Overly cocky, or merely optimistic?

I am an unrepentant Pollyanna, so even when I’m super crazy behind I know that I’ll catch up at the very end, just like back in high school when I’d start writing a paper two days before it was due even though I’d known about the assignment for weeks. Okay, so maybe starting earlier would have been a little less stressful – and just thinking about this is giving me flashbacks to madly printing out some assignment on a dot matrix printer, which is a little disturbing because it’s raising my blood pressure even though I finished high school, um, a while ago. 🙂 But I know I’m very, very lucky because I’m unusually good at keeping calm and working under pressure.

Blossoms on my new crabapple tree! New to me as of late last summer. Isn’t it pretty?!?
This is a very fortunate fact, since I once again procrastinated and failed to work on my latest story – which is due pretty much right now. However, since I am me, there is – of course! – a silver lining! A few days ago I realized that the reason I was having a hard time with this story is because it doesn’t fit the anthology I was writing it for. Huzzah! I still love the story, and I will totally finish it at some point (when I don’t have five gajillion looming deadlines…).

One might ask: why did it take me so long to figure this out? I don’t know, although I do know that once I had my epiphany it was ridiculously obvious. A while back I made a checklist of things to remember when I’m stuck on a story. I need to add “does the story fit the collection/series/whatever I’m writing it for?” to the list.

Once I had this (now very obvious) realization, I knew I needed to set aside the original story and come up with something new – but what? It had to fit the theme of the anthology and be something I could write quickly. I turned to The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. This is a formula that Lester Dent, a prolific and very successful fiction writer during the 1930s-ish pulp years, used. The TL;DR is: assume your story is about 6,000 words long, and break it up into four chunks of 1,500 words each. In each section add suspense, menace, a physical conflict, and a surprise plot twist. Get your hero deeper and deeper into trouble until all appears lost, and then he/she/they save the day.

This was exactly what I needed for my story. Here’s a snippet of the opening – this is from the first draft, so it may change a little before publication.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lester hated his job.

He liked the work itself – and really, who wouldn’t enjoy spending their days in a laboratory analyzing the properties of different organic materials and experimenting with incorporating them into robots? But the job itself was a different story. His boss, Dr. E. E. Humphreys, was a slave-driver, a micro-manager, and, to make matters worse, he insisted on wearing a cologne of patchouli and spruce that tickled Lester’s nose. It was difficult to look at things in a microscope when you kept having to sneeze.

At least it was a Saturday, so the fragrant doctor wouldn’t be in the office. Lester shouldn’t be either, but he’d left his phone on his desk the day before and was getting behind on Candy Crush.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I made an outline to think through the Lester Dent formula ahead of time, and that was really fun and helpful because I had to think about the different components (the surprise twists, etc.). The story is practically writing itself!

I am still behind where I’d like to be, but figuring out why I was holding myself back on this story undid the logjam, so I should be back on top of everything very soon.

Although I am, of course, a Pollyanna… 🙂

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