Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another one bites the dust

Got another blue slip of death from Realms of Fantasy.  I'm actually enjoying getting them--not as much as an acceptance, mind you--but they're apparently infamous and besides, they're kind of pretty.

Why are they infamous?  Your mileage may vary.  Writers are imaginative people and they come up with all kinds of reasons that they don't like or like something.  I've heard/read that the slips are particularly impersonal, that you get them regardless of writing quality and so there's no hinted feedback at all.  I've heard/read that the small size makes the writer feel small.  The content is very general, and lists some of the reasons why both poor and good manuscripts are rejected--again, giving the author no feel for where their story may be on the scale.  And there's a number on them--the average number of manuscripts received in a given period.

Me?  I like them.  I like the color.  I like that it's an efficient size--it fits perfectly inside a legal envelope, no muss, no fuss, no folds to straighten when I file them.  I like that my story and the date it was viewed is hand written on the rejection, and that so far, I've never had someone else's rejection come to my mailbox.  And I like that they make the editor's job easy.  That means she can go through more manuscripts faster.  That means quicker responses so I can return my manuscript into the marketplace where it may find a home, and hopefully it's less likely that the editor will burn out.

So, although it was disappointing not to get a fat envelope with a contract in it, I still smiled.  Another pretty blue note to add to my collection, and I didn't even have to date or put the title of the story on it before I filed it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Way-yay-ting is the hardest part!

I hate waiting.

I try not to wait.  I try to keep writing and editing and looking forward.  I try to build my story portfolio and keep things in the mail.  But there's a certain contest I'm very eager to hear from.  Every time I load the page I think why, oh why isn't it updated?  It's been ten days since their big to-do.  Isn't there even a teensy eensy batch of new results?  Is anyone calling anyone to let them know they're on the honorable mention list?  

It's all part of the writing thang.  The anticipation is part of the 'fun.'  

Done with whining, back to writing.


Okay, done now for real this time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

OryCon 30 Writer's Workshop

Don't forget to submit!  The workshop deadline is sneaking up!

I've got my submission all put together.  I just have to wait until email starts to behave again.  For some reason the server is being a pill.

Update:  Got a nice rejection.  Sent that baby right back out.  We're at 43 subs and 31 rejections.  Keep going, INKers!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another One Flies In and Flies Back Out

I got a rejection back today.  The comment puzzled me--I'm not sure that adding another scene to a flash humor piece would work.  I guess it would, maybe, but then it wouldn't be flash and the humor wouldn't punch, it would whiffle.  Maybe (trying to read between the lines here) it didn't quite end for the reader.  Or maybe it didn't have a climax, or the reader wanted a twist.  Something wasn't there.  Anyway.  I hunted around markets to see where to send this next (I love sending rejected stories back out the same day) and came across some guidelines that made me look at the story in a new way.  I didn't end up sending to that market because it didn't pay pro rates and I want to exhaust my pro markets before I go to semi-pro, but I did tweak the story a bit.  I think it added needed depth without sacrificing the humor.  Or so I hope.  It added a few words, and I took away a sentence that I thought wasn't carrying its weight.  

When working at a short length, especially flash, a whole sentence can create a surprising amount of change.  A paragraph that drags can shine when the chaff is removed, or an unimaginative passage can become enriched by a single, sensory-bright description.

One thing that I think is lacking in my marketing at the moment, and that only time and more depth of work can change, is I haven't been able to send in very many second submissions, much less thirds.  I've submitted to Flash Fiction Online more than anyone, but they've only looked at three stories so far.  Technically I've sent quite a bit to F&SF, but most of my subs were from long ago.  I've only sent them one recently.  Part of that is due to the fact that there are a lot of wonderful places to publish out there and I try to fit the story to the market as much as I can.  I know (or educate myself about) what they publish and some stories are closer to a particular style than others.  But part is that I've spent the past many years writing novels and I refuse to send old stories unless they've been rewritten from scratch.  I don't think editing old writing will bring it up to my current skill level.  I think it'll just turn to mud.

What was the comment in the guidelines?  They wanted characters that they cared about.  A lightbulb came on.  Now, hopefully, the pov character is someone special, someone human, something more than an archetype for me to use to poke fun with.  It's the difference between the three men who walk into a bar and Fat Albert.  I want Fat Albert.  If I have three men walking into a bar, it's not a story, it's just a joke.  So, thanks, commenter.  I didn't take your advice, but I think I ended up in a good place because of you anyway.  

INK Author Series Continues with Ken Scholes.

As part of the 2008 INK Visiting Author Series, I am very proud to announce that Ken Scholes and his amazing wonder-wife Jen will be visiting us on Friday, September 19th to speak about his journey from writer to author (and most everything in between).

Ken, besides being one of the best speakers on writing process I personally have heard to date (his Norwescon Writer's Workshop was fantastic!), is well published, is currently working on his five-book series for Tor beginning with "Lamentation" due out in just a few months, and is an absolute delight to read and listen to.

This will be a evening to remember.

Monday, August 11, 2008


For those of us with stories in Clarkesworld's slush pile, do not despair!  Rejections (and acceptances!) will be forthcoming.

I'm just doing my part to spread the word.  Don't pester them with queries even though it's probably been more than the 50 days they recommend prior to querying, they'll get through the slushpile in due time.  If you need your manuscript back sooner rather than later, they're being very readily accessible for that purpose.  Details here.

Unfortunately it looks like the days of personalized rejections are over.  Alas, this is my first sub to them so I'll never get to experience that.  However, that wasn't my motivation for submitting to them, so I won't miss it.  

I never expect personalized comments, nor do I think some stories 'deserve' personalized rejections if they're good enough or whatever.  Editors are busy and I don't think they should have to explain their decisions to potential authors.  If I get a note I'm thrilled, especially if it's something that I can use to bring the story to a whole new level, but it's not the job of the editor to help me write the best story I can if that editor doesn't intend to publish it.  It's my job to learn how to write effectively, and I have lots of resources to exploit to that end.  And when I someday earn my place in a publication, then I'll be able to enjoy the process of working with an editor, including the suggestion/rewrite process with their experience and skills to help me make the story shine.

Someday ... soon!

Oh, and a shameless plug for my blog:  I just wrote an entry about prologues.  Hopefully folks will find it useful.  If the INKers would want that, maybe we can dump it in the Toolbox or repost it here or both.  If not, you know me, I don't get offended or feel rejected.  I'd have a much tougher time breaking in as an author if I did!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I enjoyed a very good critique session today that could have only been made better if the folks currently at Worldcon were present.  I'm ready to put the short story in question into something approximating final form.  

The thick stack of paper I end up with after a critique session used to daunt me.  I'd begin the process of procrastination by setting it somewhere not-my-desk, where it would fester for a while.  Every time I looked at it I'd think I should get to sorting through that, but first I have to scrub around the kitchen faucet with a toothbrush.  Right now.  Just like a cat that has to interrupt crossing a room right now to lick itself, I'd feel a compulsion to get busy doing something unrelated to going over the written critiques as soon as possible.  

But, no more.  A lot doesn't get said during a fiction critique.  No one wants to point out every single little grammatical error or the fact that when the character teased out a nosehair you laughed so hard you blew milk out your nose, and you weren't even drinking milk at the time.  So going over the written comments is important, as is going over the notes you write during a critique.  Don't give me that look.  No, you aren't supposed to file those with the copies of manuscript into your to-do pile.  Your sex partner goes in the to-do pile.  The manuscripts go on the desk, so that when you next sit down to write (not blog or surf the net) you have to move them in order to get to work.  I'm a firm believer in not letting manuscripts that have been critiqued stew.  They've stewed already.  They've stewed while you waited to hear back.  The longer I wait, the more good ideas I lose as the short term memory is taken up by details of daily life that isn't going to be important five minutes later.  I don't need to utilize the fact that I had pizza for dinner.  I need to utilize the expression on a critiquer's face as she detailed the impression my work had left on her.  I need to remember what "Yes to Sara and C.S., go with the bastard" means.  

With that, I'm off to edit.  Cue music!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


So, I've hit my one and only combat scene in the script.  I get to write magical combat with zero special effects.  I'm pretty sure of how I want to do it, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.  Yes, this is going to be a low budget very short film done by a high school student with the help of his friends and the drama department.  Yes, it's probably going to be, ahem, of emerging quality.  But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to set this up so that they have the best chance of succeeding.  So I'm keeping the melodrama down to a minimum, and this combat, when it happens, should give the director, actors and cameraman the best opportunity to make the fight look creepy and wonderfully nasty.  This is going to require quite a bit of thought and planning ahead, so that when it comes time for the director to shout 'action!' it won't turn into a silly, messy headache.  Or, if it's going to be a silly, messy,  headache, it won't be because the script called for something beyond the reach and scope of the project.

Now if we had $68 million to play with?  Oh yeah ...

Of course that sort of attitude is bass-ackwards.  It's still best to write it simple and tight.  After all, special effects may save an otherwise bad film, but no one will be fooled.  They'll always say, gee, it would have been so much better if the dialogue and the acting and, well, pretty much everything was at least as high quality as the CGI.