Writing Collaborations: What’s the Goal?

This weekend, I’ve been collaborating on a short play writing project with one of my students. We have a finished draft on a fun and meaningful script which I plan on using in my new show coming up in April.

It’s been a while since I’ve collaborated with students on a creative writing piece. I used to do it all the time. In fact, these type of collaborations are what kick-started my writing career. I have many students to thank, because they helped me to just write and put my work out there.

This weekend, I’m writing with a student who has never written a play before. She came up with the idea for the play and I helped to formulate it into scenes. We each took different scenes to write and then there’s the process of combining them together, editing, adding new ideas, and the general non-stop revisions which are needed. I’m excited to see the final product of this script.

This endeavor got me thinking: what’s the goal of this type of writing collaboration? A new writer with an experienced writer.

Here’s how I approach it. I, first, want the idea to originate with the new writer. I wanted her to have ownership in the process because I know how I can be: I get an idea and I can’t stop until it’s done. This allows a new writer to catch-up to my overbearingness, so to speak.

The new writers are typically reluctant to edit my work. That’s understandable, but I want to make it clear that there is no hierarchy in this collaboration. There’s only one goal: write a quality piece. That’s it.

That means that I will edit the new writer’s scenes thoroughly. I’ll make additions. Suggestions. Give feedback. Get feedback. And, invariably, the new writer comes back with “yes, yes, yes, that’s so much better. yes.” I’m not a better writer than they are. I just have more experience. I’ve also produced 25 shows. I know visually how the dialogue will look on-stage.  I know what will work, what will sound authentic, and what won’t.

My goal is for the new writer to see my entire process and, hopefully, learn from it. Then they get their name as a co-writer in the playbill which is always fun. And, if they act, which they almost always do, I let them star in their own play if they so choose.

What’s important in the process, at least for me, is not to settle for less quality because a writer is new. I will push them, I will encourage them, I will ruthlessly edit their stuff in order to make the piece better. An okay piece will not be acceptable to me if it can be a great piece, because I’m putting my name on it as well.

I guess what I’m saying is: don’t dumb it down. Keep the standard high.

I had a past school principal who said that the lost practice of kids and parents eating supper together every night has hurt the kids’ development. They need to hear adult conversations. They need to be able to ask questions. Wonder what that word means. It’s one of the ways they grow and learn.

This is exactly how I view writing collaborations with students. I hope my intent is reached with this one.

This is going to be a good play. It’s entitled: “Why Leaves Change Color.”

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A Year of Writing in Review

What writer doesn’t look back at the end of a year and to give oneself a writing grade?

Well, actually, I don’t hold a lot of stock in goals hit or missed because time lines are flexible and life happens. But it’s still fun to take stock in what transpired in the year of writing. Here are some of my highlights.

Play writing:

Watched my play “The Birth of Technicolor” in Brooklyn! It was awesome.

My play “The Last Bastion” won me the 2018 Greywood Arts Writing Residency in Ireland and I spent a blissful week in a charming old English house finishing off two full-length plays and other miscellaneous writings.

Short plays – I hit my stride again in short play writing, finishing off a complete new show entitled “Crazy Love” in the spring and then in the fall I cranked out four new additional short plays which will be part of a show of mine called “Stories, Vol. 1.”

On top of this, I produced three shows – “For All Generations” in Jan 2018, the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in April 2018 and the experimental piece “How to Build a Dictator” in December 2018.

Novel writing:

Summer saw the release of book 2 of the Forgotten Child Trilogy called “The African Connection.”

Summer also saw me writing frantically to finish book 3 – which I did – entitled “A Parting in the Sky.”  This explosive piece will end the trilogy and will be released within the first few months of 2019. Very excited about it!

Planning stages and early writing for my mysterious novel #9. I will say it is an alternate history related to the 1960s. It’s going to get wild!

Short Story:

I published a new Christmas story “Jolly Old St. Hick.”

I’m also formulating my book on baseball. I promised myself I would. It may be a collection of short stories or a more unified piece. More to come.

Yes, it’s been a busy and fruitful year. Here’s hoping more productivity in 2019! I’ll give you my writing prognosis for the year soon!

I appreciate your support.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Jolly Old Saint Hick: New Christmas Story Coming Dec 1 (and how to get a free copy!)

My brand new, kid-friendly, humorous Christmas story “Jolly Old St. Hick” is releasing on Kindle December 1.

But, through November 21, you can get an exclusive pre-release copy for FREE only through my Facebook author page. Private message me on my author FACEBOOK PAGE  and I’ll send you a version for your Kindle or Kindle App absolutely free! A holiday gift from me to you!

Thanks for the support!

jollyoldsthickSMALL

 

A Change of a Love Story For a Nation

A LOVE STORY FOR A NATION is one of the favorite stories I’ve ever written. It, like a lot of my writings, started as a short play called “Almighty Might.” An audience member, who came to see a production of it, was greatly moved by its story – so much so that this audience member, who also happened to be an artist, drew an amazing picture of its story. I was blown away! I had the chance to meet the artist later that year. His name is Woon Bin Chang. A terrific guy. He was gracious enough to allow me to use his picture as the the book cover for my novel. I was thrilled.

But the picture posed some problems for the cover, and when the novel was published, I decided on another design by another talented graphic artist. I loved it, and I was very happy with the cover.

But three years on, I stumbled back upon this artwork and wondered if I could redesign it in order to give the novel a make-over and to show off this great piece of art which represented the story so very well.

And so I did.

I’ve decided to change the cover art for the novel. I’m very happy with it and I hope it inspires others to check out this moving story.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Here it is:

aloveStoryNEWCOVER2018

New Christmas Story Coming Soon!

I’m happy to announce I’ll be publishing a new Christmas short story this year. Unsure of release date, but it will be well early for the season. It even has a cover!

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Can you pick up the tone of it? Yes, light-hearted, silly, funny (hopefully) with a warm fire-place-like touch of sentiment – all those things you need to settle into the holiday season. You know, like a cinnamon stick in your hot chocolate or spiced cider simmering on the stove.

“Jolly Old St. Hick” was actually a short play that my drama group The RLT Players performed in their Christmas show “Tales of Wonder II” in 2015. It was a funny and well-received vignette, and last year I got the idea of re-writing it as a short story. I didn’t get very far.

Until now! I turned the 2000 word play into a 6000+ word short story coming your way to a Kindle near you!

I’ve actually not written many short stories in my life. I’ve written more novels than short stories, actually. I’m not sure if that is bizarre or not, but I’m becoming more familiar with the genre. Most of my short stories are Christmas-themed. Why is that? I’m not sure, exactly, but perhaps there’s something comforting about a warm cup of tea, a fireplace, and a 30 or 40-minute sentimental read.

In 2014, I published “If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story” about a runaway slave in 1852.  Available Here.

In 2016, I published “Christmas in the Trenches 1914” a fictitious account of the real-life truce between the Brits and the Germans in WWI on Christmas Eve 1914. Available Here!

In 2018, I will publish “Jolly Old St. Nick.”

I hope you enjoy, and look out for the release of my new one soon!

After 2+ plus years, the story is finished.

Just wanted to share briefly what is making me so happy today: my first trilogy – my first series of any kind – is finished.

This afternoon I capped off the story with as neat and tidy ending that I could muster. The story of Frick, Bee, Ash, Rachany, Ruthy, Haddock, Hatty, Ulrich, and Monroe is finished, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

In a different post, I’m going to chronicle what I learned about writing by taking on this project, but I couldn’t let my happiness remain inside.

It’s done!

I know. I know. I have months of revision ahead of me.

But who cares?

There were days in the past when I couldn’t see how the ending I wanted was going to connect with what I had already written.

And then, little by little, it worked.

It didn’t hurt that for the past nine days, I’ve had nothing to do but WRITE! It’s been awesome since I was able to crank out the final 25,000 words.

The result is this a 200,000 plus word trilogy.

Book 3 of THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY – A Parting in the Sky

To celebrate: here’s the first mock-up of the cover.

Coming 2019!

aPartingFRONTsmaller

Writing: About Lengths and Words

I’m a concise writer. I know that.

I’ve learned to slow down my writing over the years because at times it can be at breakneck speeds, and there are rumors about that some readers like to stew in the words of a story and not have to gulp them all down from the end of a fire hose.

Who knew?

So length and word count are always on the forefront of my mind when I’m writing. That’s not always a good thing. I’ve heard that the best length of any story is precisely the length it should be. Some stories are meant to be short. Others long. Many others somewhere in-between.

The general standard (some would dispute this) for length is above 20,000 words is a novella and above 50,000 words a novel. If you are well below 20,000, you’ve simply written a short story.

As I’m narrowing in on the ending to my trilogy, I’m finding that volume three is feeling shorter than the other two. Is that bad?

Well, it all depends, and this is where it gets messy and subjective. This is where a fresh pair of eyes and a good editor can help guide you.

I want an ending that’s satisfying but doesn’t drag. That’s well developed but not too short that the reader feels shortchanged. (As a side note, I know that not all readers think alike. Some will never be satisfied no matter the length, but that’s another post.)

How do you navigate your story so it’s exactly right? You can’t. No story is ever exactly right. But you can make decisions which will help guide in the right direction.

First, don’t fret on word count. If the story arc and development leads you to 40,000 rather than 70,000, then please leave it at 40. No one wants to read 30,000 useless words.

Second, make sure your story development delivers on all accounts. Characters. Have you satisfactorily shown their development? Do their decisions in the book make sense in a chronological way? Have you shown the readers what they are desiring and why they do the things they have done? If not, expand. If yes, move on and don’t say anymore. In regards to subplots, are they all necessary. Yes, you might be able to expand your novel another 10% by telling us a backstory or weaving a secondary thread through the plot, but is it necessary. Completely necessary to show characterization, so show foreshadowing, to bring the plot to realization?  If you can’t answer yes to all of these, then nix it. Perhaps write it a short story instead. Don’t bog down the storyline in unwanted information.

Third, slow down and let the language simmer a little more. You always want to keep your language short and concise, but don’t be afraid to expound a little. I’m writing this especially for me. Add that description–especially amidst the dialogue. Because I just love dialogue and I can write some of my draft chapters almost like a play. Not cool! Think of the reader. Show what happens. Describe the movements. Describe the scenery. But don’t feel compelled to write twenty pages about the topography of the protagonists hometown. (Please no! Keep it moving, remember)

A good editor will help you with all of these because, honestly, it’s so hard to judge one’s own writing.

How about you? What helps you in your writing endeavors?