Rogue Jawa is fairly new to the blogging community.  I like his attitude and his direct way of confronting the oddities that we often find in the Star Trek fandom. It may be a big tent, but there’s always going to be some sort of odd squabbling. He takes it on, head on.

Ramblin’ & Writin’

When SL Watson gets cooking, her blog can get very active. I know she’s been writing in the Supernatural fandom; I’d love to see her back blogging and back writing Trek but I know that blogs are the kinds of writing that are often set aside for a while. Plus sometimes, you just get into a fandom and it kinda swallows you. No sweat. It’ll still be here.

Full Speed Ahead

I really love how MD Garcia has put this blog together. It’s visually stunning and stuffed full of all sorts of interesting tidbits about process, characters, scene setting, and more.

FalseBill’s Blog

FalseBill keeps up with blogging well, and his content is often tongue in cheek but never stale. Much like at Full Speed Ahead, the blog is pretty to look at, and covers a wide spectrum of writing, including original content only found on the blog.

Trekiverse

Truth is, Trekiverse is a different animal, as it is the home of more than one blogger and is intended to support the Trekiverse site.  That site is an archive of much older Star Trek fanfiction, coming from the newsgroups alt.startrek.creative, alt.startrek.creative.all-ages, and alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, and/or directly submitted. Great to see a new home for these old favorites!

zeusfluff’s Star Trek: TNG Fanfiction and Prompts Blog

Another new blogger, zeusfluff has jumped in without fear. This blogger is doing a great job with cross-promotions, which is (shh, don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret!) one of the points behind these blogs.

The Farthest Star

JayLR’s blog is mainly about Star Trek: Swiftfire, but he’s taken to answering some of our older blog prompts.  It’s neat to see a new take on an older prompt. And that reminds me: I need to come up with some fresh prompts!

Miranda Fave’s Meanders

MF’s blog is another visual stunner, just lovely and filled with great images. What I also like about his blog is how he gets into his posts. They aren’t quickies; they’re well thought-out. He’s also a thoughtful reviewer, and that shows in his blogging.

Boldly Reading

No tour of our personal Trek Blogiverse would be complete without a glance at Boldly Reading, which is our book club’s blog.

Blogging Community (Trek)

Miranda Fave and I have tried to make it visually appealing and keep it fresh.

We’re taking this summer off, though, so that we can turn our attentions more fully to the 2014 version of the Twelve Trials of Triskelion. Plus I’ve got schoolwork.

Fan Fiction Archive Blog

Every other week, I write a blog roundup post, to cover all of the above bloggers. Furthermore, I’ve been promoting the 2014 version of the Twelve Trials of Triskelion.  Fortunately, finding up to date content has been pretty easy this summer.

Whither Our Other Blogs?

There are a number of blogs that have gathered a bit of dust. And so I exhort you, fellow bloggers! Blow that dust off! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Or, something like that.

I love blogging, and I love reading others’ blogs. ‘Nuff said.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Writing Process Blog Hop

This is a somewhat different post, as I am (for the first time! Sound the trumpets!) participating in a Blog Hop. I’ve been tagged by Alex Karola, I’ll answer a few questions, and then I will tag three other folks to continue the chain. Those three folks, who I will mention again at the end are Jessica Bloczynski, Katrin Hollister, and MirielOfGisborne.

Without further ado, here are the questions.

1. What am I working on?

Egad, it feels like, what am I not working on? I have a WIP which is wholly original, that I am going to submit to my publisher. If all goes well, it’ll be a trilogy. Well, it’ll be a trilogy whether it’s accepted for publication or not. But I’ll be the first to admit that it could use some tightening.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I’ve got the Barnstorming series. It has stalled recently, in favor of schoolwork, wholly original work, and various short prompted stories. I have a wholly original work in progress for Wattpad that hasn’t been posted yet but I’d like some more chapters before I start. I have The Social Media Guide for Wattpad. The draft is technically done, but I’m always finding more to say.

Hence the answer is – ta da! – lots of stuff.

2. How is my work different from others of its genre?

Writing Process Blog Hop

I tend to add a philosophical bent to a lot of my work. Without getting into the details of what I want to present to my publisher, one of the underlying themes is: what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be sentient/intelligent? I think when we start to answer those questions, we will begin to understand our own selves better. I like to explore that inner essence (I’m mainly a science fiction author), and that generally isn’t explored while stars and planets are being explored. I try to change that.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Part of it is for my own purposes; I try to write what appeals to me as a reader.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Part of it is also for the purpose of creating art. I like to be creative.  A part of it is also to slip some philosophy in there. I think the study of thought and thinking is going by the boards. I see people spouting stuff all the time and it has no basis and no foundation. It’s not philosophy; it’s just a lot of posturing. The real thing is becoming rare.  This is not to say that I’m busily slipping philosophy into my works, much like someone might grind up carrots and shovel them into burgers in order to stealthily get people to eat healthier. Rather, it’s a part of the dish/story. Read it for the science fiction, read it for the philosophy, read it for both. I like to think readers will get something out of it, regardless of their preferences or foci.

4. How does my writing process work?

I am naturally overly organized and I wouldn’t be shocked if I were OCD as well. I keep an enormously long timeline (which is published on the site, in pieces) and that is an incredible help. I am able to do things like look at it to determine who is older than whom, who could meet, etc. I also keep a long list of every character I have ever made. These characters are paired with various actors/actresses. For canon, of course, it’s whoever really played them. For originals, I make judgments, and those eventually start to inform my work. E. g. if a character is short, that decides a few things but generally not major plot points.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I keep an idea bank, too, and sometimes it’s painfully scant. E. g. the Daranaean Emergence series was started with a two-word phrase: smart kangaroos. When I have an interesting dream, an idea for a name, a title, a series, a story, all of those are typed into the bank. While I do answer prompts, the bank helps when I am really stuck.

For longer works, I tend to flesh out the ideas, but I don’t go with a formal story line. I tend to have ideas of where I want to go, though, or sometimes scenes play out in my head. Funny thing is, sometimes a scene that I have been thinking of for a long time can end up far shorter than I had thought. In Reflections Down a Corridor, I had a vision of Jay swimming, swimming, swimming. That whole scene is maybe a few pages long, yet I thought about it for months. Was I sick of it? I can’t honestly say.

Sometimes scenes are written in order. Sometimes, they aren’t, although usually that’s because they are standalone short stories. But some of that can be laid at the feet of the timeline. I have ideas of where I’m going with this or that, and I need to go through X to get to Y so I’ll sometimes write Y and then realize, oops, I’d better prefigure that with X.

Blame Fortune and Reversal, too, as both of those stories, along with The Cure is Worse than the Disease and Release, have a lot of little gold nuggets in them that can be mined for even more stories. I’m finding  that Intolerance has become a gold mine, as well.

Upshot

And there’s my stop on the blog hop.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Please tune into the following bloggers as they continue the process:

I hope you like the plot bunny, at left, who is resting from hopping.

Thank you for reading!

Recurrent Themes – Blueberries

Recurrent Themes – Blueberries

Why blueberries in Star Trek fanfiction?Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | DNA | Blueberries

A part of it is the visual appeal. There is no question that they are a pretty presentation on any plate. But then I started putting them into all sorts of places in my fiction.

They just have the right sort of appeal as a food that many people enjoy and can relate to. Everybody knows what a blueberry looks like, and what it tastes like. It is a way for space adventures to gain some down to Earth appeal.

Appearances

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Blueberry Pie | Blueberries
Lili’s Blueberry Pie

Jay Hayes and Dave Constantine in particular are blueberry fans.

Lili gets this information out of Jay when she first meets him during the events of Harvest. As a result, blueberries figure thematically throughout the time they know one another. With Dave, she learns of his preference during The Way to a Man’s Heart.  By making Dave a blueberry pie, it reminds her of Jay.

During the E2 stories, Lili is constantly putting the blueberry jam jar in front of Jay. He sometimes notices, sometimes he doesn’t. This detail thereby serves as a subtle reminder of how much she likes him. She is paying attention, even to that. In addition, in Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, she feeds him his last meal before he goes to rescue Hoshi (and, in Star Trek: Enterprise canon, he’s killed). The last thing he eats is a handful of blueberries that Lili gives him, right before she hugs him and tells him to be careful.

Blueberries show up briefly in Saturn Rise and Fortune, too.

Upshot

Beautiful and sweet, blueberries, to me, symbolize not only simplicity and

Recurrent Themes – Blueberries

wholesomeness, but also a means by which people can safely connect.

After all, or at least it seems this way, doesn’t everybody like blueberries?

Lessons from Fan Fiction

Personal Background

I have been writing (with considerable time off), in some form or another, for the past 4 1/2 decades, no exaggeration. My initial writings were crudely drawn images in old calendar books that would have otherwise been discarded. Inevitably, they were all about more or less the same thing – anthropomorphized dogs going on adventures.

I used to own (many of them are still in my parents’ house) little plastic farm animal toys.

English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st...
English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st…

Many of these came from my father’s business trips to Munich, and they were fairly well detailed. When not drawing picture books, I would play act stories for these toys. Usually, it was some sort of journey.

The toys still exist, but the old calendar books are long gone, in some landfill somewhere (they were discarded before recycling was really mainstream).

As a teenaged girl, I had diaries, but all of those are also gone to a landfill. I did not get back to writing anything resembling fiction until my senior year in High School, when I had an AP English teacher who encouraged such things. I took Creative Writing in college, and a Law School boyfriend also encouraged me to write. Then I set it all aside until maybe 2000 when I did some short works and then started writing fan fiction in 2004.

After a few more short works, I set it aside until 2010. Ever since starting up again (with Reversal), I have written something pretty much every day, whether it’s Star Trek: fan fiction, wholly original works, blogging and/or fiction outlining.

Lessons Learned (in no particular order)

Write to keep writing

While I suffer from writer’s block, just like every other writer, I suffer from it less than I probably should, because I make an effort to write nearly every single day. This keeps it all going.

Take and Keep Notes

I have a large timeline for fan fiction, spanning a few millennia. I have other timelines for wholly original fictional universes. These are kept with MS Excel. Timelines are incredibly useful, as you immediately know things like ages, and if character lifetimes overlap.

Fiction Stacks
Fiction Stacks

I keep wikis (more like informal detailed outlines, as I am the sole contributor) for all major series, and separate ones for wholly original fiction. These are for world-building, and they contain everything from character heights to birthdays to naming conventions for various items. It’s all decided once and the references are at my fingertips.

I also keep a list of plot ideas, which also contains possible titles, species ideas, possible character names, etc. (Eriecho was originally going to be Klingon). This ‘parks’ new ideas so that I can concentrate better on the story I am trying to finish.

Don’t Throw Anything Away

Character names from 1986 have shown up in fiction written in 2011, no lie. A quarter-century later, and in a different universe, the names still work.

Your Work Should be Shared

I belong to several writers’ groups online, both for fan fiction and for wholly original work.

Fan fiction in the making
Fan fiction in the making

There are a lot of people who are terrified of sharing their work with others. These are not people holding back because it’s work they want to try to have published. They just plain aren’t ready to share anything.

And that’s unfortunate, as their work can stagnate with no feedback. Fiction isn’t meant to be hidden away, locked in a drawer somewhere.

 

Constructive Criticism is Gold

English: Crystaline Gold
English: Crystaline Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone providing constructive criticism of any sort is fantastic. Being told that I need to define a character better, or provide more details, or that a scenario is not credible – any and all of these criticisms makes me a better writer. Learning to take constructive criticism graciously was an enormous lesson I have learned.

 

Destructive Criticism is Dirt

While not everyone will love what I have written, I’ve learned to separate critiques into constructive and destructive, and can tell the difference.

Vermont dirt, up close.
Vermont dirt, up close.

There are those who go into reading a fan fiction who are biased against a particular series, or character or character pairing, etc. They might dislike a certain plot point (e. g. not everyone likes time travel), or they just might dislike all fan fiction.

Most of what these folks say is not worth reading, or repeating. Fortunately, I haven’t run into too many of these folks in my travels.

As for those who engage in personal attacks, they should be blocked without a second thought. No one needs to be trashed in order to be effectively critiqued. Ever.

Do Your Research

In one of my first-ever fan fictions (There’s Something About Hoshi), I misspelled MACO as MAKO, and was corrected by a reader. At the time, I was overly sensitive and felt it was petty. I have since come to realize that of course this person was correct, and they were only trying to help me get better.

Pay it Forward by Reading and Reviewing Others’ Work

Sitting back and expecting everyone else to do the heavy lifting of reading and reviewing is pretty selfish. Writers, of course, should take care not to steal from each other, or plagiarize. But the building, nurturing, and sustaining of writer communities means that you, the writer, need to also become the reader, and the critic. Always be a constructive critic.

Practice and Edit

Not writing does not make you a better writer. Only writing, and reading, can make you a better writer. So do both.

Don’t Crowdsource Your Ideas

I see this a lot, where potential writers, terrified that they have a bad idea, ask their peers for a judgment about whether something is a ‘good’ idea.

This is bass-ackwards. Instead, writers should be writing. Their ideas are, likely, perfectly fine. Why do I say this? Because most ideas are fine; it’s their execution that demonstrates quality, or the lack thereof. Consider the following story idea.

Kafka
Kafka

A suddenly disabled man is late for work one morning. Ignoring his new infirmity, he tries to go to work, as he is the sole supporter of his mostly ungrateful family. When they become, by necessity, more independent, they abuse and neglect him and, unappreciated, he eventually dies. They go on without him.

Don’t know that plot? It’s Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, easily one of the top 100 (if not 50) works of fiction ever written. Ever!

But that plot summary isn’t too promising, eh? It’s in the execution where Gregor Samsa comes to life.

Your ideas are fine, except for the idea that you need others’ approval before you can start writing. Nonsense! Write anyway.

You’re Better Than You Think

Unless you are out and out plagiarizing someone else’s work, there is probably someone out there who will like your writing. That leads to my next point.

Find Your Ideal Audience

Sites which cater to, say, only Star Trek: Enterprise will not appreciate Star Trek: Voyager fan fiction as well as sites that focus on it. That may seem obvious, but it’s a point that people sometimes seem to miss. If your work isn’t being read, try other sites. You might do better elsewhere.

Fix Your Technical Problems Before Posting

Always look over spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word choice (e. g. make sure you are using the right words, and they mean what you think they do), and grammar. A few stray errors are fine, but try to fix most of it before posting. This is a courtesy to your readers.

Not Everyone Wants to read your entire Saga

Readers’ time is as precious a your own.

Busy
Busy

Their not wanting to read your entire 10 million word saga is less a reflection on your abilities (or their love of your work), and more on their own busy lives.

Expecting your audience to read your entire saga is a discourtesy; you are not being respectful of their time. Respect their time by mixing in some short stories as most people can find the time to read something less than 10,000 words (even better, less than 5,000).

Compete With your Peers

This ups your game considerably. Put yourself out there, and don’t expect to win. Competitions are also a great way to get more people to read and review your work.

Keep Track of your Stats

You don’t have to be as analytical as I am, but it pays to at least have a handle on what’s popular, and what isn’t. These findings will probably differ from site to site, and having objective data means you’ll have a better idea of whether a story will go over well or poorly at a particular site.

Use Your Time Wisely

We all have lives, so writing time often has to be rationed. Determine what you want and need, and how well various sites satisfy those wants and needs. Do an informal cost-benefit analysis – does a site offer ease of posting? Better critiquing? A bigger audience? A better-matched audience to your work?

Build a Readership

Book reader
Book reader

When I learned I was going to be published, I told pretty much everyone in my network. A lot of people said they were excited about potentially seeing my wholly original work in print. This is not only ego-gratifying, it’s also, potentially, a source of reads (and even sales) and reviews for professional work. I’m not saying to become a writing mercenary.

Rather, cultivate and nurture your most loyal fans.

That doesn’t just mean being kind to them (which should be a given), and thanking them (another given); it also means listening to them. Do they want to see more original characters? A new horror story? More time travel? Do they think your last book dragged in the middle? Take them seriously. They are really trying to help you succeed. Let them.

Upshot

I have come a long way from picture books that I showed to no one, and stories that I left to rot in a trunk and are no more. Fan fiction has improved me as a writer, and has taught me to believe in myself. It has led me to becoming a published author. I owe it a lot.

Thank you.


You can find me on .

Enhanced by Zemanta

Progress Report – January 2014

Progress Report – January 2014

January 2014 had kind of a theme going on.

Posted Works

This month was all about Porthos, Wesley Crusher, and Eriecho, it seemed.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Quill | January 2014

First of all, I finished spinning out The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Future Cat on Fanfiction.net, and also added the story to Fictionpad. For the In Between Days Collection, I added The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Future Cat, In Memory of Kelsey Haber, and Confidence. For Hall of Mirrors context, I added Ceremonial. I finished posting Crackerjack on Wattpad and finished posting Crackerjack on the G & T Show’s forums.

Progress Report – January 2014

In keeping with the Wesley Crusher theme, I added Imprecision, Overture, The Adventures of Porthos, The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment and the beginning of The Continuing Adventures of Porthos – The Future Cat to Wattpad, and to G & T Show’s forums, as a single topic, Imprecision/Overture, plus The Adventures of Porthos, The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment and The Continuing Adventures of Porthos – The Future Cat.

I began adding Flight of the Bluebird to Fanfiction.net. For Valentines’ Day, I combined The Best Things Come in Pairs and Complications into one story on Wattpad, and called it Loving the Alien.

Progress Report – January 2014

In response to my own monthly prompt about YOLO (You Only Live Once), I posted the Eriecho/Sybok story, Across the Universe.

I added a Stats page to capture all read and review data.

Milestones

The Stats page has all significant read counts. No new milestones were attained this month.

WIP Corner

I continued to work on Time Out, and on the wholly original story, The Obolonk Murders.

Prep Work

I overhauled the website and the blog considerably, adding all of the casting information here on the blog. This did not just bring more information directly to where I am getting the most views and feedback. It also served to help declutter the index for the site. I added a little to the Star Trek Expanded Universes Wiki, too.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

Apart from working on the jespah website, I also worked on my own professional website and did some social media blogging. It was a snowy January, and snow shoveling tends to give me wrist pain, thereby making it difficult to type. Furthermore, I started social media classes at Quinnipiac University.

In Character – Kevin O’Connor

English: HG Wells
English: HG Wells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, now, Darlin’, my name is Kevin O’Connor and I have no idea why I’m here, but I’m a-gonna try to do this right, even though there’s a buncha stories in the Times of the HG Wells collection that I am not in. So you might see a story and I’m not there, but that’s all right ’cause other characters, they need to get their due, too.

And before I say anything, the blog owner really should mark the 2013 Blog Year in Review.

Now that that’s outta the way, uh, where were we? Yeah. I’m takin’ over this blog, even though God knows I’m not much of a writer. That’s a soft skill, yanno, like public speakin’ or sales. But gimme a time ship any day, or even a replicator.

New coffee maker
New coffee maker (Photo credit: scriptingnews)

The Commission sent me to pre-Warp a few times – I had to keep long sleeves and long pants on, and a high collar, all on account o’ my scales – you know my Mama was a Gorn, right? And I swear it was like them old coffee makers was speakin’ to me.

So in case you’re unsure, I am an engineer.

Anyway, damn your eyes, or maybe damn mine, but there are questions to answer, and here I am, wastin’ time even though time is my business, Darlin’.

It’s all, uh, here.

Transitions

How do you handle them?

So I’ll tell you about my biggest transition, which was when Josie went from bein’ her beautiful, vibrant, funny, sweet self to, well, you don’t wanna know. Damn Piaris Syndrome. Dammit all to hell. It just takes ever’thin’. It rips it out and it stomps on it and all it does it hurt ya.

But lemme start from the beginnin’, see? I met her, it was at this party, it was, uh, it’s all in a story called The Point is Probably Moot. And she was, well, here’s a pitcher of her.

Jhasi Tantharis (Josie O'Connor)

Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney
Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wasn’t she a peach?

She was Aenar, yanno. Blind as a bat. And I took her to a ballgame for our first date, and I messed up and I called her Josie even though her real name was Jhasi. But she laughed at that but she did grab a cap from the wrong team. I think that was a joke on her part, way back when. It’s all in The Honky Tonk Angel. That is, if you wanna look. I don’t mind waitin’, Darlin’.

But it all went bad, when she got sick. It was, see, in your time period, it looks kinda like lupus to start, and then it gets a lot like Lou Gehrig’s disease and then it just eats away ever’thin’. And then in the end, y’see, you lose your thoughts and your mind and your memories. Hardest part was when she didn’t know me.

‘Scuse me, I gotta take a break, okay?

=/\=

Okay, I’m okay now. It’s, see, there’s a story called Candy and it’s about when we renewed our vows. We did that on account that, well, she was a few months from, man, it was a few months before she died.

So how did I handle that? Rick Daniels says I was brave. I guess; I dunno. I like to think that bravery is runnin’ and dodgin’ phasers or stuff like that. I just did what, you know, any husband would do, I think. I have to think that.

Do they frighten you? Inspire you? Sicken you? Amuse you?

So what did this transition do? Well, it scared the crap outta me to start, of course. I mean, you fall in love, you marry, and you make plans, yanno? And we wasn’t gonna have kids, but we still figured it would be, like my family motto says, it would be forever.

Whatever forever means, when there’s cruel mortality, I suppose.

"Forever"
“Forever” (Photo credit: seanmcgrath)

It’s a joke, or at least that’s how I saw it at the time. It just hurt like you wouldn’t believe. It was as if I’d been stabbed with a sword.

It was terrible until I met Yilta. She’s a Calafan, see? And they’re really open and kind, and they seem to, in some ways, it’s like they love us better than we love ourselves. I dunno how else I can describe it. But they do. I, uh, I should get a pitcher; I don’t have one right now. She’ll give me a playful punch on the arm when she learns I don’t have a pitcher to show you. But she’s a silver one, so she’s from our universe. She’s got hair and pretty well-developed calloo – that’s the pattern on their arms ‘n legs – so she’s, yanno, she’s been around the block a few times. She’s from Lafa V and her accent, it sounds like an Irish brogue. Very understanding about Josie, and very cute, she is, see. She’s made that transition so much easier.

And it gets me to wond’rin’, even though it’s not one o’ the questions, but I wonder what I’d’a done if I knew Yilta while me and Josie was married. Yilta, I know, she wouldn’t be a home-wrecker, but what happens when it’s all falling apart, anyway? Anyway, you didn’t ask that so I’m left to just wonder.

Tell us about a memorable transition. Maybe one that went well.

Anyway, so that’s the biggest ole transition in my life, or maybe it’s a buncha ’em. It’s going from lonely bachelor to husband to caregiver to widower to, now, heh, boyfriend.

I am over seventy years old in human years and I am a boyfriend.

Yeah, it makes me laugh, too.

Or, if you dare, one that didn’t go so well.

But it’s also, at the same time, it’s the transition that didn’t go so well. ‘Course poor Josie never asked for none o’ that. She was, I mean, she was a kindergarten teacher. She was unselfish and lovely and, man oh man they say God takes people like that young because he needs ’em but I still can’t help but wonder why sometimes.

Bonus Questions!

Let’s say you meet a character. It could be a canon person, or not. They might be from your universe, or not. What would you tell them about a transition that they might be going through? How could you help them with it? Would you help them?

I think ever’body goes through transitions, ’cause otherwise they’re not really characters, see? They’re just flat on a page. If they’re gonna live, they gotta have changes.

So I’ll look at somebody outside my time frame. See, I’m a time guy, so’s I can do that. And I’ll spin the big wheel and will ya look at that? I came up with Eriecho. This is my lucky day; I should play the Ferengi lottery next, I think.

See, Eriecho really had a big transition when she was let outta jail. She had never, ever been free before, and it was strange to her. I think it even kinda scared her, even at the same time as it thrilled her. So she was, you see, she was at a loss as to what to do. And I think she still is. Sure, she loves Sollastek and they’ll get married. And hey, maybe I’ll refurbish one o’ them ole coffee makers and send ’em one but I bet Yilta would tell me we should send somethin’ nicer, too. But she’ll pick out the doilies or whatever. You know how women like to do that.

I think I’d let Eriecho know that it’s not so scary, bein’ free. And you gotta fill up yer time, otherwise you just get bored. But it doesn’t have to be structured, and it doesn’t have to be other people’s ideas of what ya should do. See, we know the alternatives, and Otra sees ’em, and she tells me that that other timeline, you know the one you all call nuTrek or JJ Abrams Trek or whatever? She tells me it’ll resolve itself, and it’ll be better. And it won’t send Eriecho back to jail or anythin’ like that, so that’s good.

So all’s Eriecho’s gotta do – all any of us has gotta do – is just hang in there. And do what we think is right and best. What we feel is honorable or lovin’ or kind or artistic or well-engineered or even just interestin’. We can ride out the transitions, and let ’em wash off our backs.

And lemme tell ya, I weigh nearly a quarter of a metric ton and I got a pretty damn broad back, Darlin’. But Eriecho, see, and anyone else readin’ this? Just roll with them changes, and do whatever it is that you’re doin’ that feels right. ‘Cause I bet it is. You prolly know better ‘n you think.

Hey, mebbe I do, too.

Nice talkin’ to ya, Darlin’. Okay, I’ll give the blog back, now. Thanks for the soap box.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Starts

Boldly Reading asks us, now, about Beginnings.

First sentences, first kisses, first missions, etc. – what are some of your favorite ‘firsts’ on Ad Astra? What sorts of openings and firsts and premieres get you to keep reading?

I enjoy a good beginning as much as anyone else does, I suppose. Crafting the perfect opening line is a challenge, and some writers do a better job of it than others, just like anything else. Here’s a great one.

“I was sure I was going to die, but was so afraid I wouldn’t in time.”

Little Black Dog’s Aftermath cuts right in, immediately, and you realize that something awful has happened, and is being (maybe) recovered from.

Here’s another.

He spoke flawless Federation Standard, possessed perfect visual acuity and hearing abilities unmatched by human ears.

kes7’s Year One opens not necessarily with a bang, but it’s obvious that whoever this is, he’s physically superior to humans. Is he an Augment, perhaps?

DHA Molecule
DHA Molecule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And here’s one more, if you’ll indulge me.

“I … I think … I need to see a doctor.”

trekfan’s While You Were Unconscious pulls two people together, although the details are a little … tricky. Yeah, there’s a good word for it.

Bonus questions!

How do you convert blank pages and blank computer documents into works of art? How do you get first ideas? What gets you started, or re-started?

I find that, for me, getting a story started is difficult but of course it’s necessary. Otherwise, nothing is ever produced! But sometimes the ideal opening is elusive. When that happens, I try to write the middle, or even the end. And I will go over and over again, in my mind, when it comes to the opening line of a story. I want the reader to continue, of course, but what I also want is to set the tone.

Reversal‘s opening line was written on the fly (as was nearly all of that story). It is, simply, this –

It didn’t hurt.

I really, really hope the reader’s question is – what didn’t hurt?

It is, possibly, the best opening I have ever written, and it colored the remainder of the story. Other stories have had good openings. I particularly like the ones for Paving Stones (“He’s too young.”) and for Brown (They were both pregnant at the same time.). Both of these opening lines defined the stories that followed, and shaped them.

The Week Never Starts Round Here
The Week Never Starts Round Here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often a good opening line can get me going, and can really sustain me. However, sometimes I need to get restarted, especially after I’ve had to leave a story for a while, for some reason or another.

One thing I try to do is to keep writing (this includes blogging). More or less continually getting ideas onto paper or pixels means that it takes a while for all ideas to dry up. But sometimes that’s not feasible. When it isn’t, I also like to just reread my work, and not necessarily the work I’m trying to finish. I just need to, I feel, review past successes, at times, to remind myself that I can still do it.

Here’s to new beginnings for us all.

Enhanced by Zemanta