Since it’s been another quiet month on the editorial front, I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you an idea of what a story has to go through before it appears in the pages of DargonZine. So let’s take the three stories in this issue as examples, and see how they got here…
Although it can be broken down in more detail, there are basically four stages in the development of a DargonZine story: developing the idea, writing it, revising it, and printing it. Sounds easy, right?
In the beginning, every story is just an idea in the author’s head. The first step in translating that mental image into words is writing an outline. The outline serves many purposes. For the author, it allows them to draft, revise, and refine the story’s overall structure, and also serves as an aid to memory. In a collaborative writing project like DargonZine, the outline is also usually the first thing that other writers see. Posting the outline allows other writers to contribute their ideas and gives us the opportunity to discuss the process of formulating story ideas. It’s also our first opportunity to offer criticism and direct the writer away from potential trouble spots before he or she invests a lot of time in writing. Because DargonZine is a single anthology, writers have to live within some very specific guidelines, and need to put in extra effort to ensure that their stories don’t contradict other works. The author takes in all these nebulous contributions and criticisms and eventually comes out of the process with an outline he or she would like to proceed with, and which is acceptable to the other writers.
The author then goes off and actually writes the story, which is probably the easiest part of the process. When the first rough draft is complete, most writers will solicit critiques of the story from a couple friends and make a first round of revisions in order to make sure it’s ready for other writers to see. Then the writer posts the story to our writers’ discussion list.
The third step is sometimes the most difficult, but also the most educational: accepting critiques, revising the story, re-posting it, and getting critiqued all over again! Comments run the gamut, from thematic and stylistic concerns to nit-picking grammar corrections to questions about the motivations and depictions of characters. Accepting criticism is a perennial challenge because a writer always has a strong emotional investment in his or her work. But the interaction between writers is the most important part of the process for most of our writers, because they have chosen to write for DargonZine because of the opportunity to learn from one another and thus become better writers. The critique process can also be very time-consuming; it may take a month or two for people to read and critique one version of a story, and some stories go through six or seven versions before being finalized! But eventually, when the writer is satisfied with his work, he can finalize his story by declaring it “ready to print”.
All that’s left then is to print it. Depending on what other stories are available and whether it is part of a series, the story might have to wait a few months to be printed. Once it is selected for printing, the author will need to proof both the formatted ASCII and HTML versions, provide a story summary, and submit new definitions and descriptions of everything that appears in their story (these are incorporated into our unique Online Glossary). After that, the issue is distributed and the story is emailed out and put on our Web site for hundreds of readers to see. For the writer, this is a proud moment, knowing that they have done a good job and learned a lot along the way. DargonZine has provided the vehicle for the writer to produce a final work of art and offer it to an interested audience,
If you’re interested in more of the specific details about what it’s like to be a Dargon Project writer, there’s an overabundance of information in our Writers’ FAQ, which can be found on our Web site at <http://www.dargonzine.org/writers.shtml>.
Looking specifically at the stories in this issue, all of them followed very similar paths on their way to publication. Interestingly, all three stories had their inception in August 1998, a little more than a year ago.
Dafydd’s first draft was posted just two months later. Dafydd has been with the project for a long time, and his story was merely one part of a series that he’d been thinking about for over two years. Jon and Rena took longer to post their first drafts; they had only just joined the project at that time, and had spent some time focusing on writing and publishing the first chapters of their storylines. Jon’s story first appeared in draft form in February, and Rena’s in June.
Then came the revisions. Because of his experience with the project and the fact that he’d had time to kick his ideas around for a couple years, Dafydd got his revisions out of the way quickly, going through four versions on his way to declaring his story “RTP” in May. Jon and Rena both went through five revs, only finalizing their stories at the end of August, when the Editor was clamoring for new stories to print.
The issue was assembled during the first two weeks of September, and was distributed on September 16th, after these stories has seen more than a year of work.
While some stories take less time and some take more, these examples are pretty typical. Our writers put an awful lot of hard work into every story that you see, and there’s an incredible amount of activity and discussion that take place behind the scenes in order to bring these stories to you. But it’s something that we’re passionate about, and we hope that you enjoy the results as much as we’ve enjoyed going through the process of creating it and bringing it to you.