Evolution of a Short Story: The Cosmic Circle of Life and Death

 

Introduction

The Cosmic Circle of Life and Death, my latest science fiction short piece, is available for download at the Kindle Store. There will be a free, one day promotion on Saturday, Aug. 5.


I joined a Meetup related to writing months ago. I never attended any meetings because I was trying to maintain a break neck production pace uploading one book a month to Kindle Direct Publishing.

One day, as I neared the end of the first draft of the second installment in a steampunk, weird-western detective series, I decided to attend a meeting of the writers’s group.

I’m about to break the first rule of Write Club: never write about Write Club.

At the first meeting, members of the group scheduled to read handed out copies then presented the pieces. The other writers critiqued the work. I chose to read ahead, trying to establish a gut reaction. Once I’d had a feel for the piece, I combed back through, looking for technical issues.

I embraced the warm, fuzzy feeling of interacting with people sharing the same affliction: the inexplicable need to record the voices in their head. I wanted to contribute; however, the thought of diverting time and effort from developing a deep back list of titles and being denied the momentary adrenaline rush associated with hitting the publish button didn’t set right.

I accepted the next meeting and decided to present the first chapter from a science fiction novel entitled Bull-hearted. A story about a man who is mistakenly given an irradiated bovine valve during open heart surgery. To me, it’s important to have fun during the creative process. The story was no exception; however, it had a weak sales record. Perhaps a major revision, aided by feedback gleaned from Write Club sessions, would breath life into the story.

After some minor tweaks, I presented the first chapter.

To summarize the first chapter, the main character learns that he’s infected with Hepatitis C. There were mixed reactions: characters unemotional, too detailed, things like that.

The facilitator made a reference to James Joyce. He suggested using the stream of consciousness technique used in Ulysses to flesh out the characters.

A tall order, but I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. I tried to work a thought pattern into the main character. Soon, I was faced with the dilemma of making this revision fit into the rest of the story. It was difficult to maintain cohesion. The draft felt awkward on the read but I went with it.

The next presentation was met with confusion. I could see myself working and re-working the story for the next six months. I abandoned the project.

Should I stop going to Write Club? Should I go back to punching out books in a creative vacuum? What I needed was a way to gain exposure to author feedback and maintain an acceptable rate of production.

Then it hit me. Concentrate on writing and publishing one short story on a monthly basis. I knew where I wanted to start. A science fiction yarn related to reincarnation theories and environmental issues. After roughing out a summary I made a cover image then knocked out chapter one.

Again, mixed reactions: the story seemed to be on two levels, audience appeal too narrow. The story was meant to be on two levels, it needed clarification and cohesion. As for audience appeal, that’s a skill that remains unmastered.

After one more Write Club session I had a clear vision of where I wanted the story to go and how I wanted to take it there.

The time for final revision, proof read, and publication arrived. I set up a global document in Scrivener, my weapon of choice in the great word war. With the icons on the story files set to little magnifying glasses, I approached the story as if I were seeing it for the first time, smoothing out awkward transitions and analyzing content flow.

After the final text to voice proof read by the robotic sounding woman and the manual highlighted follow along by me, I hit the compile icon on the toolbar and plowed through the resulting dialog boxes then compiled an .epub file.

I opened the .epub in Sigil, an ebook editing software, and tested the navigation. I used the on board checker to validate the supporting files.

I validated the .epub one more time from the command line terminal then converted the .epub through the command line terminal again to Kindle’s proprietary file format: .mobi.

I uploaded the manuscript and cover image to Kindle Direct Publishing and listed the Davie’s Writer’s Group as a contributor.

 

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Author: Mark Philipson

Using WordPress tools to categorize, organize and deploy ideas related to future projects.

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