Monday, December 29, 2008


It took awhile for me to heal, and studying for the GRE's/dealing with some personal problems has taken a lot of my energy, but I'm finally getting back into the writing world.

I really, really missed all of you. You being my zany characters who live in my head.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Piers Anthony, My Hero

Our pep talk for NaNo came this week from Piers Anthony. He's so awesome.

Dear Writer,

You're a fool. You know that, don't you? Because only a fool would try a stunt as crazy as this. You want to write a 50,000 word novel in one month?! Do you have sawdust in your skull? When there are so many other more useful things you could be doing, like cleaning up the house and yard, taking a correspondence course in Chinese, or contributing your time and effort to a charitable cause? Whatever is possessing you?

Consider the first card of the Tarot deck, titled The Fool. There's this young man traipsing along with a small dog at his heel, toting a bag of his worldly goods on the end of his wooden staff, carrying a flower in his other hand, gazing raptly at the sky—and about to step off a cliff, because he isn't watching his feet. A fool indeed. Does this feel familiar? It should. You're doing much the same thing. What made you ever think you could bat out a bad book like that, let alone write anything readable?

So are you going to give up this folly and focus on reality before you step off the cliff? No? Are you sure? Even though you know you are about to confirm the suspicion of your dubious relatives, several acquaintances, and fewer friends that you never are going to amount to anything more than a dank hill of beans? That you're too damned oink-headed to rise to the level of the very lowest rung of common sense?

Sigh. You're a lost soul. So there's no help for it but to join the lowly company of the other aspect of The Fool. Because the fact is, that Fool is a Dreamer, and it is Dreamers who ultimately make life worthwhile for the unimaginative rest of us. Dreamers consider the wider universe. Dreamers build cathedrals, shape fine sculptures, and yes, generate literature. Dreamers are the artists who provide our rapacious species with some faint evidence of nobility.

So maybe you won't be a successful novelist, or even a good one. At least you are trying. T hat, would you believe, puts you in a rarefied one percent of our kind. Maybe less than that. You aspire to something better than the normal rat race. You may not accomplish much, but it's the attitude that counts. As with mutations: 99% of them are bad and don't survive, but the 1% that are better are responsible for the evolution of species to a more fit state. You know the odds are against you, but who knows? If you don't try, you'll never be sure whether you might, just maybe, possibly, have done it. So you do have to make the effort, or be forever condemned in your own bleary eyes.

Actually, 50,000 words isn't hard. You can write “Damn!” 50,000 times. Oh, you want a readable story! That will be more of a challenge. But you know, it can be done. In my heyday, before my wife's health declined and I took over meals and chores, I routinely wrote 3,000 words a day, taking two days a week off to answer fan mail, and 60,000 words a month was par. Now I try for 1,500 and hope for 2,000. That will do it. If you write that much each day, minimum, and go over some days, you will have your quota in the month. On the 10th of the month of August, 2008, I started writing my Xanth novel Knot Gneiss, about the challenge of a boulder that turns out to be not stone but a huge petrified knot of reverse wood that terrifies anyone who approaches it. Petrified = terrified, get it? And by the 30th I had 35,000 words. That's the same pace. If I can do it in my doddering old age—I'm 74—you can do it in your relative youth.

Of course you need ideas. You can garner them from anywhere. I noticed that our daily newspaper comes in a plastic bag that is knotted. The knot's too tight to undo without a lot of effort, so I just rip it open to get at the goodies inside. It's a nuisance; I wish they'd leave it loose. But I thought, maybe there's this cute delivery girl who has a crush on me, and she ties a love -knot to let me know. Not that at my age I'd know what to do with a real live girl, but it's still a fun fantasy. Okay, there's an idea. I could use it in my fiction. Maybe even in a Pep Talk. The mundane world has provided me with an opening. It will do the same for you, if you're alert.

Here's a secret: fictive text doesn't necessary flow easily. Most of the time it's more like cutting a highway through a mountain. You just have to keep working with your pick, chipping away at the rock, making slow progress. It may not be pretty at first. Prettiness doesn't come until later, at the polishing stage, which is outside your month. You just have to get it done by brute force if necessary. So maybe your ongoing story isn't very original. That's okay, for this. Just get it done. Originality can be more in the eye of the reader than in any objective assessment.

You can make it from a standing start, even from a foolish daydream when you should have been paying attention to the Pep Talk. You will want to try for a bit more quality, of course, and maybe a spot of realism. Garner an Idea, assemble some Characters, find a suitable place to start, and turn them loose in your imagination. Now go home and start your engines!


Piers Anthony is the author of the Xanth series. You can learn more about him and his work by visiting his website.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I am quite busy

Writing in and of itself has taken a backseat while I let my brain ferment. My original intent was to do NaNoWriMo this month; however, I've realized that I haven't recovered yet from personal stress and grief to let myself take the suicidal plunge this month.

I have been busy. Here is my peace offering as a way of saying sorry for not posting. My photo blog, where all of my silly adventures get written up in photo book format:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ea, the Clever Prince(?), was under oath with them
so he repeated their talk to the reed house:
'Reed hut, reed hut! Wall, wall!
O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:
Tear down the house and build a boat!
- Gilgamesh, Tablet XI

Who can say of mankind and all of its creations?
Will all of these letters and words which become sentences and stories
become something greater? Or will the story change until it ceases to exist?

Editor's Note: I am pissed I can't find the cuneiform to make this a wholly more fascinating post.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NaNoWriMo Cometh

Coming in November is the mad scramble to write 50k words – that’s “write”, it’s National Novel Writing Month. Each year, thousands of people participate. It’s quite the fun madhouse.

In my writing group we’re all going to give it a go. Who else out there is going to do it? I’d like to add you to my list. Here’s my info so you can add me:

Feel free to post your information in a comment, or email it to me if you’re shy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Dear Tom

A friend of mine in my writing group recently passed away. Although we never met face to face, I considered Tom Stewart a friend and a comrade in arms, and his death came as a shock. Writing is more than a story. It's a battle, a challenge to not only write The Story but to make it comprehensible to a multitude of people.

I'll never forget when I first joined the Well. He was a submitting maniac with his novel, but Tom was always kind, a hard worker, and a helluva writer. He was also generous with his time and gave as good as he got. Although I will now sadly never get to meet him, I know that part of his writing passion lives on in me and others he's helped along the way, and I hope he knows that, even though he's gone.

Part of me still can't believe he's gone. I'm waiting to hear his latest thoughts as he finishes fine-tuning the novel and looking for a publicist. But as time goes on and the emails never come, I'm sure it'll hit home one day harder than I expect.

Rest in Peace, Tom. And Godspeed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And we're moving into the editing phase

My first chapter is getting inspected and turned inside out by my fine writing group as we speak.

Oh boy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One of Those Days

You ever feel like what you're producing is awful and everyone else's stuff is way better?

Yeah, it's one of those weeks. I don't know if I'm cut out to write short stories.


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Hidden Draft

I won't be showing my first draft of my novel around for a few weeks. I should be upfront about that, since I know a few of my reader friends and possibly even my writing group buddies read this and some are champing at the bit (I've heard your teeth gnashing, you know who you are). Bear with me and I'll explain why.

When I last started a book I found that I had a lot of problems working it because I'd get a lot of comments that, while useful and accurate, were things I didn't want to start really working on until the second round. I got so bogged down in those things that I started revising and never moved forward.

This time around, I'm trying something different. Although my research and world-building are much better this time around, I want to do a process that I used with my thesis and was reminded of after reading some excellent book editing articles. Here's the breakdown of how my process works:

1) First readthrough. This means just that - read the entire novel and write thoughts and comments as I go along. No rewriting, no editing.
2) Light proofing. Fixing the misspellings and obvious grammar booboos.
3) Chronology. Taking a look at each scene and deciding on a timeline/smoothing hte timeline out so it makes sense.
4) Editing. The meat of the project. After all of my thinking about the piece as a whole, I'll rewrite from beginning to end, adding in everything that's been missed out. This is where people's opinions will come into play.
5) Re-Evaluation/Roadmap. After Finishing the first runthrough, I'll be putting all of the information about the world-building I've done into a separate document (for hopeful future sequel use), then re-evaluate where the story is at. And then I repeat steps 1-4 until finally...
6) Polishing. This is basically the steps from above to a lesser degree, with an eye to continuity and theme than other problems, which should be hopefully taken care of by now.

I'm hoping this takes about 9 months. Hey, I can dream...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time on my hands

Now that I've finished writing my novel, my writing time feels different. I'm trying to give myself a break before revising, but I've always been headstrong and tend to forge ahead to learn through the absolute gunks of my writing. Most writers suggest a break before starting on your work, but I don't know how long of a break I can really give myself without losing steam. while it's important that I give my work as unbiased of an eye as possible, I think it would take longer than I care to wait to do that.

However, I am with many projects still even as I dither about the novel. I've got a half dozen stories in various stages of the writing cycle, and I think it'd behoove me to get some ready to send out so I can get in my Editor Mind for book revising and still have a few projects to work on while working on the book.

Since I've reached my goal of getting a story published, I am redefining my goals for the next year (which I always do in October, anyways, so I figure I can give myself thirteen months this time). In no particular order:

1) Get at least five cleaned up short stories circulating and published.
2) Finish the first and second edits on the novel.
3) Start searching out agents once second edit is done.
4) Participate in NaNoWriMo in November.
5) Begin early stages for another novel.

Starting this week, I'm going to take 2 hours a day to work on editing my stuff and doing critiques for my writing groups. I'm also going to read at least an hour a day. I need to keep my mind circulating, and reading refreshes me.

Started a short story on Monday and expect to finish the first draft this week. Got another one in the works as soon as I get a chance to do a little research.

After reading my post, I have a lot more going on than I thought. Geez. How am I supposed to stay in one of the top raiding guilds of World of Warcraft with this schedule? ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Phase 1 Complete

I finished the first rough draft of my novel. Word count rang in at 66,000, which is a solid start. I know that I'll be adding quite a bit with some scenes I am already toying with changing around, and there's a bunch of things I need to add for a character I didn't realize I needed until I was at the end of the novel.

But all of these thoughts and ideas I have for editing will have to wait. I need to make myself take as much of a break as possible from the novel so I can gear up and be excited about it again when I start the countless months or year of revisions that will take place now. Writing was the easy part. Editing will be the hardest and longest part of the piece.

But tonight, no thoughts of that. I've written my first draft. If I can do that, I can do anything.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Keep on Truckin'

We're back into almost normal mode around the house again, and I reached my daily wordgoal for the first time in two weeks. I am back on track now, and I'm going to work through the bumps in my path until I hit smooth rolling again.

It's easy to write when things are going great. The fresh idea you had straight from the box, inserted and tweaked into the fabric of your world until it fits, and you spin it until it's time for the next step to keep the ball going. But it's when you can't find that clever turn to keep the ball going that the true writers come out. They employ every bit of willpower, ingenuity, and often plain cussedness to make the story go, whether it wants to or not, until it's smooth sailing once again.

Also, how many metaphors, smilies, and cliches can you use in a paragraph? Go for it and find out.

September has rolled around, and the writing wolves are howling at my writing group doors and demanding that I start pumping out something to show them. I belong to two writing groups - one is a well-mixed group that always manages to help me improve my writing so I can find the gold nuggets amongst the shit, but the second is a specialization group for genre writing. It's only a select few friends, and the rules are simple - you must produce 1k a week, and the projects have to come through so we can rip them apart.

None of us are professionals in there. Inside "Ground Zero" we're cold-hearted lawyers searching for every loophole and problem with a piece that comes up. It's very good for me because I tend to be a big picture person who manages to tie most of the facts together, but they really help me clinch any holes, no matter how gaping they may be. Or how much I don't want to see them.

When you can find a good writing group, they're worth three times their weight in gold. Finding a good group is exceedingly difficult, and I'm grateful to have two.

Current Reads: Finally plowing through the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Not hard on the eyes. Terrific light reading. Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey finally came out, and I finished it the second night I got it. The only thing holding back my writing now is my pile of books.

Current WordCount: 62,500/90,000

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Summary and A Farewell

I promised I would put a brief summary of my novel up. Here it is:

New city, new job, same old bodies. Well, the same as could be expected when magic is involved. For Akemi, one of the few fully trained magic crimes CSI's, Saint Louis isn't so different from New Orleans, where Akemi gained field experience in America's magical hotbed, hodgepodge home of magicians of all creeds. Two murders have thrust her into a political and religious fiasco. With the magic rights activist Asher Phillips and conservative Christians Against Magic Movement's vice president Thomas Richter now both in the morgue, Akemi has her work cut out for her digging up the real player behind the scenes. More deadly than the magic used to kill the men are the shadows behind the power, and Akemi needs to sort through the mess before Saint Louis explodes into a fight between those who use and those who fear magic.

Work has slowed due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control, but I will have the first draft complete by next weekend.

Current WordCount: 61,000

Rest in Peace
Tommy Nguyen

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Lovin'

I'm not usually this bad about updating, but with getting a migraine last week, driving out to Kansas for the weekend to visit parents, and work I've been more swamped than usual. I somehow managed to write almost every day, despite the sickness and being out of town.

Now that I'm getting near the end of the novel, I'll write a blurb for it on here. It occurred to me that I haven't talked about what it is quite yet.


Friday, August 1, 2008

First Published Story

I am pleased to announce that I’ve had my first short story published in an online magazine called Sorcerous Signals. It is a fantasy satire, and a quick read. I wanted to share it with all of you.

Link to my story:

Link to the magazine issue:

I have made my first sale as a published author. I’m hoping this will be the first of many.

If you like my story, you can also vote for it on the site. ;) Vote for me; it looks good on my resume. >.>

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Harry Potter Trailer!

Here's ET's link to the new Harry Potter trailer. The new movie looks chilling, and wonderful. I can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2008

We Love Productive Weekends

Another week gone by, only this week is far different than most. I got my extra word goal in over the weekend, which made me quite happy. then I went to work. And then I found out that my good friend was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.

I'm not going to cry for you, Tommy. I'm going to be there with you cheering you along as you fight it off. You're one of the most dedicated people I know, and if anyone has the strength and vitality to fight off something like this, it's you.

The lesson I learned today is don't wait for tomorrow to make the change. Shoot for the stars now, because you might never get a shot later.

I got to see the first "proof" page of a story I wrote. My first published piece will be out next month, and I can't wait to send my first spam email--I mean, huge cross-post email--to my friends and family. I haven't done as well as I would like keeping several things out on the market, but I figure it's either keep dithering around with the short stories and putting the novels off, or write a novel and tinker with it and the short stories.

I thought I had plenty of drive before; after hearing about my friend's predicament, I'm more determined than ever to finish this story. Otherwise, who's going to tell it?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Blues? More Like Writer's Cramp

I blazed through my writing this week, even writing more than my daily goal, and it looks like I'm on track to have another one of those weeks. I've got the next couple of scenes forming up nicely in my head, and it won't take much but time to write them all down. Time, unfortunately, is the most costly of items around here right now, what with simply living life and taking care of ourselves, as well as my other hobby (World of Warcraft, if you're curious).

The one good thing about my current frustration with my job is that it motivates me to write, but the downside is it utterly exhausts me. Trying to get the energy to write at the end of the day takes concentrated effort, but I'm glad when I do, because writing is a joy and thrill.

Speaking of time, it's time for work. And writing during lunch hour.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

This week was a long week. I struggled with word count completion for my novel every day, but I pulled through it, and I think my novel is better and stronger for it. The thing I hate about long writing projects is the further you go on, the more you can get bogged down in the worries and what-ifs. I'm doing my best not to hit the plateau of discouragement by proxy, and so far I'm doing pretty well, but I almost had a moment this week.

When you're writing, you have this whole world in your hands, with people that move around like chesspieces on the board you've crafted. Sometimes you direct the movements, but other times your characters can take you down a completely different path than you're expecting. And when you're engrossed in the world, you can write and write and everything will come out just fine, but once you're out of that world and if you start thinking about all of the outside influences that you will have to inevitably work with to get published-- i.e., the marketing to agents and publishers, the editing and polishing, the scrutiny by others -- it can feel pretty harrowing.

I write mostly in the fantasy genre, with some other elements thrown in, and one of the hardships of genre writing is there are some things you must satisfy in order to get your book published. And I really need to stop being so hard on myself about it, because I'm nowhere near the point where I even have to worry about that. I'm in the first draft, so why am I worried about what to change for an editor? It's no wonder that out of the number of people who say they're going to write, so few actually make it to the step of publication. The steps inbetween are huge, a big commitment for very little money, and they can be brain busters.

So, for myself and the other writers/readers who read my blog, I thought I'd post Heinlein's rules for writing success as explained by Robert Sawyer, a popular sci-fi writer. Here is the direct link, with the text posted below:


by Robert J. Sawyer

Heinlein's Rules

Copyright © 1996 by Robert J. Sawyer. All rights reserved.

There are countless rules for writing success, but the most famous ones, at least in the speculative-fiction field, are the five coined by the late, great Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein used to say he had no qualms about giving away these rules, even though they explained how you could become his direct competitor, because he knew that almost no one would follow their advice.

In my experience, that's true: if you start off with a hundred people who say they want to be writers, you lose half of the remaining total after each rule — fully half the people who hear each rule will fail to follow it.

I'm going to share Heinlein's five rules with you, plus add a sixth of my own.

Rule One: You Must Write

It sounds ridiculously obvious, doesn't it? But it is a very difficult rule to apply. You can't just talk about wanting to be a writer. You can't simply take courses, or read up on the process of writing, or daydream about someday getting around to it. The only way to become a writer is to plant yourself in front of your keyboard and go to work.

And don't you dare complain that you don't have the time to write. Real writers buy the time, if they can't get it any other way. Take Toronto's Terence M. Green, a high-school English teacher. His third novel, Shadow of Ashland, just came out from Tor. Terry takes every fifth year off from teaching without pay so that he can write; most writers I know have made similar sacrifices for their art.

(Out of our hundred original aspirant writers, half will never get around to writing anything. That leaves us with fifty . . .)

Rule Two: Finish What Your Start

You cannot learn how to write without seeing a piece through to its conclusion. Yes, the first few pages you churn out might be weak, and you may be tempted to toss them out. Don't. Press on until you're done. Once you have an overall draft, with a beginning, middle, and end, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to see what works and what doesn't. And you'll never master such things as plot, suspense, or character growth unless you actually construct an entire piece.

On a related point: if you belong to a writers' workshop, don't let people critique your novel a chapter at a time. No one can properly judge a book by a piece lifted out of it at random, and you'll end up with all sorts of pointless advice: "This part seems irrelevant." "Well, no, actually, it's very important a hundred pages from now . . ."

(Of our fifty remaining potential writers, half will never finish anything — leaving just twenty-five still in the running . . .)

Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order

This is the one that got Heinlein in trouble with creative-writing teachers. Perhaps a more appropriate wording would have been, "Don't tinker endlessly with your story." You can spend forever modifying, revising, and polishing. There's an old saying that stories are never finished, only abandoned — learn to abandon yours.

If you find your current revisions amount to restoring the work to the way it was at an earlier stage, then it's time to push the baby out of the nest.

And although many beginners don't believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable. Some small-press magazines do this at length, but you'll also get advice from Analog, Asimov's, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(Of our remaining twenty-five writers, twelve will fiddle endlessly, and so are now out of the game. Twelve more will finally declare a piece complete. The twenty-fifth writer, the one who got chopped in half, is now desperately looking for his legs . . .)

Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market

This is the hardest rule of all for beginners. You can't simply declare yourself to be a professional writer. Rather, it's a title that must be conferred upon you by those willing to pay money for your words. Until you actually show your work to an editor, you can live the fantasy that you're every bit as good as Guy Gavriel Kay or William Gibson. But having to see if that fantasy has any grounding in reality is a very hard thing for most people to do.

I know one Canadian aspirant writer who managed to delay for two years sending out his story because, he said, he didn't have any American stamps for the self-addressed stamped envelope. This, despite the fact that he'd known dozens of people who went regularly to the States and could have gotten stamps for him, despite the fact that he could have driven across the border himself and picked up stamps, despite the fact that you don't even really need US stamps — you can use International Postal Reply Coupons instead, available at any large post office. [And those in Toronto can buy actual U.S. stamps at the First Toronto Post Office at 260 Adelaide Street South.]

No, it wasn't stamps he was lacking — it was backbone. He was afraid to find out whether his prose was salable. Don't be a coward: send your story out.

(Of our twelve writers left, half of them won't work up the nerve to make a submission, leaving just six . . .)

Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

It's a fact: work gets rejected all the time. Almost certainly your first submission will be rejected. Don't let that stop you. I've currently got 142 rejection slips in my files; every professional writer I know has stacks of them (the prolific Canadian horror writer Edo van Belkom does a great talk at SF conventions called "Thriving on Rejection" in which he reads samples from the many he's acquired over the years).

If the rejection note contains advice you think is good, revise the story and send it out again. If not, then simply turn the story around: pop it in the mail, sending it to another market. Keep at it. My own record for the maximum number of submissions before selling a story is eighteen — but the story did eventually find a good home. (And within days, I'd sold it again to a reprint-only anthology; getting a story in print the first time opens up whole new markets.)

If your story is rejected, send it out that very same day to another market.

(Still, of our six remaining writers, three will be so discouraged by that first rejection that they'll give up writing for good. But three more will keep at it . . .)

Rule Six: Start Working on Something Else

That's my own rule. I've seen too many beginning writers labour for years over a single story or novel. As soon as you've finished one piece, start on another. Don't wait for the first story to come back from the editor you've submitted it to; get to work on your next project. (And if you find you're experiencing writer's block on your current project, begin writing something new — a real writer can always write something.) You must produce a body of work to count yourself as a real working pro.

Of our original hundred wannabe writers, only one or two will follow all six rules. The question is: will you be one of them? I hope so, because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it.

30,000/90,000 completed

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm Still Here!

I haven't been posting much because I finally started working on my novel, which leaves me with very little free time by the time I eat dinner, spend time with the family, and play WoW. It's going well - I've got a daily wordgoal of 1k and it's still going well. I will be keeping a wordcount at the bottom of my posts to keep you informed of my progress.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Back to the drawing board

Anthology finally got back to me - rejected, although I did make the final round. No comments, unfortunately. It's back to the rewrite board with the story and then I'll send it out again.

Got a rejection first time out for another piece of mine, so that's two rejections this week.

I also didn't get the new open position at my job that supports my writing.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

2007 Nebula Award Winners

The 2007 Nebula Award winners were posted, and I thought you guys
might be interested:

Just so you know, two of them are available to read free online:

Fountain of Age:



I thought Fountain of Age was the better of the two. I was kind of
surprised "Always" counted as a sci-fi/fantasy story.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The flash fiction turned out to be very easy to edit, and I sent it off.

And now we play the 3 month waiting game. If only the more popular mags didn't have such a slow return rate. Alas.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Flash Fiction

I actually wrote a story that qualifies as flash fiction. Being someone who can't usually think below 4k words, it was a very weird and interesting experience. I finished the piece today; I'm going to give myself a few days and trim it to make sure it makes the 1k wordcount limit, then send it out.

And it all stemmed from my hatred of my debilitating headaches. It's amazing where your thoughts can lead you.

Monday, May 26, 2008

*crosses fingers*

Dear Editors,

Please, please finish reading my story and letting me know whether or not you're going to accept it for your publication. I realize you're running behind, as it took you three weeks to answer my query email and we are now two months out of the deadline you gave for responding to submissions.

While I'm very glad you still like it, maybe you shouldn't have re-opened for submissions if you're so far behind? And at this point, I rather have you toss it back at me so I can be positive and resend it out to keep it moving rather than hearing "Almost, but not quite because of _____, sorry" from you in another two months.

This story is what gave me a personal contact at a popular magazine who couldn't buy it simply because they ran out of space/upfront cash.



Monday, May 19, 2008

How to tell when your piece is done

I submitted "Death Rites" to a new place, as I seemed to have fallen through the cracks of the last editor. The funny thing about this new place is that they do a thing where you post your story on their forums and then people critique it. Then, essentially, you are given the chance to re-edit it and then once it's gotten loads of hype there's a good chance they'll publish it. This might be a good possibility if:

1) You were subject to the whims of the internets and all of the fallible people within;

2) People could actually agree on something in a story and didn't herd around like cats.

Cementing this theory were the two comments I received on the piece in this forum.

The first one was, "Adjit goes too quickly from being a thoughtless kid who risks death on a dare, to being the hero who gives his life to save his town. I just commented on another story that it includes too much introspection - IMO this one doesn't have enough.

I would make it clear earlier in the first scene that there are indeed supernatural forces at work." - from an editorial associate

The second: "Hi Marisol, neat tone of the story.

A few things:

I suggest merging first two paragraphs

This seems a little contradictory even though I understood it

**"“Don’t.” He stunned himself with his speech. “Please, don’t kill me.”

**The spirit paused. Adjit struggled to croak out more, to reason with the being, but no words escaped his dry throat."

I got a bit confused as to what was a Hija and a Godmarked and had to go back and figure out what he was doing.

You might consider removing about 10-20% of the overall length thus far.

I don't understand how he is able to kill all of the Hija attacking the city when he only had one death Spirit helping him? How did the horn help him do that? You might explain it but I missed it when I read the story.

You might also explain a bit more about the actual saving. Normally, avoiding 'the gory details' is sometimes fine but the description of the death rite earlier hardly makes avoiding describing what happens to the invading Hija.

Still a good solid start. :)"
- some random dude, I think

So, let's get this straight. I need to add in a ton of stuff but take out about 10-20% of the stuff... If it's all the same to these guys, I think I'll stick to the fact that the last editor I sent it to turned it down only due to lack of space. I'll take the editor's opinion over random people over the internet any day.

This is my complaint with any online sort of peer editing. Overall, it just doesn't work because you never know when you've got some dick in there throwing in random shit who doesn't know a comma from an apostrophe, and who thinks passive voice means a version of "to be" was used somewhere, anywhere, within the sentence. Or worse, a troll. So I tend to be highly skeptical of anyone's comments unless they come from one of my peer editors in the two writing groups I belong to, because I trust their judgment and I can also see where they're coming from in the case of possible potential bias.

Actually, my rule of thumb with stories is if no one can agree on something in the story, then it's right where it needs to be. I know that sounds slightly insane, but sometimes people are trying to be helpful and critique a story without really reading it, and minds can pick up goofy nits that they probably wouldn't have if they'd just read it for enjoyment. Mind you, I'm not talking about early editing or typos or big glaring boo-boos, but when you've got 5 people who have minor nits/complaints and none of them match, it's time to let'er rip.

Also, one other comment - you're going to give me helpful advice on my story and the first sentence that drops from your precious fingers is "neat tone of the story"? Come on, people. We're supposed to be writers! Aside from the grammar... "neat"? Shakespeare rolled over in his grave.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"In the Flesh" Finished

I finished most of the hard editing on my zombie comedy. Word count is going to ring in at about 3350-3500, depending on what my fabulous, nitpicky critique friends hand back to me.

I know I'm almost done refining because I'm at the point where I feel the editing being squeezed out of me, and like I can barely take another step in the story. That means 1 more edit at most before sendout.

If this story ends up selling before my other stuff, I'm going to have to start considering switching to humor-based stories.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Waiting Game

I've got two short stories out for consideration (well, technically three since I just emailed one out over the weekend, but I don't think about stories I've sent out unless a month has passed). The fact that they've taken this long is good, generally speaking. I've found that the really bad stories get the first paragraph read and then packed back.

One of them is going through the elimination rounds for an anthology, and they've promised to contact everyone by May 31st. The longer they take, the more I am pleased to wait.

The second one is about a month behind their standard response time, but the magazine is currently submerged in stories. I sent in a query over a week ago and haven't received a reply. I'm crossing my fingers on that one, but a few more months and I'll be withdrawing it.

This is the downside to trying to get the more popular places to consider your work. Too antsy, and they'll probably cut you out just because you're annoying. Pieces of work can get bounced by the system due to overflowing email inboxes. And sometimes they're so busy that pieces aren't even looked at, but simply sent right back out with a generic rejection letter.

I suppose I should be happy that out of the eight or so send-outs I've had that only 2 of them have been a form rejection. I've had quite a few nice emails back from editors, my favorite being the one from the editor at Aberrant Dreams, who wrote a lovely email. But it's hard being on the edge of publication with these stories and being unable to find a home for them. They're a bit like puppies who need adopting at this point.

I'm still surprised that out of all of my pieces, "Taxing Fixation" was picked up first. With it being a satire, I figured it would take longer to get it published.

It's not surprising how many hoops you have to jump through to get published, and most of them aren't particularly hard, you just have to be willing to play by the editor's rules. I know I looked through a lot of information on standard formatting for submission before I did so. And yet, we still get writers who send out items like the following excerpt:

"Mican sat with her feet up and watched the rain pelt the window. She hated rain its dreariness emphasized her loneliness. She drug her feet off the desk and walked to the window. She leaned her forehead against the window her warm breath fogging the window each time she exhaled. Lightning lit up the grey sky followed by a deep roll of thunder. She stood up and stared at a small bush in the far corner of the garden something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. Could it have been her own wishful thinking, maybe she was seeing things. The small bush started thrashing about as if caught in a violent windstorm, Mican’s heart caught in her throat. The tiny pods that hung low on the thin stalks burst open revealing bright orange and red flowers. Mican turned and went to walk away, she put her hand to her chest she was being called, another keeper was being chosen. She felt the familiar tug and closed her eyes as she was pulled to another place. She opened her eyes to a familiar face he smiled at her"

No, I didn't add or take away anything. This is exactly as it was presented, lack of final punctuation and all. The following six paragraphs used "as the lightning flashed" four more times. She has been rejected by six agents/publishers over two years, and I just couldn't bring myself to tell her why. I mean, this is the woman who wanted me to add ellipses in unnecessary places and told me to watch out for the fragment sentences that I used... which were all dialogue... I knew there was a reason I only spent a week in that group. Terrifying.

I seriously wonder about people like this, who send out excerpts and short stories written in a way that's designed to make you weep from the lack of grammar, vocabulary, and creativity.

This is why 101 Reasons to Stop Writing was founded. They must have read the excerpts like the one above and finally gone nutty.

Oh, and you're probably wondering why I'm blogging in the middle of the day - I've got strep, so I'm home on quarantine today, doc's orders. I'm using my time very constructively, as you can see.

Actually, my only other plan for today includes finishing two novels and sitting down to hard edit my zombie comedy story. God knows it needs it.

Monday, April 14, 2008


A Taxing Fixation has been sold to Sorcerous Signals. I have made my first sale!