P.20: My Current Submissions and Why I Sent Them, 10/27/15

The blog’s another ten posts in, so it’s time to talk about my submissions.

When I first posted about my submissions (on 9/6/15), I had 7 stories out.

  • My 3400 word sci fi piece that I sent to Crossed Genres for their August pronouns and gender submission theme is still alive. Woot! Given that The (Submission) Grinder shows CG’s released the kraken of rejections — and mine wasn’t one of them — I’m feeling pretty good about this! (**crosses fingers**)
  • Of the six rejections, I got two personal rejections. Count me as happy.
  • After my poem was rejected from Interfiction, I decided to turn it into flash fiction and thought it came out well. I sent the new version to Daily Science Fiction (since they’ll publish very-short pieces), but they ended up passing. DSF is one of my favorite things to read, though, and flash can be fun to write, so placing a story with DSF continues to be a big goal of mine.

I’ve also sent out another five stories, all of which are still alive.

  • I wrote a 5200 word urban fantasy story for the upcoming Were- Anthology series from Zombies Need Brains, LLC. I like to write for open submission calls for anthologies. For starters, it generally forces you to write a new story, expanding your portfolio. Even if your story isn’t selected, if it stands on its own, it’s another story you can send out in the future — and more stories in the submission rotation gives you more chances that you’ll send just what a particular editor is looking for. Furthermore, I think it can help writers explore new areas of their preferred genres, growing as a writer (this submission certainly did that for me). Beyond that, I think there’s something to the idea I’ve seen written on several writing blogs that anthologies with open submission calls give writers a more even playing field, since there isn’t a backlog of already-purchased stories to compete against.
  • I wrote 2600 word piece for Crossed Genres. CG’s September submission theme was for stories about “nonsense.” I had been wanting to tackle a slipstream piece for a long time, but felt very intimidated by the genre. Great slipstream pieces are some of the best, most speculative out there, but they get bad fast, and even good ones aren’t always the most approachable. Since I thought a theme about nonsense seemed to work well with slipstream, I wanted to take a shot. Ironically enough, this story came together very quick for me. I think it hit the theme really well, succeeded in my personal goal to write a good slipstream piece and managed to keep it approachable. One nice thing about Crossed Genres? They always publish at least one never-before-published author every month. That’s a huge incentive for unpublished writers to submit to CG.
  • I sent a 700 word piece of flash fiction to the Writers of the Future contest. With the deadline for the previous quarter approaching too soon to write something original for it, I decided to dip into the backlog of stories I’ve set aside to reconsider. Most of them are stories that I like, but aren’t quite there for whatever reason (in most cases, I haven’t figured those reasons out, which is why they’re there). I looked at that pile to see which one I’d catch inspiration with, and found one that felt clean and full and yet a little flat. With fresh eyes, I realized what was wrong with it. The story had so much more mystery and nuance in my head than what I put on paper. I tackled some edits with that in mind and sent it out. I’ll be honest: I still don’t think this piece has a shot of placing in the contest (for one thing, how often does flash fiction win WotF?), but if nothing else I brought a story back to the point where I’d feel comfortable sending it back out now, even after a rejection.
  • I sent a 250 word piece of flash fiction to Apex Magazine’s yearly flash fiction contest. Apex set up a challenge to create a story about Christmas and invasions at 250 words or under. My first version was 500-600 words — I really don’t know how I managed to cut it by more than half and keep the story in tact, but I did. I gave myself some big chuckles with this one, enough that if I’m not lucky enough to win, I’ll go back to that 500+ word version, polish it up and think of something to do with it, even if the contest would make it too obvious to send anywhere else this year.
  • I must really love Crossed Genres, because I sent a 3,800 word story to their October submission theme, this time about decorations. This is the first time I didn’t write a piece specifically for the issue, but damned if what I had wasn’t spot on for the theme — to an almost eerie degree. Originally, I wrote this as a story I was going to submit to my writing group’s anthology, but it ended up being delayed and I had other stories that fit the group’s theme even better, so this all feels very fortuitous to me. What I really liked about this piece is how it tugs at heart strings.

Additionally, I have one more story I’m planning to submit before October ends, I just have to give it one more final read through before I send it.

  • Zombies Needs Brains, LLC has a second anthology submission call — this one for a story about alien technology. I was really excited for this theme, and came up with an idea I really, really liked — one that I intended to have a lot of action. Then I wrote my first draft, and none of that action was coming out, all feeling wrong. Even worse, the characters felt flat. It needed a lot of fixing, but it was totally worth it. It still isn’t the action-oriented piece I initially intended, but now it has a good mix of action and thought — and I think I’ve managed to create some of the most nuanced and interesting characters I’ve written yet. We’ll see if the editors agree!
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P.19: I’m a Grammar Rebel

I have a quirk in the way I like to punctuate dialog. Most people use a comma before they write ‘he said’ or ‘she said;’ I prefer a period.

For example, if a character heard something that sounded good to them, here’s how I’d write it:

“Sounds good to me.” She said.

Here’s the technically ‘right’ way to punctuate it:

“Sounds good to me,” she said.

I like to use a period instead of a comma because I think the line of dialog completes a thought. The fact someone said it is a separate thought.

It’s also about consistency. If a line of dialog was framed as a question or an exclamation, proper grammar dictates that he said or she said would start a new sentence.

It’s “Sounds good?” She said. Not “Sounds good?” she said. So why would it be “Sounds good,” she said? What makes question marks and exclamations so special?

I’m sure many others would feel differently — some passionately, no doubt — but I think I’m right here.

P.18: The Crazy Sh*t We Research for Stories

I’m continually amused by just what I have to look up to get a particular story right.  Writing fiction, you’re inevitably going to come up with interesting ideas that you want to explore — ideas that would feel flat if you didn’t do your homework.

Sometimes it manifests in weird ways.

For example, I’ve been working on a short story that takes place on an alien world, about someone who finds the remnants of an extinct civilization. I had to laugh when I realized I needed to research what makes ancient Roman concrete so damn good (here was the best link I found, btw) — all so I could write a scene about ancient ruins.

The same story required that I really brush up on Norse mythology, too, and not just the basics like the pantheon. I was thinking about how it was interesting that Norse mythology has so many different worlds and planes of existence, and it made me wonder if that influenced how far and wide they explored (and pillaged, depending on the century). Reading up on the mythology, I came across the concepts of the utangard and the innangard, concepts that really fit my character and the story, helping flesh everything out.

Research takes a lot of time to even take the most cursory of glances. Sometimes hours of research may amount to a few lines in a short story. Other times, the hours of research may not even make it into the story, amounting to little more than helping flesh out character’s background.

It’s all worth it, though, because it’s the little things that can separate a mediocre story from a story that will catch a reader — and there’s no better way to do that than doing your homework as a writer.

P.17: Manuscript Trust Issues and NaNoWriMo

One of the things I’ve come up against, as a writer who wants to be a part of the writing community, is sharing manuscripts — electronically.

I don’t like doing it. I even feel weird doing it. I’ve only been willing to do it with my writing group and a select group of friends so far… but strangers on the internet?

NaNoWriMo is going to be a new frontier in this internal debate that’s taking place in my brain. As part of NaNoWriMo, a lot of people like to share ideas and review each others’ work. I love sharing work and being part of communities — I just don’t like the electronic aspect of it, especially when it comes to complete strangers.

One side of my brain is saying they’re my peeps, fellow aspiring authors, and that I need to trust them and share… and the other half of my brain is saying, “they’re strangers on the internet!”

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think I’m the next JK Rowling or Steven King, but when you spend a lot of time writing something, it becomes your baby.

And we all get overprotective of our babies, at least at first.

We all hear all kinds of different plagiarism horror stories throughout our life, and I’ve always taken these issues very seriously. But those are all anecdotes, and not grounded in don’t-share-your-manuscript-electronically studies.

I’d love to figure out how to reconcile these competing thoughts in my brain — my love for community, but fear of electronic sharing. My first thought is to do some writing in local libraries that host NaNoWriMo events, meeting people personally — and take it from there.

So, what do people think? Am I right to not want to share electronic copies, or do I have to stop being a helicopter parent over my manuscripts — and let those babies fly away, so more people can read them?

P.16: Getting Ready for my first #NaNoWriMo

I think I’m going to try to take on NaNoWriMo this year — the National Novel Writing Month.

It’s a challenge for writers to write a 50,000+ word first draft of a novel over the course of November.

50,000 words is about 150 pages in 30 days, which amounts to about 5 pages a day, which is about what I’ll generally write in an evening.

Have I written at that pace for 30+ days before? Yes, definitely.  I wrote my first novel over 2-3 month-long spurts over the course of a year or so, and that was 115,000 words.

That said, part of NaNoWriMo is having a complete first draft — not just 50,000 words. Most novels are considerably longer than that, especially those aimed at adult audiences or young adult. If I write Adult or YA Sci Fi/Fantasy, that’s closer to 300 pages in 30 days, or 10 pages a day — YA a little less, adult a little more.

I’m not sure I like my chances of sustaining 10 pages a day over 30 days, so I’m leaning toward writing something for a younger audience.

NaNoWriMo will create another big challenge, though — getting ready for it.

  • I have 4 submission deadlines I’ve written drafts for, that I need to finish up and send out between the end of October and the end of the year. Some of these will be more work than others, but most will require at least a few evenings.
  • I have another story with I’ve started a draft for that isn’t finished yet. That one’s not due until the end of the year, but I don’t want to go into December exhausted from NaNoWriMo without a finished first draft.
  • Then, after all that’s done, I’ll have to invest serious and quick effort into getting ready for NaNoWriMo, creating my characters and at least some kind of outline for the plot. Writing 50,000+ words is one thing, but writing it without having at least some basic understanding of my characters and plots is another, and potentially a big waste of time.

So, there’s a lot to do and a lot to think about, but I’m excited about the challenge. If I can get a firm idea down, I think I can get it done without real life getting in the way.

If you’re taking on NaNoWriMo, feel free to say hello and add me as a buddy.

P.15: Friday, Bloody Friday

Witness today’s Interfictions-sponsored mass culling of their submissions:

Interfiction Bloody Friday

It’s from a snapshot I took at The Submission Grinder, a site where writers keep track of their short story submissions.

Usually rejections come out in a trickle, with a wide assortment listed on The Submission Grinder’s main page at any given time. Yet, today Interfictions really unleashed the kraken, gobbling up almost all the space on The Grinder’s front-page while they were at it.

And, of course, one of my stories fell victim to the mighty beast.

For those who aren’t aware: Interfictions’s a wonderful biannual genre-bending speculative fiction online magazine, officially recognized as pro-rate by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

It’s no shock that they rejected many, many stories for their upcoming issue — it’s a great venue, only open a couple times a year.

It was only a surprise, to me, that so many came out all at once.

And since I can sometimes have a dark sense of humor, I got a huge kick out of it.

One of the things you quickly learn about the submission process is that you need a way to deal with rejections — and humor can be a great approach.

Maybe I’m weird, but it’s one of my ways. Being able to laugh at yet another rejection is better than getting upset or frustrated by it, since being upset and frustrated isn’t conducive to writing — but laughing is a wonderful fuel.

For anyone who can’t find the humor, though, just remember: Sending out submissions isn’t a rejection process. It’s an acceptance process. Having your story rejected doesn’t mean you, personally, failed. It just means some other people had a story that, for any number of reasons, was a better fit.

I hope people out there will, like me, keep at it. Keep writing the very best stories you can, and improving your craft along the way. You are my competitors, but I want my story to get accepted because it’s the best — not because people felt frustrated and gave up.

Rejection is only a failure if you stop writing, and the only story that can never get accepted is the one that’s never submitted.

So, thank you, Interfictions, for allowing me to be a part of your Bloody Friday. I look forward to your next submission period.