Today I bring you a post from the American writer, Daniel White. He is a published author and blogger as well as owning the magazines shown in the links, and the Thinkerbeat Reader website. If you have ever wondered why your stories might have been rejected in the past, or if anyone will ever publish them, this article will be very helpful.
Daniel’s bio and extensive experience.
The Thinkerbeat Reader
Dates Employed Sep 2012 – Present
Dates Employed Aug 2015 – Present
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Today’s modern reader is a globalized reader. Art is becoming a global phenomenon. People want to read stories from all over the world. Longshot Press brings you stories for the modern reader. The global reader.
For fantasy: http://unrealmag.com
For science fiction: http://unfitmag.com
For networking: https://thinkerbeat.com
Representative authors include: Martha Wells, David Brin, Orson Scott Card, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Cat Rambo, Yoon Ha Lee, Jerry Oltion, Emily Devenport, Eric Del Carlo, David R. Grigg, and more.
National Taiwan University
Degree Name MBA
Dates attended or expected graduation 2010 – 2012
I graduated with a GMBA degree in June of 2012. The Global MBA program focused on international business.
Columbia College Chicago
Dates attended 1988 – 1990
Columbia provides a unique combination of training in both the business and artistic fields. I studied record company management, contract negotiations, record production and studio recording techniques. Upon graduation, I was hired to work as an engineer in Chicago’s Acme Recording under the ownership of Jim Rasfeld. I received credits on 6 nationally released records and was eligible to become a voting member of the Grammy awards. My most memorable time was working on a record for Bob Dylan, produced by David Bromberg for Columbia Records.
Here is his unedited article.
By Daniel Scott White
Here’s a typical example of the stories I get. I’ve remove the author and title to protect the innocent.
Scene 1: People meet at a bar. Description, conversations, numbers exchanged, various couples go home together.
Scene 2: A car accident. The same people. Coincidence (unbelievable!). Proposed meeting at a restaurant later in the week.
Scene 3: People meet at the restaurant. More description. More conversation. Character development. But no sign of a plot yet.
Scene 4: The main couple goes for a walk on the beach. Hints of a deeper conversation. There’s a troubling conundrum in someone’s life. He needs some advice. Finally, the first plot point.
We’re now 3000 words into the story. The whole story is 8000 words long. So far, the writing is good from a technical perspective. Great paragraphing, which I like. Even the descriptive writing isn’t bad. But we have no idea why we are reading this story. What is relevant about it?
Why not start with the first plot point and build from there? Yes, in the very first scene, give me your first plot point. Start with the conversation on the beach!
About another 3000 words in, you start to guess the end, where someone will die. I don’t usually like stories where someone has to die for it to end. It’s the cheap way out. “And then he died.” is just a short skip away from “It was all a dream.”
At the end of 8000 words, you’re thinking you’d never buy this one. What are the options?
Should you ask the writer to trim the first 3000 words? I understand it’s important to set the story up, to build suspense. But get to the point of the story sooner than later. One publisher I am fond of says: don’t even try to describe the characters until later on, and then, only if you need to. If you don’t need to know the color of their eyes or how they dress, don’t tell me that. It doesn’t drive the story forward.
In this example story I’m talking about, the writer even understands the idea of an immediate scene. If you don’t know what that is, go look it up. That tip alone will earn you a ton of money. You can pay me for my advice later.
The writer also knows how to ‘block’ out a scene. What I mean is each scene is very clear cut. One scene moves smoothly to the next. There’s no ambiguity there. You’re never left wondering how we got from A to C with no B in the middle (although the coincidental car accident was too much of a stretch for my taste.) The outline is simple. Bar. Accident. Restaurant. Beach. First plot point.
And this particular writer sells a lot of stories to mid-level markets. Nothing much at the pro level, though. I’ve read his work several times before in previous submissions and in general, liked it, but never bought any of it.
Should I take the time to teach him how to do it? Well, no. I’m not here to teach you how to write. There are plenty of places for that. I want the finished story, ready to go.
What this writer is missing is balance.
I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that the short story market is different from the novel market in that you have to be more specific, more concise. It doesn’t have to be a rollercoaster ride from page one, but you have to get to the point and then build on that. Introduce the concept right away, then spend 8000 words expanding on it. A lot of people are in ‘novel writing mode’ when they put together a short story. You’ve got to mentally switch gears if you’re going to do both, write short stories and novels. Writing short stories keeps you sharp and will go a long way to strengthening your novels.
Nowadays, I have a hard time reading novels, because I’m so used to looking for padding in stories that drives the word count up. Time is money, and in this case, words are money, so make them count. I feel like most novels are just padded short stories. They spend pages and even chapters explaining some footnote to the whole thing.
So what I’m talking about is the balance within the story. That’s where most budding authors drop the ball. How much time do you spend expanding each scene, each detail? Somewhere in the editing stage, writers should be thinking: trim this, add in more of that, make it all significant, all relevant to the story, and in so doing, relevant to the reader. Don’t waste words.
The hook shouldn’t be: I wonder what’s happening in this story? Why am I reading this? Does the author even know? Oh, I wonder what happens…first? When will we find out? 3000 words later? WTF?? (That’s a kind of negative suspense building.)
The suspense should be: How does this particular plot unfold and eventually resolve?
There. I said it. A short story needs to have a hook. Sounds simple enough. But why wait 3000 words? If it’s about the money, forget it.
This is a link to his blog, where you can read a lot more. Daniel pays for stories he uses, and if you think you have what it takes to get published, you can contact him on his site.