Novella

I was reading a blog about getting novellas vs. novels published. I’d rather not quote, and the truth is, I can’t find the blog right now. However, the blogger’s advice was – forget your novella until you become a popular, published author, then your faithful novel readers will rush to buy your novella.

The second part of that blogger’s advice was to expand the novella to novel length so agents would be more likely to consider representing the story. So, I considered that.

But how should I expand, “Camellia, a redhead dressed in a business formal, tan suit, was being served wine by a Downton Abby demeanored attendant.” Should I say, “Camellia, a redhead dressed in a business formal, tan suit, blushed to nearly the color of her hair and soles of her Christian Louboutin Pigalle Patent Leather Red Sole pumps as she was being served chilled French red wine by a Downton Abby demeanored flight attendant,” instead?

That added 26 words! But did the addition add to the real nature of Camellia’s character in the story? Changing a clue to her persona in one place would require matching all other descriptions of her in the story.

How many ‘stretch the sentences’ could be done to expand the story from 26,000 words to a 60,000-word novel?

How about this one: “Pitch, yaw, and roll along with the foul smell of crankcase oil, and diesel smoke contorted my stomach like the onset of food poisoning.” Would this be more effective? “Pitch, yaw, and roll along with the foul smell of high-sulphur crankcase oil, and thick diesel smoke contorted my stomach like the onset of bacteria, virus, or parasite caused food poisoning which seemed about to result in upchucking or soiling myself.”

Seventeen words added, but was the meaning changed? TMI, I’d say. Is it my job to give unnecessary details to just expand the word count? I think not.

Instead of, “And, there was always the ever-looming need-to-know (n-t-k) issue,” I could stretch the sentence to, “And, there was always the ever-looming need-to-know (n-t-k) issue, so as a resultant implication, the incorporation of additional mission constraints, necessitates that urgent consideration be applied to any discrete configuration mode of documentation or other medium as deemed necessary for knowledge of mission requirements not be available to those not involved.”

In that case, I might just as well say the added 42 words are large male bovine droppings instead of just BS.

Enough already! I’m sticking with the novella word count range for New Film Noir. However, the August 21, solar eclipse hasn’t happened yet, so I can’t quite finish. Thus, there may or may not be a few more words in my NOVELLA.

How Near is Nearly

In a previous post, I talked about not being able to finish as a form of writer’s block. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve discovered my most serious writer’s block – finishing what I’ve started.”

I took John Grisham’s advice and wrote the ending to my current novella New Film Noir, and set the protagonist’s dairy ending date for my nearly ending the story. My intention is to have the first draft completed at his last entry date, August 21, 2017. With last chapter basically written, I have just a month to fill in some transitions.

So, what could get in the way now, or what will I invent for interference.  I’ve had some road blocks not related to writer’s block, but managed to get around them. The end is near, I’m nearly done.

Not finishing this project would be very disappointing and a waste of the effort I made to write one-eyed after two rounds of cataract surgery. Then there was the big distraction – all of the what ifs related to discovery of the tangerine-size malignant tumor in my gut.

But, there’s the blessing and grace of early discovery, resolution by surgery only, and restored energy. Wasting such a blessing, would be even more disappointing, yea devastating.

Nearly is no longer near, it is here.

Oh Well!

One of the short story publishers to which I submitted “Twins” acknowledge receipt with, “Interesting, but doesn’t meet our requirements.” Another that responded said, “…not consistent with interests of our readers.” But I’d read several articles from that journal and thought I’d hit its audience. Well, the Rs for that story weren’t as severely disappointing as if I needed a job and was told I was woefully unqualified by someone who couldn’t fill the job either.

#

I submitted a flash fiction story to a writers’ group contest. The great thing about the group is that writers get the readers’ evaluation sheets. No one I know submits without expectation of winning or at least making the finals. Those who read my story before submission, implied it was worthy of entering. Two of the three evaluators gave nearly the same scores on each of the 10 criteria. The third reader gave lower scores for all, and significantly lower scores on all but 2 of the standards.

The judgements (including the most negative) inspired me to rewrite the story, but the rewrite took its length out of the flash fiction category. So, I’ll ask a few writers I know personally and trust to give me another opinion, then seek a publisher.

#

I can’t help but wondering about the real reasons my previous efforts didn’t make the cuts. Was it spelling, word choice, publishers audience, or…?

Spill chick takes care of spelling, but doesn’t know the difference between to, too, or two. Was there a ‘they’re’ in place of their expected homonym?

Perhaps it wasn’t PC of me, in “Twins,” to compare Cain’s killing of Abel and Romulus’ killing of Remus to the death of Rishon Byzantine and his brother.

Should I have used the phrase ‘rectally extruded solid waste’ instead of the word ‘crap’ in my Osama Bin laden story?

In “A Brother’s Gift” I used the word Christmas – perhaps I should have said, “December celebration of the birth of a person after whom a major religion is named.”

Nah!

With tens of thousands of submissions and random readers, chances of making it to the top are slim.

Oh well! I enjoyed writing them and others. And, I’ll write more.

Writer’s Block

I’ve read many articles about writer’s block, its causes, and what to do about it.

An Odyssey of Illusions was my third attempt at writing a book. I’d previously drafted a historical fiction, and a social critique of events in a fictional small town.

I just quit when I was about a year short of the timeline in my draft of ‘Odyssey,’ I had an ending time for the story, but it wouldn’t end the story. I put the manuscript in the bottom drawer, so to say, and stopped thinking about it.

A relative sent me a box of family documents and letters which put another project in my mind, so I turned my attention to it. It took me a full summer to sort and compile the material into a work I called Family Bible – a chronological history of my paternal grandparents and their offspring. I’ve often thought about filling in more details from verifiable internet sources, but…

I finished ‘Odyssey,’ and had it published[1] in 2012. The printed and e-versions had considerable mechanical errors, so in retrospect, publication was probably ill timed. The only boasting however is that the book earned a 2013 Erick Hoffer Finalist award (http://www.hofferaward.com/Eric-Hoffer-Award-category-finalists.html#.WT7_xWjyuCo).

Several readers of An Odyssey of Illusions were confused by its ending and commented that a sequel or alternate finish should be written. I agreed and drafted a book-length follow up. After considerable thought, I decided to combine the two in a same manuscript as book one and book two. The format didn’t work too well for me. I dropped it into the bottom drawer. I’ve considered a rewrite of ‘Odyssey’ but I don’t want to lose the point of view and voice of the child who went through those years.

I’ve drafted and rewritten 63,000 + words of another story focused on the lives of persons who still feel the impacts of the Vietnam War from the time of the 1968 TET Offensive and after. I made several attempts to find voice and point of view that will get a reader into the story and seriously consider the impact on veterans and those around them. This work, like several others, is on the back burner, in the bottom drawer, …

Now I’m about one-third of the way through a current-time story in first person as a 25-year-old. I wrote the opening, then the ending before I started filling in the blanks between.[2] This seems to be working at this time in the process. However, I wonder if I’ll finish or eventually put it on hold like the others. I guess I’ll know soon enough because the ending time for the story in just after the shadow of the August 21, 2017, eclipse passes over Oregon.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve discovered my most serious writer’s block – finishing what I’ve started.

[1] I didn’t know at the time the publisher was vanity press.

[2] John Grisham said in an interview that he always writes his ending before the rest of a book. Perhaps, that will work for me.

Education 102

A number of years ago, the school district where I worked seemed to be concerned with a state regulation requiring teachers to defend their student evaluation by adhering to a written set of criteria. This was my response:

Proving that In response to your list of recommendations for enhancing the legal defensibility of performance assessments, I am submitting the following documentation of my personal assessment criteria that was planned for the academic assessment of each student enrolled in my classes.

Whereas in a maximum effort to follow professional standards in constructing tasks, setting performance standards, and evaluating student performance and disseminate information to relevant publics,

I did consider statutory requirements, including state legislation related to testing, and

I did obtain and follow the advice of a technical advisory committee composed of nationally recognized experts and psychometrics with experience in the assessment technique used, and

I did provide reasonable advance notice of change in assessment – including skills to be tested, question formats, and analysis procedures, and

I did provide extended notice to students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, and

I did avoid or minimize adverse impact on minority groups and individuals while developing procedures for valid and fair assessment of all groups and individuals, and

I did document students’ opportunity to learn assessed material and that material’s job-relatedness, and

I did use enough tasks to adequately sample the domain assessed while using enough raters to demonstrate equitable and impartial scoring, and

I did train raters to apply agreed-upon criteria consistently and accurately while developing a plan to resolve scoring discrepancies as

I did periodically recheck raters’ work, then

I did develop detailed rules and procedures to insure test security, and

I did ensure fairness to all examinees by administering comparable tasks under standardized conditions while randomly auditing procedures for uniformity, and

I did to the best of my professional ability avoid making unsubstantiated claims about the inferences that can be made from performance assessment scores, and

I did provide multiple opportunities for students to pass and remediation for those who, for some reason not yet identified in education research, fail.

Whereas I did these and other things to insure legal defensibility of identified performance assessments for the first student listed in my grade book, and

I did determine that if I did the same for each of the 120 students enrolled in my classes,

I would spend one day in the process of assessment for each student and therefore,

I would have sixty days for cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domain instruction,

That is if none of those days had to be spent in the process of teaching students and their relevant publics the philosophy and appropriateness of my having to spend so much non instructional time

I did indeed follow your recommendations for enhancing the legal defensibility of performance assessments.