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Author Topic: AB's Writing Again  (Read 5290 times)
alwaysblack
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« on: September 29, 2013, 02:45:08 AM »

Thought I'd start one of these writing diary threads to keep me honest.

After reading about SBC-B's concerted efforts and subsequent successes yesterday I found an hour to rattle off a 350 word sci-fi flash that's been squatting in the mind-cupboard. It's tentatively called "The Presentation" but I'm hoping to think of a better title for it.

Shared the Google doc with a few writerly friends for comment, which I've never done before but I must say I'm really impressed with the way Google have put that whole thing together.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2013, 07:30:24 AM by alwaysblack » Logged

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2013, 08:30:29 AM »

Positive comments from my friends on my short short so time to look for somewhere to send it. Thanks very much to Scattercat for pointing me in the direction of The Submissions Grinder. thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/Default.aspx

Going to take time pore over it tonight.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2013, 07:30:53 AM by alwaysblack » Logged

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2013, 08:54:07 AM »

Here's a question, seeing as only a minority of markets take reprints are these ever going to be the first places to send unpublished work?
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2013, 04:22:17 PM »

So Submissions Grinder turns out to be a candidate for the best thing ever award. For my probe story (348 words, sci-fi), here's what it told me:

1. Tor.com

Tor pays far and away the best price at $0.25 a word, which would bring $87 if my story was accepted. This is like two to five times more than the nearest competitors, I wonder how they do that? The down side is it has a 3 month average response time.

2. Markets Paying Around 8 cents a word (would bring about $28 for my story)

These are:

Strange Horizons (16 days response time average)
Daily Science Fiction (22 days response time average)
Asimov's (56 days response time average)
Analog (159 days response time average)

3. Markets Paying 5 cents a word (would bring $17 for my story)

These are:

Escape Pod (28 days average response time)
Buzzy Mag (42 days average response time)
Orson Scott Card's (51 days average response time)
Flytrap (Seems to be brand new market, no data on response time)
The Electronic Voice Phenomenon (SG doesn't have any data on this one)

So the question seems to be, am I willing to wait longer in the hope of getting a better price?

Seeing as this is a learning exercise, I think I'm going to prefer speed of response over trying for the tor.com jackpot. This would suggest going for Strange Horizons first ($28, 16 days), then Daily Science Fiction ($28, 22 days) should that get a rejection. The third target in the list should be Escape Pod, but it's notable that EP is the only market in this list that accepts reprints. Being accepted by Escape Pod discounts selling the story again in another market, where the reverse is not true. So I think Asimov's comes in third ($28, 56 days), followed by Buzzy Mag ($17, 42 days) , Orson Scott Card's ($17, 51 days).

That puts this story in play (assuming rejection by everyone) for the next six months, which is long enough for experimental purposes. I'll try out the Strange Horizons submission process tomorrow.
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SBC-B
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2013, 03:10:43 AM »

I applaud your approach, and wish you the best of luck. Keep us posted!
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Varda
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2013, 08:42:09 AM »

Keep in mind that many markets that publish flash fiction pay a flat rate instead of per word for anything under a certain word count. For example, I believe Escape Pod pays a flat $20, which in your case is more than you're calculating. Submissions Grinder is fantastic for getting a quick and dirty estimate, but don't forget to visit the websites directly to see where the cutoff point is for the payment-by-wordcount.

Re: Tor.com. HOLY CRAP, they pay a lot!
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Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
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alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2013, 08:46:50 AM »

Ah yes, I've noticed that while reviewing the submissions guidelines at Strange Horizons, this lunchtime.

Tor really is anomalous,  I'm starting to think there's a mistake somewhere. Even if they can afford to pay that I wonder why they choose to.
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2013, 03:24:47 PM »

Thanks, SBC-B! (Sorry, I missed your response earlier, for some reason my phone shows some posts in really tiny text).

One piece of advice I've read that definitely makes sense to follow is to examine the submission guidelines carefully.  Looking at Strange Horizons guidelines (http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction.php), they seem pretty straightforward,  although there's a distressingly comprehensive list of plots they don't want (http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml). This could be a snag, as my story could feasibly match one of the vaguer ones.

This presents a bit of a quandary. Should I skip Strange Horizons because my story could be interpreted as falling into one of their 'don't want' categories?  Or is it just nerves and paranoia on my part? It isn't quite the same as their specification,  but is it close enough that a first reader will just dismiss it?

I guess I'll risk it, with the shortest response time I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Strange Horizons have their own online submission form that nattily formats manuscripts to their liking so I don't have to worry about making sure my text conforms to a  complicated template.  So it's Save As .rtf, for my story, sporting its shiny new title "The Engine of Change", fill in the contact details and we're away.

I should get a confirmation of receipt autoresponse in 48 hours.

Also, Submissions Grinder lets you enter your submissions, a handy way to remember dates and things (something I'm notoriously bad at).
« Last Edit: October 01, 2013, 03:32:11 PM by alwaysblack » Logged

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2013, 03:46:53 PM »

OK, that was quick, confirmation received:

Quote
Dear Ian Shanahan,

This is a note to let you know that we've received your story.

This is an automated response, but it contains important information; please read all of it.

If you haven't read our full submission guidelines (at the URL given below), please take a few minutes to read them now. (Last significant guidelines update: 1 February 2013.)

If you want to contact us, send email to <email address>, which goes to all of the current fiction editors. All correspondence about fiction should go to that address.

Note that we can't consider multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions. Please don't send us another story until we accept or reject this one, and don't submit this story anywhere else until we accept or reject it. If this story is currently under consideration elsewhere, please let us know immediately.

Regarding response times and when to query:

For your story's status, see the following URL (may not show status until a couple of days from now):

http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-story-status.php

We always respond to submissions within 40 days; if you haven't heard back from us by 40 days from now, then query immediately. Please don't wait longer than 40 days to query. We really mean this; there is never any benefit to waiting longer than 40 days to query.

Sometimes our responses to stories get marked as spam, so keep an eye on your junk mailbox.

Cue up to 40 days of obsessive in-box checking...
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
Varda
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2013, 04:14:04 PM »

Good luck!! Strange Horizons does have very fast turnarounds in my experience, although I've only gotten rejections. I would assume they'll hold it toward the end of that 40-day range if they like it.

Since I'm on a similar quest for publication, here's a tip: if your story starts accumulating enough rejections that you start to feel discouraged, try Andromeda Spaceways (assuming your piece fits the criteria of what they buy). While their pay is less than the markets you're targeting, and turnaround time is not super quick, their slush readers and editors will tell you exactly why they're rejecting it, and often provide advice on how to improve it. Submitting to them was a big turning point for me as they made several observations that helped me grow as a writer, and improve my pieces for future markets.
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alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2013, 04:30:06 PM »

Ah, thanks for that, that's a good tip. Actually, finding someone reliable to give me feedback is on my things to do list. I've got friends who'll look at my stuff, but they're a bit shy about telling me what they think is wrong with, bless 'em.

You know, I don't know if it's my age or something, but I really don't feel so fragile in the ego department this time around. When I first thought about writing genre fiction and getting it published it was before the days of the internet and everything was dumber, slower and harder then. What I've found out and acted upon in a week would've taken weeks, if not months and I'd probably have sent it to the publication least likely to accept it and the longest to tell me so, because how else were you supposed to know? And I'd have agonised over it to the point I'd probably have convinced myself it was no good anyway and not bothered.
 
Since then, I had some success with a couple of magazine articles (videogaming features), nearly ten years ago now, and that seems to have cured me of the self-doubt about my writing. This time it feels a lot more like something that's just interesting to get involved with and try out, even if it's just a form rejection!
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2013, 07:05:02 AM »

So while I'm waiting to hear about that, might as well get on with some writing, eh? I'm feeling the need to talk about what I'm doing on here, if that's OK. It'll probably help to keep the threat of the PUBLIC SHAME OF INCOMPLETION in the goad bag.

I wasn't sure how to make this interesting to read without actually publishing any of the writing, so I thought I'd post something about /how/ I'm intending to organise my writing. I know everyone is different in how they approach writing, so this is just something that I've been thinking about for a while that I think might work for me.

In the past my biggest problem writing fiction has been keeping the overall structure in line. I could churn out something pretty well, if I sat down and went for it from start to finish but this was always a hit or miss approach. I was writing without a map to tell me where to go, so it was always pot luck if I ended up somewhere interesting.

Recently I've been figuring out the best techniques to use to create that map and this is my current process (subject to change without notice):
1. Strapline
2. Outline
3. Snowflake
4. Writing Plan

These are all bastardised techniques I've borrowed from various places and joined together with copper nails and tiny hammers.

1. Strapline - or maybe logline, or whatever you want to call it. This is basically the story I want to write in one sentence. Or maybe two. Not a good sentence, mind you, but the number of times I've got halfway through something and realised I'm writing something completely different to what I intended to write are too numerous to admit to. Ok, sometimes what i ended up with was not terrible, but often i read over the current project and wonder what the hell happened to that cool idea i started with. The strapline acts as a fixed point to take a bearing on, if I find I've written myself into the woods. It usually takes this form:

"Adjective Protagonist verbs Objective, Antagonist (or Antagonistic Force) verbs in their way."

You can express pretty much any story in this way, and I'm pretty sure that the 'success' of a story depends on how clearly the reader has understood this as your intention when he/she is done reading.  More tomorrow.
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2013, 05:54:17 AM »

To do the "outline" step, I use the 8-point arc that Nigel Watts describes in How to Write a Novel, which was a real revelation for me when I first read it. It really helped me understand what a story was and why some of my cack-handed efforts at longer form fiction were so irretrievably broken.

With the logline in mind, I write out a paragraph for each of the eight steps in Watts' arc. From this exercise I get ideas for characters, locations, and an inkling as to how the story can be temporally structured.

Next, each character is considered, one at a time, with a rough couple of pages of notes for things that might be useful, physical description,  personality quirks, likes and dislikes etc.  In the midst of this, they usually get a David Freeman-esque character diamond, but this is more of a useful reminder than a real attempt to incorporate his methods.

That completes my outline step for a story, more tomorrow.

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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2013, 06:18:47 AM »

The next thing I do is use a sketchy form of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method. I take the skeleton from my eight point arc, put the characters in and mess with the chronology until it I've got a series of numbered paragraphs that briefly explains what happens in the story, step by step. At this point I can evaluate whether it's going to work or not, make adjustments and changes. The end result is what I call the 'writing plan' for the story.

Actually writing it is a much freer affair, but the writing plan provides a pretty good map for getting from one end to the other without drifting too far off course. What techniques do you use?
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2013, 02:20:39 PM »

I mentioned in another thread about writing a collection of independent stories that are tenuously linked by a single setting that progresses in the background. This idea stems from a desperate New Year’s resolution I made in January, to write one reasonable length short story a month for the duration of the year. I know, it’s October.

Writing time is limited, so the idea was to set each story in the same setting, meaning any research or definition I did for the ‘world’ would continue to be useful for the other stories too, and I wouldn’t be starting from scratch each time.
The idea that the world itself can be following an arc and knowledge of it is optional to the understanding of the story is one that intrigues me. I see it like those Star Wars anthologies that pick up on minor characters from the movies and flesh out what happens to them.

Take Star Wars as an example, here’s the rough arc from Luke’s POV:

1. Stasis - Poor farm boy dreams of escape while beyond his backwater the universe is at war.
2. The Trigger - He acquires some escaped droids and gets Leia’s message.
3. The Quest - Rescue the princess.
4. Surprises - All that stuff that happens.
5. Critical Choice - Luke chooses to follow the Force.
6. Climax - Death Star is destroyed
7. Reversal - Luke transforms from backwater farmboy into Jedi knight.
8. Resolution - Everyone gets medals and lives happily ever after.

...so a collection of stories that happens inside this arc could be:

1. Story about the trials and tribulations of moisture farmers, with Luke as a minor character whining in the background. (stasis)
2. Story about a Jawa’s life aboard a sand crawler, ending on the sale of the droids to uncle whatsisname. (trigger)
3.  Story that details Han’s failed smuggling trip and his subsequent problems with Jabba, Greedo, ending on meeting up with Luke and Ben and whizzing off into the sky. (quest)
4. Numerous opportunities present themselves in the middle part, stories about tie fighter pilots, what it’s like to be a Death Star stormtrooper, life in the final days of Alderaan etc. (surprises)
5. A poignant tale about a torture droid working his last day before retirement, ends on the Death Star getting blown up.
6. Story about a rebel technician that interweaves around events in the war room as the assault on the Death Star takes place
etc, etc.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Currently, for my own collection, I have the main arc sketched out (not Star Wars) and I’m working my way through to writing plans for 12 stories that fit into this main arc, of which I have four and a half complete.
The schedule is to have eight plans complete by the end of the month. At this point I’ll be jumping on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon to churn out the actual writing in the evenings, trying to keep to the NaNo wordcount requirements and spending the two half-hour slots I get in the daytime to complete the writing plans for the remaining four stories. At the end of November I should have first drafts of 12 stories and pretty rotten case of nervous exhaustion.
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2013, 08:48:27 AM »

I've written 7 outlines so far, in preparation for November's wordcount drive.

Working titles:

1. Murder on the Disaffected Daisy
2. Jalaan and The Spire
3. The Stinging Tree
4. Sacrifice
5. Revenge
6. Savage Beast
7. Metamorphosis

One more to complete before the end of the month.

In other news, tomorrow will be 16 days since I submitted Engine of Change to Strange Horizons (the average response time), so I'm expecting to hear from them any day after that.

Not holding out much hope, their SG acceptance rate is less than 1%!
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2013, 04:00:10 AM »

Quote
Dear Ian Shanahan,
Thank you for submitting "The Engine of Change" to Strange Horizons, but we've decided not to accept it for publication.We appreciate your interest in our magazine.
--Lara Donnelly
So it goes. Ah well, time to send it off to the next one on the list.
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
Varda
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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2013, 06:44:29 AM »

Boo! Hiss! A rejection letter on a Saturday morning! Hope you have better luck on the next one.

Hey AB, have you considered joining the in-house crit group here? I know you've mentioned wanting to find people to give you feedback, and I've personally gotten a lot out of crits on my own stuff, and seeing what people suggest on others' stories as well. Just a thought. Smiley
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Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
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alwaysblack
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Posts: 76



« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2013, 01:27:48 PM »

Reading around, I kinda got the impression it was dormant. Is my information out of date?
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"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"
Varda
Rebound
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Posts: 2709


Definitely not an android.


« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2013, 02:56:02 PM »

I'd call it sleepy, but definitely not dead yet. I only joined about a month ago, and have found it really helpful. You should PM Eytan if you want to join us. Smiley
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Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
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