Monday, September 27, 2010

Grind work

Dear Diary,

Today I finished writing a synopsis for my book. If you are very good and if my friends say that it is okay, I will post it here for you.

Writing a synopsis is grind work. You take out everything that is funny, heart-stopping, pretty, or dramatic, and try to explain the rest. You need to keep people's attention throughout the whole thing and make it all fit together in the end.

And it has to be less than three pages.


Friday, September 24, 2010


A person who had tried to impress upon me his great and wondrous knowledge posted much verbage on a writing newsgroup that he had attended a seminar and learned how to "show, not tell." It was his great epiphany.


I can't wait until he learns to climax.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I spent the entire day staying off my feet and entering corrections into my best non-published book. This is the kind of work that prepares one to meet the Elder Gods in a proper state of mind.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SFWA Membership Guidelines

For years and years I was told that all one had to do to qualify for a SFWA (Sciend Fiction Writer's of America) membership was to sell a novel or three short stories at professional rates. Many people still believe this, and when I looked at the application process some years ago, that seemed to be the case. But times have changed. The new guidelines, found at are much more strict.

One cannot sell to just any professional market. One must sell to a market that has already been qualified by the membership committee, and only sales to those markets will count. To be qualified, a market must meet certain criteria and must meet the SFWA bylaws. The criteria for a market is:

"•Payment for all works of fiction (other than reprints or serializations), either in advance of publication or on publication, at the rate of either (a) at least $2000 for a single work or (b) at least 5c/word (3c/word before 1/1/2004); and
•Must have published consistently for a period of at least one year before the market will be considered qualifying; and
•Must have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies, or the equivalent in other media (e.g., demonstrated downloads in electronic media); and
•Is not self-publication, vanity press, or other type of author-paid or fee-charging press, as demonstrated such as (1) by having published at least ten distinct works by different natural persons during the date range; and (2) by authors not having paid or been requested to pay fees or give consideration of any kind."

The first two points are common sense. The third and fourth are a bit more disturbing, in that they seem designed to shut out the small press and POD publishers. Yet these small presses are a rising force in the publishing world. They may put out only two to four titles a year. Their circulations may be in the hundreds, not the thousands, especially if they are selling to a niche market. And since they do not qualify for SFWA membership on their sales, there is no incentive for them to follow SFWA guidelines in any other regard. If these small presses were only a minor part of the publishing world,I wouldn't worry -- but they do appear to be changing the publishing industry. There are so many of them that collectively they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Another disturbing thing is seen in the book publisher's list. Night Shade Books was put on probabtion for violating book contracts. "In this case, “probation” means that although Night Shade Books remains on our official list of qualified SFWA markets, during the term of probation, acceptance for SFWA qualification of fiction contracted for publication by Night Shade is suspended." In other words, if your book was under consideration during the time these violations took place, and was accepted after the probation was set in place, then you get punished.

Just to add a little more anxiety to the publication process.

So what does this mean for me, personally? One, that I'm no nearer a SFWA membership than I was a few years ago, and my chances of ever qualifying are much slimmer than ever. That list of potential markets is quite short. Two, even if I do sell to a qualifying market, there is always the chance that it could suddenly become non-qualifying due to the way it treats someone else. Three, there are a lot of markets, both for short stories and for novels, which have little incentive to follow SFWA guidelines. Four, I know that if I self-publish my books, they will look good and be done right. Adding that up, self-publishing makes more sense than small press publishing.

I guess I better go publish some books!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Grammar, Miss Molly!

Dear Diary,

My WIP is stalled as I try to figure out the next section of the novel. This is mental work, not writing work. So while I do that, I shall work on a couple of other projects which have lain by the side too long. The first is a novel that is almost ready to submit somewhere -- I have one last pass of entering corrections to do -- plus the addition of some extra scenes. The other project is a self-published book that has a large number of errors, and these errors need to be corrected.

Many of these errors point up the difference between storytelling, which I am good at, and writing, which I am not good at. I tend to tell my stories in my speaking voice. Unfortunately, a speaking voice is not usually gramatically correct. We use inflection and facial expression to convey meaning in our speaking voice that is not there in the written word. Thus the written word needs to be more grammatically correct than the spoken word.

Thus stories must be combed over and over for gramatical mistakes.

I am working with two books which are as entertaining as they are useful. There is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook For The Innocent, The Eager, and The Doomed. Both are by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.

Please do not take the errors in this blog as evidence of the worthlessness of these books. I'm writing this blog in my natural voice. Take it instead that if these handbooks can clean up my writing, and they do, then they can help anyone!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stopping for Gas

Dear Diary,

The novel has hit a point, most definately, where I need to stop for gas. I know that many people have the advice that if you reach a spot where things aren't going well, then you should just push ahead. Keep writing. Don't lose the momentum.

This makes about as much sense as deciding that just because the needle is on empty, we should push ahead at full speed. Sometimes you just gotta stop for gas. And a bathroom.

I can feel that this is such a place. A major point has just happened, resolving some of the tension of the story. If I don't get more tension going, and soon, the story will flatline. Readers will put it down. Therefore, even as I am working through the fallout of the previous situation, I need to start building the next situation. My main character has been busy making enemies. It's now time for these enemies to start plotting his downfall.

Not just wishing for it. Actually plotting for it.

Meanwhile, he still needs to fall out of that tree. Figuratively, that is. He thinks he's in a safe place, right? Now he needs to find that he has enemies here, too.

Cue the dramatic music...


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bleah Day

Dear Diary,

Today was not a good day to write. I feel achey and bleah, and my story needs some bumps smoothed out before I can continue. Instead of writing, I am making brownies.

I also learned that a Russian porn blog has now linked to my installment novel. Um, it's not _that_ explicit!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sex and the Single Character

Dear Diary,

Today my story is stumbling. I'm having trouble figuring out how this scene gets to that scene, and an awful lot of what comes next. So what do my characters do? They take the opportunity to climb a tree and get naked with each other. This is a real problem because if I get the action going again, they are going to be buck-naked in the middle of it, and a little too fuzzy-headed for a quick response. And lets face it -- if they have to jump out the window and land on a horse, doing it naked is not the way to go!

Dangly bits get caught.

Serves 'em right for not behaving, doesn't it?

I know the mantra is that sex sells. But sex -- normal, uncomplicated sex, is boring. It's when things don't go according to plan that things get fun.

So maybe that's what I should do about this section. Maybe it shouldn't go according to plan. Maybe they should fall out of the tree.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Editing and Revision

Dear Diary,

Today I entered revisions for a short story. I am not finished, but my poor brain has turned to jelly. This is not only hard work, this is boring work. There is none of the wild excitement that comes from creating a new draft, of sending a character on an adventure that may turn out differently from the way you envisioned it. At this point everything is known. At this point, all that matters is the prepositions that dangle and the inappropriate passive voice.

And spelling. That matters, too. Spellchecker will not save you, btw. Those homonyms will get you everytime. There and their, too and to and two. I remember once reading a horror story where the characters were terrified when they came across a scull. And don't forget, its and it's.

Plus you've got to watch out for which and that.

It's enough to drive any mad writer sane, I tell you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maybe Not Rejected?

Dear Diary,

Yesterday I mentioned that I had received a rejection. That rejection was firm, complete with form statement that said, "We reject many strong stories..." It implied that my story was strong without actually saying so. But it was a clear rejection.

Then I learned that I may not have been rejected from the first market I sent it to. I probably have been, but I don't know for sure.

I had sent the story first to an anthology which closed almost two months ago. On Wednesday I found a listing of the contributors, so I assumed that it was the final list. But -- is it? Another submitter pointed out to me that the editor had promised that everyone who submitted would receive a definite notice of acceptance or rejection. I haven't received it, but then, emails do get lost.

On the other hand (but not the gripping hand) two other contributors also have not received word one way or the other.

So, we twist in the wind, our possibility of being accepted dwindling by the day, but still not free to send our stories to other markets.

The anthology is supposed to be published next month. If it is, and our stories are not in it, my companion points out, we can definatively say that we were rejected. It seems awkward, but sometimes, that's all you get.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I received a rejection. This is very, very, well, normal.

My response was to send them another story. Seeing as I had another suitable story in hand, it seems rediculous not to. When a market has rejected a story, the best thing to do is consider that market now open for submissions.

Of course I could sit here and agonize over why this story was rejected, and so quickly, at that. Did I have a word out of place? Not likely. Stories sell with typos all the time. Was it the wrong type of story? hard to tell -- it's a new market, and I don't have a good feel for what they want to buy. Their guidelines are fuzzy as to what they like, so no help there. Maybe I'm not a good enough writer -- highly possible, but I won't get better if I don't keep writing and submitting.

Maybe I'm on some sort of secret blacklist that editors pass about privately? Possible, but not at all probable. No, the most likely explanation is...

The editor didn't like it.

So I've got two choices -- either send it somewhere else, or take the time to HTML it properly (wow, verbs come from everywhere these days!) and give it away for free on my website. Which is easier?

So, where do I send a horror flash fiction with a humorous punchline?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Story Finished!

Dear Diary,

Today I finished my short story. It's perfect, absolutely perfect, just the way it was written. Every word is perfect. Every sentence is crystalline clear. No writing has ever been as fresh as this writing. I coould not, even if I needed to, change a single syllable.

This is, of course, the honeymoon period. If I put the story away for a few months, I will see that it can be improved. Must be improved. No way is it going to leave the house looking like that!

But for now, it is perfect, and I cannot wait to show it to someone. Any victim, er, alpha reader or listener will do. I have my finished story and I'm not afraid to share it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Writing Time Flu Away

Dear Diary,

Today I managed 238 words on a short story. I sqooze it in after making a dish for the potluck tonight and going to the potluck. It's been that kind of a day, all eaten up with chores and essential things. Such as getting a flu shot.

Flu shots are important for writers. In the popular vision of a writer, she works along in a turret, eating only delivered take-out food. She's not at risk for getting the flu or any communicable disease, as you can't get a disease if you never see people.

This is complete and utter fantasy. Most writers work in their spare time, in stolen minutes between work and family obligations. If they are lucky enough to be a supported spouse, then they get all the spouse care, child care, and pet care duties. More plots have been worked out in traffic than in the silence of a room. And when a writer gets the flu, those duties don't stop coming.

If a writer gets the flu, writing time is what is sacrificed. And recovering from the flu takes days -- or several weeks, for us asthmatics.

I'd rather give up a day or two of productivity, in the hopes of not losing a month.

Thus, while the flu shot

Monday, September 6, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I went over the galleys for "A Wall To Keep The World Out," the short story I sold to Sword and Sorceress 25. The anthology will on sale in October and is filled with really good stories, especially the one mentioned above, so hurry out and reserve your copy today!

Plug over. Hey, I have to earn my paycheck, you know.

Galleys are the writer's last chance to fix a story. It's the typeset book, with everything in place. The pages are all justified and prettied up. Everything's done but the printing. So the author(s) get one last chance to look through the story and discover, OMG, I have attributed Mike's sexual fantasy to Sue in chapter 26. So there's one last chance to do a quick name change on the sentence. This is also the last chance to discover the missing period and the unclosed quotation.

And that you mangled the name of the main character's home country in chapter three.

Going over galleys is time-consuming and more than a little boring. After all, you've been over this story half a dozen times before submission, and done a couple of readings of it in the weeks after submission. But they are _important._ Why? Because, one, there are Gremlins who get into typesetter's computers and change your text, ommiting letters and punctuation. Two, because you don't want older, more accomplished authors giggling at you. And three, most important -- you really don't want to see the fan fiction that will be sparked by Sue's strange fantasy. trust me on that.