I started my literary career writing short stories; thought
that was my niche since I’ve got lots of ideas for which the short form is the
perfect medium. Turns out short stories have their uses, but establishing your
writing bona fides is not one of them.
I’ve written almost a dozen short stories and had most of
them published. Here are some truisms/advice from someone who’s toiled in the
trenches of the short story market.
No writing workshop is complete without a definition of a
story explained to the audience of aspiring authors. They come in flavors from
simple to complicated, though I prefer the simple ones.
A plot is not a
story!A plot is a series of
events that forms an overarching narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. A
plot is stuff that happens. A story is stuff that happens for a reason,which is
provided by the characters. At its very basic elements, a story is “plot plus
Here’s the definition of a story I’ve found most useful:
Last time, we discussed the correct order and ratio of all the necessary ingredients for a successful story: hook (page 1) -> inciting incident (anytime before plot point 1) -> plot point 1 (PP1; 20-25% mark) -> midpoint (50% mark) -> plot point 2 (PP2; 75% mark) -> climax/denoument (last 90%).
Knowing the correct order and ratio can solve a lot of
issues with a manuscript that readers complain about but authors may have a
hard time interpreting. Here are a few ambiguous but common problems decoded
into their meaning and solution:
In my last column, I talked about the critical ingredients to craft a coherent story. You might recall my genius bread-baking metaphor: like a story, there are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake, but all loaves of bread have certain ingredients in common that make it bread rather than cake or pizza. However, just knowing what ingredients to put in isn’t enough. You also need to know the ratio of each, and the order in which they should be added.
honest—the vast majority of fight/sex scenes in Hollywood and literature only
exist to titillate. Most could be replaced by a sign or sentence that says “And
then they have sex,” or “And then they fight.” I lump sex scenes and fight
scenes together because the mechanics and purposes of both are very similar.
So how do
you write a good one? Let’s pretend like I’m qualified to give advice on this,
and no one has recognized my genius yet because I’ve been cursed by an evil
witch who lives next door and is mad that I was rude to her cat one time. Here
are my handy-dandy tips:
Hi there, awesome people! Sorry I’ve been silent for a while, for everyone who cares (all half dozen of you—the best of you! And Mom…hi, Mom). I moved from Boston to Colorado Springs in July for a new job, and the move did not go smoothly. Then the new job I started did not go smooth either, and then I thought again about retiring early but decided (again) that wasn’t a feasible option, and spent a few weeks in mental turmoil over the situation. Then at work we started getting inundated with suicide awareness stuff due to an increase in military suicides, even though it’s well known none of this “awareness” actually does anything to lower the rate, and my cortisol levels ratcheted up even further. What hilarious irony.
I’m very excited to give y’all a SNEAK PEAK at the first two chapters of my upcoming book, The Colonel and Her Sergeant! If you like what you read here, you can pick up the rest of the book on June 9th.
I found this out when I was reading an article in Defense One – an online military magazine – about how the military needs to innovate more like Silicon Valley. It’s a favorite talking point for people whose deepest subconscious desire is to have a threesome with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
(…Is it presumptuous of me to assume I have fans in the double digits?? Probably, but I feel like indulging my massive ego today!)
I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been hard at work getting my next novel, The Colonel and Her Sergeant, ready for publication on June 14th. I’ll post more about my future Pulitzer Prize winner later.
(I’m just gonna assume the Pulitzer Prize committee accepts self-published novels. NO I’m not going to Google it…my kids tell me if I just believe enough all my dreams will come true so I’ma gonna do that cuz as you know, in reality Donald Trump is my boss so it’s off to fantasy land for me!)
Through the din of the military
ball, Colonel Anna Archer heard him laughing. Turning, she saw a tall young man
with olive skin, black hair slicked back into one thick wave to stay within Air
Force regulation, service dress cutting his torso into a sharp inverted-A.
a group of friends, he laughed every time one of them told a joke—young people.
An enlisted man. She turned away…
From the moment she saw
the young, dashing Sergeant Victor Shamrock, Anna knew she wanted him—and that
desire would be the end of her. For in her position as a colonel—a rocket
launch commander, no less—romantic relationships with lower-ranking soldiers
are strictly forbidden.
But when she’s passed over for a promotion in favor of a man with less experience, Anna begins to question the military culture she dedicated her life to. She made her career by conforming to a man’s world, by suppressing her feelings—by denying her womanhood. In a painful reality check, she realizes it wasn’t enough.
Now she can’t deny who she is anymore—a woman who aches for love, no matter the cost.
The Colonel and Her Sergeant is an epic story about all the ways love can hurt and heal us, trying to reach for the stars in a world holding you back, and finding the strength within to rise from the ashes of tragedy.