Literary Hot Shots

Ever wondered who the most important people in British publishing are? Well wonder no more as the Evening Standard reveals the most influential people in literary life. Read ’em and weep! And then draw your own conclusions.

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The Fix

TTA Press, best known as publishers of Interzone and Black Static (formerley The Third Alternative) have relaunched their short story review magazine The Fix as an online publication. Its an exceptionally high quality online venue for genre fiction reviews, so I highly recommend dropping in and subscribing to their RSS feed. I’ve volunteered to review for them and am looking forward to it.

Annoyed

Just lost the best part of an evening trying to get may Mac to talk with my old Windows laptop. Bah! I’m going back to pens and paper.

I haven’t updated about my writing progress recently so here goes…

Firstly I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this time around. It was a great learning experience last year but I don’t think its something I can put time into again. I’ll follow the regions progress with interest however.

I’m not working on anything novel length at the mo. I start back on that next week. I learnt much from my last attempt, and ideas are percolating. I really wanted to get into the time I’ve given myself to write with something ongoing but it just hasn’t worked out that way. Thats a frustration but I’ll turn it around over the next few weeks.

On the short story front I have almost finished Rings, although the plot has veered slightly off course and a new character has appeared. Mud is waiting until I can figure out what to write next. Unbound is waiting for a second draft. I also wrote the first thousand words of an idea I’ve had for a while now going by the title Melt. You don’t want to know why. I’m also planning a minor rewrite of Cthul-You (possible title change) and Recreation before submitting to more markets.

Speaking of submissions, the date for Electric Velocipede grows nearer and Circes is under consideration at another zine. Fingers crossed it will make the issue they are considering it for.

Overall I’m happy that I am keeping the writing moving, but frustrated with myself for not making better progress on the novel. Still, no one said this was gonna be easy!

Damo’s Guide to Getting Published More

It occurred to me that submitting stories to short fiction markets is a bit of a mystery to many people, so I thought I would write a post about it that some might find informative. I hope others don’t find it patronising.

Ok, like most people I quite like bragging about my successes so I’ll start there. My acceptance rate is about 1 / 4, which for an unknown writer like me is very good. Clearly I like to assign this to my huge talents as a writer, but realistically it also has something to do with having an organised approach to submitting stories.

Anyone trying to get short fiction published would do very well to start by considering this advice from Robert Heinlein.

  • You must write.
  • You must finish what you write.
  • You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  • You must put the work on the market.
  • You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Yes, these are all common sense. But it’s amazing how easy it is to abandon common sense when making personal decisions. Writing is, for many people, a treasured dream. The reality of exposing that dream to public gaze can create strange behavior. It’s all too easy to waste years believing in yourself as a writer, but never actually write. Once you get going it’s easy to not finish. Once you are finished, it’s easy to endlessly rewrite because nothing is ever perfect. The fear of rejection can keep excellent stories sitting in draws, only to be swooned over by amazed relatives long after the author has died. And it’s very very easy to get that first brutal rejection and be too scared to ever send a story out again. And these aren’t transitory issue. You have to keep objectively checking whether you are breaking these laws because it’s all too easy to lapse in to bad behaviour after a bit of success. So go through the list and with a harsh but honest tone, ask yourself which ones you are breaking.

Have you done it?

Good. If your answer is none, go back and do it again because unless you are Stephen King already you are definitely breaking one of them. Once you’ve found the ones you are breaking, sit yourself down and give yourself a good talking to – don’t do it again! I’m telling myself off for not finishing what I write even as I am typing.

In addition to Heinlein’s Laws here are some other things I have picked up in the last few years that might help:

Be Realistic – publishing short fiction has few rewards at first. Don’t expect to get paid (much). Don’t expect fan mail, or to be reviewed. Don’t expect a book deal, award nominations or any other kind of plaudit. Don’t even expect anyone to read your story. Why bother then, you may ask? Because those first publications are essential to building your belief in yourself as a writer. That self belief is in turn an essential part of developing the craft of your writing.

Be Professional – approach submitting a story like applying for a job. Would you send a hand written job application in pink ink on the back of a serviette? Every story you send out is a piece in the career you are trying to build in writing. Don’t buy into the myth that ‘creative’ or ‘artistic’ people don’t need to be professional and organised, its just that, a myth.

Rejection is Standard – most of what you send out will be rejected. This will hurt. Take the the pain, deal with it and move on. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the paranoid delusion that because your story has been rejected, you have been rejected. Don’t stop sending to a market after a rejection. Repeated rejections from the same market can often come before an acceptance.

Know Your Markets – this is the main mistake most people make. ‘Why hasn’t the New Yorker accepted my Tolkienesque fantasy? Why hasn’t Realms of Fantasy accepted my postmodern prose-poem?’. Most short fiction markets, be they magazines, anthologies or otherwise, serve very niche audiences. Find the markets that serve the audiences that you want your writing to reach. The only way to do this is to read read read read until you find the work you really like. As you get to know the markets you will see where your work fits, or can be made to fit.

Be Organised – keep a record of what you have submitted, where and the outcome. This is essential. When something is rejected, send it on to the next market. If a market has a reading period, note it in your record and send something the day the market opens. If a story has been rejected from every possible market, then and only then consider doing a rewrite. There are a thousand little things that improve your chances of getting a story published, but you won’t notice any of them unless you keep the process organised.

Cascade your Submissions – start with the suitable ‘professional’ markets and as rejections come in send the story out to progressively smaller markets. The judge of a short fiction market is its readership – the more readers the better the market is a good rule of thumb.

Start Small – most short fiction is between 3000 – 7000 words. At the upper end of that or higher, an editors commitment to a story will have to be much higher for them to pick it. On the other hand, a 1000 word story is much easier to fit in amongst other things and more likely to persuade the editor to take a risk on a new and unknown writer.

Develop Your Bio – Let editors know about your other publications. As you start to develop a track record, editors will pay more attention to your submissions. This won’t get a bad story published, but it can get a good story noticed which might otherwise have been missed.

A final thought for when those rejections come in as they inevitably will…some might disagree but in my view fiction is a sellers market. Really great writers, at the peak of their craft, making really great work, are a rarity. Getting your work published is a part of developing your craft as a writer. With some talent, lots determination and an almost infinite amount of dedication its possible to master that craft. If you get to that point then instead of you chasing people people start chasing you. Taking the journey to that point is a big part of the real joy in writing, and the thing that hopefully makes the more frustrating parts worthwhile.

Right, I’m off to finish one of those stories.

D

Countdown to Doomsday

I haven’t made any meaningful posts for a while. I’ve been working quite hard on ‘Rings’ so there hasn’t been much free time for work. Even though the finished story will only be 3 – 4k it’s in a very dense first person style which I’m enjoying, but it means a high work to word ratio. I’ve been making myself write third person wherever possible so stepping back to a style I’m more comfortable with is quite nice.

I have exactly one week to go until I hit the world of part time employment. Having taken this time off to write my first novel I’m a little worried that the novel itself is in a slight limbo state. Either the pressure of arriving at my first day of effective self employment will galvanise me to action, or I’ll crumble and end up buying an X-Box and Halo 3. Stay tuned to discover which! (If it’s the latter I renew my request that you, gentle reader, come round to my house and put me out of my misery.)

I’m yet to receive my copy of Transmission, but postal strike permitting it should be next week. As I’ve clearly already read the story this is probably less frustrating for me than those of you who have let me know that you ordered a copy. Electric Velocipede is still on tracj for November with my story ‘Momentum’ and I found out earlier this week that ‘Circes’ is being considered for a January publication in a publication I like a lot. More details on this when they are available.