Monthly Archives: May 2013

Demolition

By Lauren Ritz

I am sitting here in my office, listening to the sound of demolition ten feet away. It’s a beautiful day (which means no sun and it’s slightly cool) so of course the door is open.

Sledge hammers, saws, and other tools of destruction are in the process of demolishing the old deck so that a new one can be put in. It won’t be much different—prettier maybe, more sturdy. The old deck is about twenty years old, the boards warping and turning when people try to walk on it.

I find myself in exactly the same place with one of my stories. I still love it, but it’s old. When I wrote it I was just starting to write seriously and had learned nothing about characterization, plot, and the million other facets to writing. I thought I knew, but I didn’t.

So now I get to demolish it. Break it apart, piece by piece, learn what can be saved and what needs to go. Restructure the plot so that it’s more of a cohesive whole than a series of unconnected events. Put in foreshadowing and make sure that the real villain shows up early in the book—in the original version, you only find out what’s really going on (and that there’s another villain) in the last few pages when the real villain kills the villain that we thought was the bad guy through the whole book.

Demolition is sometimes necessary.

Even with a new deck, sometimes you learn that there are problems with the construction only after it’s been in for a while. The color’s wrong, or the contractor made the deck wrong so that it slopes to one side. Then you have to go back, do it all again.

The interesting thing for me to watch is people whose deck (their story) is essentially sound. But they don’t like the color, or the boards are slightly too narrow for their aesthetic sense, so they tear the whole thing up and start again. Worse yet are those who wait until all the furniture is in place and tear up the deck because one of the plant pots is the wrong shape.

I have never written a story that I didn’t like. If I don’t like them, they don’t get written. Tearing up the deck because the grass needs to be mowed is the epitome of self-defeating behavior.

If demolition is necessary, that’s fine. Take the time, do it right. If it’s the fence around the yard that’s bothering me, I don’t go tearing up the deck and rebuilding it to match the fence.


Recharging

by Ava Mylne

I’ve been praying for rain.

In a semi-arid climate, sometimes it gets so dry that the heat reflecting off the bricks of my home makes it almost impossible to keep things alive. Sometimes we get a good rain and my plants look visibly happier, but usually I have to drag out the hose and do it by hand. I also love the sun. Sources close to me have, on occasion, called me “solar-powered”.

I’ve discovered I write in the same way. Sometimes I can’t sleep for the stories running manic circles in my head, and other times I can go months without wanting to even check my e-mail.

I’m in a dry spell right now. How do I sit down and meet my writing goals when there is nothing in my head to write? When I don’t even want to write? When those times come, I find myself panicking, thinking, “Are there no more stories left for me to write? I something I love so much just over?”

So often I have seen friends do something they enjoy until it becomes a chore instead of a love, and it would break my heart if I ceased to love writing. I am also—fortunately–not in the position of having agents or editors breathing down my neck for the next installment. I have friends in that position as well. Is it blasphemous to say that right now I’m not sorry to be unpublished?

I’ve heard this state of literary inaction called “recharging”, and I have to agree with that assessment. I still love my stories. I still get way too excited about my characters, and talk about them ad nauseum to long-suffering friends and family. My characters still live and breathe in my head. But for now I won’t panic. I’ll just recharge. It’s part of the writing process. I’ll enjoy the dry spell in my head, and I’ll enjoy the heat of the sun, and when the rain comes back to douse my whole soul in limitless words, I’ll enjoy that too. And if enough time goes by, maybe I’ll get out the hose and do it by hand.


Mining Ideas

Some days are just like that.  Here it is, 8:25 PM and I was supposed to post today.

I apologize profusely and take my punishment without apology.  As if that makes any sense.

Sometimes I dream.  Not very often do I remember those dreams–the dreams when I was a child could rival Stephen King.  But when I do remember them they’re in full color, full sound–scents and textures if those apply.  Since I write science fiction and fantasy, most of my dreams are in those genres.

Some time ago I had a dream that was a complete storyline but instead of being science fiction or fantasy it was an 18th century murder mystery. I woke up before the end, but I’ve never dreamed a mystery or 18th century before.

So I wrote this, which was the piece just before I woke up. There were five women in this scene, each of whom had been given an oddly embroidered handkerchief just before our friend died. It is of course fictionalized…

* * * * *

I spread out the handkerchiefs side by side. The garish colors, swirling patterns that would be meaningless to any of us. Only the sane, I reminded myself, and nearly drew back from my purpose.

“Maritha’s eyes weren’t normal.” I pointed out the obvious as I laid the fourth kerchief beside the others. “She could look in both directions at once, or cross her eyes…”

I picked up one, the colors in one corner and the patterns in the other. This was more coherent, a simple geometric. “Look at it with your eyes crossed. So that the colors and patterns overlap. I think this one was an experiment, to see if she could do it.”

The black dot in the upper corner of each piece seemed to be the key. When my eyes crossed sufficiently to put those two dots together, the pattern leaped out at me. The greens and browns over lapped the geometric, creating a pattern familiar to us all–a view of the house, from the front gardens.

Yes. Over exclamations of surprise as they handed the kerchief around, I picked up the next.

This one had no colors, and it had been the one she gave to me. The two dots were slightly off-center and I had to turn my head to get them to match. <i>My dear Sherise, I sincerely hope that you will understand… </i>While the others muttered and whispered over the first, I tucked that one into my sleeve to look at later. Tears touched my eyes–it was almost as if she spoke to me again.

* * * * *

Dreams are an interesting field to mine for storylines.  While I may use this one some day, it’s more likely that the dream itself will go by the wayside and I’ll end up using the handkerchief idea in another context.

Do you ever get story ideas from your dreams?


Where to Publish Short Fiction

by Jocelyn Nash Carlin

Over the past year and a half I’ve been spending more time away from my ongoing novel to try my hand at some short fiction. Short fiction can be a wonderful palate cleanser after months of being bogged down in revisions and editing, and if you are successful in publishing, it can be a great resume builder to add to the bottom of your query letters for your novels. Not to mention that getting your fiction in front of an audience and receiving financial compensation for it (no matter how small) is always a great confidence booster.

But, like many of you, I’ve been faced with the question: Where exactly can I sell my stories?

There are no literary agents as gatekeepers in the short fiction market – you send your work directly to the editors and let them make the buy/reject decisions. Which means you have to know who to send your fiction to.

In my online research I’ve found several helpful websites to get you started in your search for short fiction publication venues.

The first and mostly highly regarded place to find markets for your fiction is Duotrope, a site which not only has the most comprehensive and up-to-date listings for short fiction markets, they also have some submission tracking features and interactivity among members where they can share tips and experiences with different markets. But there is a downside – while Duotrope started out as a free service, after an initial free trial they now operate as a subscription service with a $5 monthly membership fee, or a discount if you join on an annual basis. Given how little short fiction markets pay, you could pay more for Duotrope membership than you earn for your fiction in an entire year. However, they really are the best, so if you have multiple stories ready to submit and you are determined and committed, this site is probably worth your money.

If you write speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror and the like), a fantastic free site listing short fiction markets is Ralan.com. This site lists markets according to how much they pay, from professional-rate markets on down to zero-pay markets. It is updated regularly and tries to stay on top of any announcements from markets as to whether or not they are open for submissions.

Another great place to start for speculative fiction short fiction is the list of SFWA qualifying markets. SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and they keep a list of markets where you can publish to help you qualify for membership in the organization. These markets are not only the top-paying speculative fiction markets, but will also get your writing the most exposure.

I don’t know as much about literary fiction markets, but I found a great list of short-fiction-market-resources on Absolute Write. This page includes links to many market-lists that should get you a very good start on finding the right places to submit your fiction. This article on Yahoo lists the top-paying/most exposure literary fiction markets. And author Cindi Myers is currently publishing a series of articles on more obscure short fiction markets on her blog. One of these resources will likely point you in the right direction to begin your search for a market.

From my experience so far, you’ll pile up rejections pretty quickly when you dive into the short fiction business, but each rejection I collect reminds me that I am working hard toward my goals. And once I finally get an acceptance, rather than a rejection, you better believe I’ll be back to toot my own horn.