Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Become a Short Story Author

How to Become a Short Story Author, Collected from the Internet:

1. Read the classics of your genre. There are at least 100 must read book per genre, not including sub-genres. Many of these books were written early last century. But they're classics.

2. Read the classics outside your genre. Prevents you from getting tunnel vision.

3. Join workshops. Learn how to critique and edit. Critique and edit hundreds of stories.

4. Read the market. Read 3-4 issues of the magazine you wish to submit to. Due to a 40:1 ration of rejections to acceptances, you should be reading at least 120-160 magazines. You also want to stay up to date.

5. Read the Year's Best, so you know what the cutting edge of your genre is.

6. Read slush. Nothing gives you an insight into what makes a good manuscript by reading hundreds of them.

7. Begin to write a story. Too late, you're DEAD!!!! Too bad, because once you have a few good short stories, you might be ready to write a novel. Of course, you now have to repeat 1-6 with the novel market in mind.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dear Editor,

Thank you for expressing your interest in rejecting my story. Over the past few months I've had many people interested in rejecting my work, making it quite difficult to decide on which ones to accept. Make no mistake that your rejection letter was one of the higher quality ones I receive on a daily basis. However, due to the high number of rejected submissions received, I am sorry to say that I cannot accept your rejection letter at this time. I will be looking forward to reading my story printed in your magazine in the near future. Thanks again.

I appreciate your interest in rejecting my work and am willing to consider accepting further rejection letters in the foreseeable future.


Wouldn’t you like to know

Literary Fiction

What is literary fiction?

I dived into Google to find out. What I discovered is that no one really knows. One answer revolved around whether you could easily summarize it.

Another tongue in cheek definition suggested that if you look in a mirror after reading it, and your eyebrows have moved closer together, it is literary. Under this definition, literary means hard to read. David Foster Wallace, Ulyssus, and things they forced you to read in high school.

A third definition was that literary focused on the technique of writing more than telling a story. It was about fine words and a general aesthetic. This seems true of non-genre Workshop writers I've come across. I generally don't "get" this sort of thing.

Another is that literary fiction doesn't focus on the plot and the action like genre fiction: it focuses more on characters, characterization, etc. It is more aimed at giving the reader an emotional or insight experience than simply entertain. This one makes more sense. But how much genre stuff have we all read that is more literary? The Club Dumas, The Name of the Rose, almost anything by Kurt Vonnegut, Lord of the Flies. That's just off the top of my head.

A good example of this is the short story, Spar. The plot is so simple I could write it in one line.

People don't generally read literary. When I was in my twenties, I had grand dreams of writing stories about literary things, but in a way everyone could enjoy. I think this is the dream of many speculative fiction writers today. It is certainly the dream of many spec fic magazine editors. I've tried to make my stories about something, but also with a clear plot and interesting things happening. Sometimes it doesn't quite make it, and I have another trope story (which are fun, too). All a part of the learning curve.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Rejections

I thought it was fun when I had 15 stories on the market. Now the rejections are coming in. Fast. I feel like I'm juggling to keep all those balls in the air.

This is an ominous premonition for the week. And the dark side of Write 1, Sub 1.

I also bought a big stack of envelopes to haunt Fantasy & Science Fiction and Realms of Fantasy. Won't take e-subs? Heh. That won't stop me.

In other news, the pros are horning in on 10Flash. It doesn't even pay pro rates. Soon, I'll won't even be able to publish on my blog.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The 10,000 Word Plateau

One of the things I've always wanted to do was write a novel. After many unsuccessful attempts, I have stuck to writing short stories.

A while ago, I started a novella. I didn't mean to, it was just that the story was taking longer than a usual short story. So I wrote and wrote. When I got to 10,000 words, something strange happened.

I stalled. I got bored. I wanted to trash it and move on.

Thinking back to my prior unfinished novels, I noticed I always hit a wall at 10,000 words. And every 10,000 thereafter.

So looking around for advice, I discovered the following bit:

When you have writer's block, keep writing through it.

Good advice. I'm hoping that if I can conquer a few novellas, I can eventually work up to a novel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mail vs. Email

I sent out another story to Fantasy & Science Fiction today. I actually like the market. I enjoy printing out the manuscript, going to the post office, filling out the self-addressed stamped envelope. Its what the writers used to do in the old days. Email is so instant. You just click submit and there you have it. I'm old enough to remember the days before email. Yes, we used to write letters to each other all the time. By hand. You could tell a lot about a person by whether they used block print or cursive. Sometimes they'd decorate the envelope. You'd open it up and know some one spent a good amount of time thinking about you. I don't know if the editors at F&SF appreciate it, but I was thinking of them as I lovingly prepared my manuscript. I also clevely cracked the Clarkesworld rejection code. Did I hack their database? No, I'm no hacker. Did I corner Neal Clarke and threaten to make him watch vacation videos? Didn't do that either. He wrote about it in his forum. There are 4 tiers: 1. You didn't follow the guidelines. 2. Rejected, next time follow the guidelines. 3. Rejected. 4. Top 10%: Send us more stories

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back Log

My devious plan to deluge the world with submissions has led to a back log. I have two finished stories sitting on my hard drive and no pro markets to send them to. Why not, you ask? Because I've already got a story with almost every open pro market around. I'm a victim of my own productive success.

The other thing I've discovered is that the horror market is very small, and in large part consists of anthologies. The good anthologies aren't open to slush writers like myself. On the other hand, one sale for $25 will qualify me for the Horror Writer's Association, one of my goals.

W1S1 is a good thing. I'm producing and submitting a lot of stories. Previously, my output was mostly unfinished novels. It's good to be putting stuff out there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Clarkesworld: The Finale

Well, Clarkeworld was fast, but not as fast as anticipated. They are still like lightening. The odds seem low. When I subbed, I was 160 in the queue. They took about a week to clear that. If they are getting 150 a week, that's 600 a month. One may get chosen. That's 0.0016%.

I have ten stories out right now. Mostly dark fantasty or soft sci fi. I like genre fiction, it's fun. Because I'm starting with the pro markets, there will be many rejections. The first one, I will be honest, had a sting to it. The second one didn't hurt. Further pain, if any, will only be caused by the total impact of the rejections.

The good news is, in my real world job, I am currently a defense attorney. I got an acquittal on my first defense case. It was a good kid, too. Trials are all about stories.

I'm beginning to learn more about myself by seeing what emerges from my writing. In almost everything I've written so far, some one dies. Usually some one very close to the main character. Happy endings are rare, but so are hopeless ones. My literary world is violent.

It makes sense, because I tend to write about things that bother me.

On the story front, I have three in the hopper. A horror, a sci-fi horror, and a straight literary. I have one story ready to sub, but I'm waiting for a particular publisher to re-open. I plan on finishing at least one or two more by the end of the month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#34 in the queue. Clarkesworld must be rejecting those slushes with reckless abdandoned. Who sends in unsolicited manuscripts anyway? Oh, right. I need an agent.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I have to hand it to the editors and slush readers at Clarkesworld. I submitted a short story to them last week (with such a quick turning, great magazine, how can I resist?). I started at 162. During the week, my queue went up about 20 a day. Then, this weekend, they cleared out forty or so strories, and another 20 by today (Monday). At this rate, my story should be cleared by the weekend. That would be a less than 2 week turn.

Of course, F&SF did it faster. By snail mail, no less.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In a wave of frenzied activity, I just subbed 9 stories in the last two weeks. One already got rejected (my first!) from Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. In true disciplined fashioned, I immediately sent it out again.

Three stories in the works, in various stages of production.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I just got my first form rejection from Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. I sent the story out to Orson Scott Card's web mag.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What I'm Doing

Having recently finished a short body of work, I took to the internet to see how to go about publishing.

I started off checking out the advice on the professional organizations websites, SFWA and HWA. The main piece of advice I got was to start at the top with professional organization and work down. I also discovered Duotrope and Ralan's, which I have bookmarked up to the right.

Now I noticed that looking through the Duotrope stats, most people don't start with professional rates and work down, they tend to work up. I'm not a fan of that because 1) what if you could get a pro sale, but don't? 2) there are many semi- and non- paying markets. I figure once I exhaust the paying markets, I can submit to these to my heart's content. Also, in order to reach my goal (becoming a member of a professional organization), I need at least one pro sale.

The nice thing about Duotrope is that it tracks my submissions for me. Not only that, but I can put in new pieces and do a search for applicable markets.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cliches to Avoid

I'm assembling here a list of links to cliched plot lines that editors don't want to see in science fiction, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction short stories. Good reading, funny and insightful.


Strange Horizons: Horror:

Writinghood Horror Cliches:

Meikle's Horror Cliches:

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches:

Turkey City Lexicon: