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.