Off the orbit of venus

The first paragraph of a short story inspired by three words/phrases:

Off the orbit of Venus, Pirates had taken the luxury liner Athena’s Arrow, while on her maiden voyage, a collection of interplanetary dignitaries and a veritable who’s who of the rich and famous aboard. The incident was kept quiet by Cruises Interplanetary, a subsidiary company of Pantheon Galactic, that operated Athena’s Arrow. Twenty Four hours later, when official inquiries were lodged by several planetary governments, Cruises Interplanetary would claim this silence was in the best interest of the solar system. There was a real danger to the tenuous peace in the system, which was threatened almost daily in Parliament, due to the tension between the Inner and Outer planets. The more civilized Inner Planets had long suspected that the Jupiter Moon colonies had been backing the pirates who had long harried the trade ships of the Inner colonies in an effort to disrupt the trade those planets relied upon. If word of the many dignitaries aboard Athena’s Arrow when it was taken was made public, tensions barely contained would erupt and the solar system would once again be at war, after so many years of peace

Still a rough draft, but the story is coming a long nicely. And after its done, I will take my requisite break before getting to revisions.

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The moment as I near the end

There’s this moment. It happens when I’m writing, and it happens when I’m getting close to the end of a story, when I can feel the story is closer to the end than to the beginning. In the time leading up to this point, I have started out with the enthusiasm that comes from working on a new story, to slogging through the middle, and then when I get to the middle, it happens: I’m rushing. After the slog, I just want to be finished. I wanted to stop, to just be done. But there’s a story to tell and I need to tell the story. But the slog is miserable, and its when I hate writing. Its like Dorothy Parker said: I hate writing, I love having written. That feeling when the work is finished is like nothing else. So of course, it makes sense that when I start to get a sense of being near the end, I start to race towards it.

I hate writingI justify this racing to myself. Its just a first draft. I’ll fix it in the next draft. Both of these are true statements, but in the end, I’ll know that I didn’t really finish. The story wasn’t completely told, and I cheated myself out of the actual ending. And I won’t be as satisfied as I would be had I slowed down and actually finished.

So, I’m learning to take a deep breath and slow down. Its not easy, but I think its important for me to learn.

Anyone else have find themselves rushing when they get to the end? How do you keep yourself from doing it?

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3 Random Words = Inspiration

I thought I’d play around with some different ways of generating ideas. I wanted to stretch my writing and explore forms of storytelling that I normally don’t. Most of the ideas I generate on my own work best as plays. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to challenge myself by creating in a medium I don’t normally: the short story.

Maybe later, I’ll try the novel, but the short story is a good warm up. Using the Brainstormer app I can generate three words to kickstart my creative process. The story I’m currently working on came from the following:

Brainstormer: Rescue of Kidnapped | Starship | Machine Mind

What would these words say to you?

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What’s wrong with crowdfunding for indie theatre?

More and more indie theatre groups are finding crowdfunding to be a way to fundraise that doesn’t require the task of creating and organizing a fundraising event. Crowdfunding gives us the opportunity to get our campaign seen outside of our personal networks and potentially reach new people that we might not have been able to reach before. But most theatre related campaigns don’t do very well, making only a small fraction of their requested amount. Why is that?
Last week, I saw a crowdfunding campaign for an indie theatre project on social media. This was a campaign that I should have  wanted to support. I should have jumped at the opportunity to back it.

But I didn’t. And more often than not, I don’t. Because, to be honest, my indie theatre friends: We’re just not using crowdfunding very well.

Compare the average theatre crowdfunding campaign (look here and here, for examples) to one of the crowdfunding success stores, where a campaign went viral and the organizer just raked in tons of money. What do you notice?

I notice a couple of things: in some cases, the campaigns that have worked have a name behind them. With Exploding Kittens, for example, one of the folks behind that campaign was the creator of one of the most successful webcomics on the internet, The Oatmeal. Others were started by already well known companies or celebrities.

In indie theatre, we don’t really have celebrities to attach to our projects to help boost our signal. But the campaigns above had more than just celebrity names, they had something else going for them that was even more important: perks that people want. Think about the last crowdfunding campaign you excitedly jumped on and backed. What was the first thing you did before you decided to back it? I know what I did: I looked at the perks to see which ones I wanted, and then I looked again to see which ones I could afford, and then I find a balance between the two and backto the campaign. In every crowdfunding campaign I’ve ever backed, its been the same thing: The campaign might be something I really like, but its the perks that make me support it.

When I look at most indie theatre campaigns I see perks that look something like this:

$10: Social Media shout out
$40: Thanks on our website
$75: Thanks in our program
$100: A letter of thanks, signed by the cast.
$125: A ticket to the show.

There are variations of course, and the dollar amounts vary, but the important thing is that none of these perks make me think “Ooh, I have to have that”. Campaigns that look like this are just soliciting donations, and giving practically nothing in return. The problem here is that we’re using crowdfunding as if it was I’m not throwing stones here, I’ve been guilty of this myself when in my past crowdfunding attempts. But let’s be clear, the first three perks here are of no value for drawing in a potential backer, They aren’t something anyone particularly wants and are basicallly things we should be doing anyway for every single backer. In fact, none of these perks have any real value, with the exception of the ticket offering, which is vastly over priced. If I’m offering a ticket to my regular audience for $20, why am I offering it for so much more to my potential backers? These “perks” make it clear that we see crowdfunding as just another way of getting donations. But crowdfunding doesn’t work that way. Crowdfunding isn’t charity. A successful campaign offers value for the backer.

If we’re going to rely more and more on crowdfunding, we’re going to have to start taking our cues from the successful campaigns in other forms of media. And I acknowledge that theatre is at a disadvantage here. We can’t offer a tangible piece of the resulting product. A comic book can offer a digital and a printed version of the final product, a film offers a digital and hard copy of the film, a musician a digital and hard copy of the album they are funding, a game can offere a copy of the game. The only way we can share the final result, is by offering a ticket. Which means that only those who are local, or planning to travel will be able to take advantage of any perk that involves a ticket. As a perk, offering a ticket has limited value, because it can realistically only be offered to local backers.

So what can indie theatre offer as perks? Remember that people want tangibles: buttons and t-shirts should be your starting point. After that, depending on the show, you can find something that’s appropriate. Remember that you want to give enough that someone will have find the balance between the perks they want and the perks they can afford. In the campaigns I’ve backed, the perk I usually select is around the $50 value, and always because there’s a perk at that value that I want. Yes, tangible perks that people will want costs money, but having great perks is the cost of crowdfunding. Good perks will keep your campaign going through the having a successful crowdfunding campaign. But imagine what could happen if most of our backers, instead of giving $10 or less, were averaging $50, because we were offering perks that had value to them.

Maybe we’ll never be the next Exploding Kittens, but we can learn from those wildly successful campaigns, and start making crowdfunding really work.

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