Saturday, January 31, 2009

More on rejections

I ran my rejection passed a few people who have more experience with submissions than I do. The general consensus seems to be that the letter is a good sign that might mean I'm close to breaking into that particular market. However, one comment caught me off-guard. It was the suggestion that "personalized" letters are nothing of the sort. Rather, they're form letters in which the author's name and story title are inserted. As much as I had admit it, that makes sense. I'll have to wait until I get another rejection from that market (which I'm sure will happen sometime this year) to see whether it says the same thing.

In other news, I'm having a hell of a time revising the top of the first chapter of what will probably end up being a novel. First attempt was all description and no action. Second attempt started in the action but not at the pivotal point. Now I'm going into attempt three. Hopefully this time I can get it right.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rejected but not dejected

I got a rejection letter in the mail today from a professional market, and I have to say it's the nicest rejection I've received so far. Without saying who sent it (although it was the editor), here's what it said:

Many thanks for submitting "Pale," but I'm afraid this one's not for me. I didn't connect with this SF western, alas. Thanks anyway for sending it my way, and best luck to you with this one.

The editor got the name of the story wrong. Beyond that, though, I'm hoping it wasn't just blowing smoke. It sounded to me like "Cowboy Jake and the Moon Men" is good (he sounded slightly regretful, even) but the story doesn't hit the bull's eye on what this particular editor is looking for. I'm going to send the story out again tomorrow with hopes for better luck with a different editor. And I'll try this market again when I feel I have a story worthy of it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Description

Jenny Rappaport had an interesting post today about the ideal length of debut fantasy novels. Good information to have. What I found more helpful, though, from a pure writing standpoint was her short lesson on how to write description. Here's what I took away from it: If you feel an overwhelming urge to describe things, the least you can do is blend it into the action of the narrative.

Take this sentence: Piles of trash littered the alley, and laundry hung from cords strung between windows.

Now this one: Cynthia picked her way among piles of trash and ducked laundry that had been hung to dry on cords strung between windows.

Neither of those are great sentences, but the second one is much more interesting to me because there's action. The character, Cynthia, is doing something. Even better would be if Cynthia tripped over some trash and got tangled in the laundry, showing her clumsiness. Or if she stole a shirt that caught her eye.

I'm not a fan of lots of description. In critiques of my stories, I've often been told I should describe how the characters look or what they're wearing or tell more about the room their in. My take on that is, does any of that information (a) advance the plot or (b) add meaningfully to character development? If it doesn't, I don't include it.

Does it matter whether my main female character has blue eyes? As far as I'm concerned, no, unless the main male character thinks her eyes remind him of the sea near where he grew up. Then it's character development.

So if you use description, make it useful to your narrative. Otherwise, ask yourself if you really need it at all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tally for a Saturday

Story rejections in the mail: 1

Stories that were rejected and sent right back out: 1

Stories being tweaked for critique: 2

Times the baby woke up last night: 3

Times 4-year-old woke up: 1 (and ran into the baby's room waking her up, too)

Hours of sleep: 6

Cups of coffee so far: 1 (amazingly)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday

Fridays don't mean as much to me as much of the world because my work week starts on Thursday. Oh well. It's also probably a bleak day for the people who work one floor down from me in the Rocky Mountain News newsroom. Today is the deadline for Scripts accepting bids for the newspaper.

In other news, I finished another short story last night. I wrote over two days, and I'm proud of it. This one is direct and uncomplicated, which is something lacking in some of my other stories. I just need a title and an edit, and it'll be ready for critique hell. OK, I say that but critiquing is a valuable process that helps flag problems big and small before I send a story out on submission. Don't ever underestimate the value of an outside opinion.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What I love about reading

I absolutely love the joy and excitement of discovering a new author. When I say new, I mean someone I have never read before, not necessarily someone who is publishing their debut novel (although sometimes it can mean that, too). I've had that experience this week. The author in question: Janet Evanovich.

Ms. Evanovich doesn't write in my comfort zone of fantasy and sci-fi. She writes romance and mystery and has done so for many years. Because I have a red-faced embarrassment about reading the former genre (that's just me, folks, I'm sure there are a zillion wonderful romance novels I'm missing out on), I picked up a novel of the latter genre.

"One for the Money" is the first in a long series. I read the first chapter online at Ms. Evanovich's website and what hit me more than anything is her writing style. She is conversational, quirky and witty. What she doesn't do is take herself seriously. The best comparison I can come up with is Robert Aspirin without the shameless punning.

So I'm hooked. I'm halfway through "One for the Money" and I'm sure will move on after to every other book in the series.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolution time

Here are the writing goals I have for 2009:
-- Finish at least one short story every month.
-- Enter the Writers of the Future contest every quarter.
-- Submit stories! And when the rejections come back, resubmit.
-- Continue to do a lot of critiquing of others' work.

I would put down something like "get published," but I really have no control over that. All I can do is write the best stories I can and hope I catch the attention of an editor. Or several.

I am going to try a new way of writing this year. I've often found that I can dictate a story to myself in my mind, but when I sit down to write it, everything I had come up with has floated away. So I now have a digital recorder, and I'm going to "write" verbally and then transcribe. We'll see if I can improve quantity and quality that way.