Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rewriting and Editing

I spent all of last week rewriting and editing three BattleCorps stories I got feedback on from the workshop. I plan to send them to the workshop for a second round of look-overs before submitting them to Jason Schmitzer and BattleCorps. A fourth story is going to need more work done to it before I can send it back to the workshop.

Which brings me to the subject of today's posts: rewrites and editing.
I don't plot out short stories in any detail before I start. Instead, I start with an idea, a couple of scenes in mind, and maybe an ending. The result is I'm not always certain of the ending or how I get there. Stories tend to wonder, or have a plot that needs some work. Rewrites and editing are a must for a writer to know and use, because the number of authors who can write a perfect story in one draft are very few. I'm not one of those....

I always let the story sit for a while -- days, sometimes weeks -- before I start going through them again. It allows the details to fade from my mind, so i can look at it with fresh eyes. It's amazing what you find when you're not up to your eyebrows in writing a story. And since I have several other stories being written at the same time, it isn't hard to leave stories alone for a while.

When I rewrite/edit a story, I concentrate on four things:

1) Word Count -- I always write a bit long, so trimming is a must. That means going through and cutting extra words, compacting diolougue, and rewriting sentaces so they have less words than before.

2) Misspelled and misused words, and grammer. -- It's amazing the things I see when I go through a story I'm rewriting. Misspelled words, wrong verb tense, fragmented sentences, and other little grammer goofs are easier to spot after letting it sit for a while.

3) Plot holes and weaknesses -- This takes up most of the rewriting. Plots needs to be simplfied, characters eliminated, scenes fully explained and described. Does each characters actions make sense in the story's context? Does the plot hold together? Are there any plot points I missed?

4) Continuity and style check -- are there any stupid continuity mistkes? (Wrong rank, 'Mech not available during the time of the story, wrong planet) Are all the style guidelines being followed ('Mech names italicized, epigraphs [The time-place section that appears at the start of scenes] are in the right place, use of meterics)

Depending on how badly the story needs work, it can take anywhere between a couple of days to a full week to complete a rewrite of a story. I also tend to do these in groups of two or three stories, so I can stay "In the grove" instead of bouncing back and forth between rewriting and writing. Once I finish with all three, I'll send them back to the Workshop, and if there are no other major problems, send them to Jason before the end of the month.

That's all for now -- back to work!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Battlecorps Story Workshop

(I was going to post this yesterday, but in light of what happened in Boston, I thought it best to delay this post by one day.)

I have mentioned that I am a member of a Battlecorps Story workshop. It's a group of Authors, most who have stories published on Battlecorps who have banded together to help each other polish their stories to submit to Jason Schmitzer, BattleCorps' Editor.

This is actually the second incantation of the workshop. Prometheus Fire was the man behind the first workshop, a web forum with his own private section where authors could post their stories for discussion. After the website went down, a few of us reformed the workshop, and a number of the stories Battlecorps has published over the last year have come through the workshop.

Does it work? Yes! Most of the stories I've had published on Battlecorps have been sent through the workshop, most more than once. Several of the more recent new authors that have appeared on BattleCorps have come through the workshop.

The workshop works like this: One of us posts a story to the group as a PDF, where members can download the file, read it and make comments on it. These comments cover story content, style, canon mistakes, and grammar. The commented file is then sent back to the workshop and the author takes the comments and uses them as a basis for rewriting the story. Most story go through this process two, three or four times, and the result is a much better story then it otherwise will be. It takes a couple of weeks for stories to get C&Ced, as the members of the workshop have jobs, lives and families that come first, but we try to get the C&C done in an reasonable amount of time.

Recently, the Workshop has been discussing a couple of things that might be of interest to those who want to write Battlecorps stories. The first discussion involves opening up the membership to aspiring Battlecorps authors. We've been discussing things like requirements to join and the like. Nothing's firm yet, but one of the ideas being discussed is that any applicant should have a story ready to be submitted to the workshop. I will keep everyone informed when we have a more solid requirement list.

The second is writing a Primer for the aspiring Battlecorps author. It is in its early stages, but we are looking to have a document that any Battletech fan who want to write a story for Battlecorps can use. The primer will give them an understanding what a Battlecorps story submission should look like, and what pitfalls to avoid that will get the story rejected out of hand (And there are a lot of pitfalls to fall into -- see my Dos and Don't for writing Battlecorps stories on this blog)  In addition, we hope to make the primer a one-stop source for all the style guides (which are a bit scattered right now) and content guides. As with expanding the workshop membership, I will keep everyone informed on our progress.

Wow, three blog posts in three weeks! I'm impressed!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Story Thoughts -- Hikagemono

Hikagemono, like The Lancer Killer, has a bit of history to it. I had just gotten The Lance Killer accepted for publication on the Battlecorps site, when the call went out for stories for the 25th anniversary book --- Battletech: 25 years of Art and Fiction. A copy of this call landed in my E-mail box, and for the first time, I was part of the process. This anniversary book was my first experience in pitching for products. I will write a post of that process at a later date.

The concept was to draw inspiration from any of the art pieces included with the email. If you have a copy of the book, you see the art we have to chose from. The ones that are matched up with the stories.

Well, I outlined at least two stories and sent them in. Well, as you can guess, I didn't get my story into the book (I was told it was Loren Coleman himself who said no, but that isn't a given). I was a little disappointed, but then when I obtained a copy of the book and saw those who had stories in the book, well, I didn't feel so bad. After all, how is a guy with one (still unpublished at that time ) Battlecorps story (along with a co-author credit on a single Battletechnology story) going to compete against people like  Ilsa Bick, Randall Bills, Robert Charrette, Loren Coleman, Keith DeCandido, Craig Erne, Thomas Gressman, William H. Keith, Jr., Kevin Killiany, Jim Long, David L. McCulloch, Victor Mil├ín, Steven Mohan, Jr., Blaine Lee Pardoe, Jason Schmetzer, Adam Sherwood, Michael A. Stackpole, Robert Thurston and Phaedra Weldon? I would say 80-90% of all the Battletech novels were written by that group, and more than a few have their own original universe novels to their credit.

But Jason Schmetzer said he like the story pitches and said "write them for Battlecorps." So, I chose Hikagemono as the first story to flesh out.

I drew of the Techmanual cover art for inspiration (Marsh Owl by Kevin Killiany was the story chosen for that slot.) I felt that the story had to take place in the Combine, and the idea that a 'Mech, especially if it's been around for a long time, develops a "personality". (I revisited this idea in Thirteen). I thought that a discarded weapon (If you can really discard an 85-ton BattleMech) needed a discarded pilot. Enter Chu-i Tomosuki Okudara, a man who has been discarded by his powerful father because Okudara chose to go to another military school (Sun Tzu) instead of Sun Zhang.To the mix, I added Kume, the tech assigned to the damaged BattleMaster, who himself is not a model DCMS soldier.

The BattleMaster has seen three pilots die in it, and was left behind by the unit that had it. Okudara feels a kinship with the BattleMaster; both have been discarded, but together they can prove people who threw them away were wrong to do so.

From there, I built the story along with the BattleMaster (Hikagemono means "Outsider", and is what Okudara decides to name it) as Okudara uses his skills (and sake) to get the parts and help he needs to get the BattleMaster running again. Even when Okudara is assigned another BattleMech, circumstances bring him back to Hikagemono.

As I reread the story, I see a few places where I could have phrased things better, but I like this story. I hope you do too.


Monday, April 1, 2013


If anyone’s noticed, I haven’t been blogging like I said I would, and that’s my fault. On the other hand, I am moving ahead on a several fronts.

On the Battletech front, I’ve done a couple of things for products that will be out sometime in the near future (I hope!). I can’t say what, but it’s been interesting seeing what’s coming next. Some people are going to be surprised. There’s another project pitch I am still waiting to hear back on, and hopefully, it will be good news.

As for BattleCorps stories, I sent six to the workgroup, and I think four will make the cut. The two that didn’t, I think I’ll use the characters from the one story and put them into another, related story. I have a couple of multi-part stories in the works, but I really don’t have an idea if Jason Schmitzer (He who I must impress with said stories) is looking for something like this.

For now, it’s completing stories and rewriting others. I will have more stories just as soon as I can get them finished and approved.
That’s all for now.