Apr 30

Revision Redux

I recently had another story rejected. The editor forwarded the reviewer’s comments to me. I found a couple of valid concerns in them, but also some other types of concerns.

The biggest problem here is that the two reviewers found different reasons for rejecting the story. One loved the magic as portrayed, the other focused on that as his/her main reason for recommending rejection. The basic flaw they found in that regard is that they did not understand exactly how the magic works. My contention is that magic is, in fact, magic. It is somewhat mysterious by nature. In a short story, there is not enough time to be explicit about the inner mechanisms at work here. I am disappointed that a slush reader for a fantasy magazine does not realize this.

The other reviewer thought that a couple of transitions were too sudden. One in particular has the protagonist suddenly struck down. The suddenness of this episode is an essential part of the plot, in my estimation.

Thus, the quandary continues. To revise or not to revise. On these two points, I have to decide not to revise. I do think they are essential to the story. Other points raised will be incorporated into some changes in the wording in a couple of places to address them.

All in all, I think that this illustrates the dangers inherent in submitting stories. Slush readers have many other concerns than picking out subtle points in the story. They just don’t have time to deal with that. Their tastes also differ from one to another. Contradictory opinions are just part of the process that we have to accept.

I like to include a certain amount of subtlety in my stories. I think it enriches them. Making everything explicit and explained in great detail just damages the story. I do not like stories that do that. Leave something to my imagination, for Heaven’s sake.

I guess I will just keep submitting the story, with some revision, until I find an editor or slush reader that appreciates it.

Apr 24

Not to Revise — That is the Answer

A friend of mine over at Forward Motion offered some sage advice. “The story is going to have your name on it forever,” she said. Thanks, Dawn! That is something I had kind of lost sight of in all my dithering and insecurity. It IS my story, and I have to take ownership of it. Any changes to it need to conform to my vision of the story.

I submitted it to a new market over the weekend. Unchanged. It will live and die on its own, as it should.

In other news, I got a good start on my ghost story. Some interesting developments cropped up along the way to 1,063 words. I think the whole business of it being set on another planet will have to go. That would not contribute anything to the story except as window dressing. It’s going to be a good story without all that getting in the way. Got to get back to work on that.

Moving day for the Library is officially set for May 8. Pray for us. It’s going to be real but not very much fun. The outcome will be well worth it, though.

Sep 03

Considering Rewrites

Last night, I was looking over a story I am considering rewriting (provisionally titled “The Gravedigger’s Tale”), and I started wondering about how other people handle rewrites.

I usually just revise, rather than completely rewrite. After 2 or 3 revision passes, I print it out and do a manual edit and polish, then type that in. Only occasionally do I actually start over and redo a story from scratch.

I did that recently with “Now or Forever” after receiving some very good input from my critique group at Forward Motion. I printed out the version on hand, moved it to my Elephant’s Graveyard folder, and started with a blank document. Then I rewrote, incorporating the parts I wanted to keep from the original. I feel like that made it a much stronger story with a much better chance at life outside my imagination.

I think I am going to do the same thing with “The Gravedigger’s Tale”. It is one of my more successful Story-a-Day entries from back in May, and I really like it. It has serious problems, though, and I think it is probably a good idea to start fresh with the idea and salvage the parts that do work.

The problem I have with working this way is that I feel like I failed on the first draft and wasted my time and work, etc., etc. I know those are fallacies, but it is an attitude that is ingrained into my personality. One of those things I really have to work on. Maybe this is a good way to fight that.

How do you handle rewrites? Do you really rewrite or do you revise the existing first draft? Please help me satisfy my ‘satiable curiosity.

Aug 28

Just One Chance

I was reflecting yesterday about the differences between novels and short stories. I am a short story writer who is trying to write a novel, and those differences are important to me.

One of the biggest things is the chance to revise. With a novel, you get the chance to revise to editorial direction in most cases. Sure, you have to get it good enough to get accepted, which is plenty hard to do, but it does not have to be absolutely perfect in all regards. An editor or agent will have some input into the final product. Potential and professionalism in presentation matter most. The editor and/or agent will help get the final high sheen of polish on it.

With short stories, I don’t have that luxury. One chance is all I get, and editorial direction is virtually nonexistent. I have to be my own editor. That is the nature of the product, of course. A short story is, by nature, somewhat ephmeral, and editors just do not have time to invest in working with writers to get it right, especially since so many magazine, e-zine, and anthology editors are either volunteers or get paid a pittance for their time. It’s their job to get the work out the door efficiently and on time.

This is one of the things that makes writing short stories so difficult. I won’t say more difficult than novels, because I know better than that. Both are difficult, just in different ways. It is also neither fair nor unfair, and I am not complaining, just contemplating.

It’s not my choice to write short stories; it’s the way my mind works. I think in small ways, in details — succinct thoughts instead of grand, sweeping visions. It’s the way I’m wired. Is that a gift or a curse? Maybe both at once.

Back to polishing. I have two stories I want to get out the door over the long weekend: “The Dying of the Light” and “What Dreams May Come”. Both good ones. I hope they are good enough.

Aug 02

98

The countdown to 100 rejections continues. I received my 98th this morning.

The editors had some good things to say about the story (“That Others May Live” [The link is to a snippet of a previous version. Some of it has changed since then.]) and pointed out what might be the major flaw. More thought and more work is needed on this one, I think. I think I also know how to fix that flaw. I will be contemplating the technical details on that over the weekend.

In other news, Barbara has awarded me the Brilliante Weblog award. Thanks, Barbara! That is quite an honor, and I appreciate it very much. Now I just have to find seven bloggers to pass it on to. That is going to be tough, considering how many really high-quality blogs I read. It may take a few days to decide.

Jun 03

Washed in the Blood Redux, Redux, redux, etc….

I purposely refrained from working on Washed in the Blood for a couple of months now. I really felt I had to let it get out of my mind for a little while so I could think clearly about it. That turns out to have been a really good idea.

The real problem is that opening scene. Still. But I now know how to fix it, in general. the specifics are still driving me to distraction. I have not been able to get a firm grasp on a good, story-driven scene that will grab a reader’s attention and raise the story questions that I need to raise up front.

I am taking my annual mini-retreat the weekend of June 20, and that is Number One on my list of things to work on. I am optimistic that I can get this worked out to my satisfaction and start moving forward on the revision.

I still love this story and believe in it, in spite of all the horrors it has inflicted upon my psyche. I think it’s a story that needs telling, not just told by me but told for the rest of the world. That may be the kiss of death: the proverbial Book of the Heart that brings shudders to the soul and tears to the eyes of every agent and editor. We’ll see. Even if it winds up in my desk drawer, it will at least have been writtten.

May 27

But…

I’m not going to make my goal of ten stories for the Story-a-Day Challenge at Forward Motion. I only got five done and uploaded. I do have two more underway, but I won’t have time to finish them.

BUT

I’m okay with that. Of the five uploaded stories and two unfinished, five of them contain the seeds of compelling stories, and one more niggles at my imagination in a way that tells me I’ll see it again some day, probably in disguise.

At the same time, I joined a crit group at FM that has already pushed me to finish a story that has been hanging fire forever (“What Dreams May Come”). A couple more are waving from the wings. Doing crits has possibly helped me more than anything else to learn about craft. Studying others’ work is an excellent way to get to know my own. I have missed that over the past couple of years.

All things considered, I am quite pleased with the Merry Month of May.

Jan 21

Subs Galore

I currently have 12 short stories in submission. To the best of my knowledge and belief, this is the most I have ever had out at one time. Here’s hoping some (or all!) of them can find a home.

Work on Washed in the Blood v.2 continues. I have finished revising through Chapter 2 and am beginning Chapter 3 today. You may notice the progress meter jump significantly from time to time. That’s when I copy and paste from v. 1 to v. 2. It will also go retrograde occassionally as I rearrange and delete as necessary to make things fit.

Revision is a lot more like real work than composing was. So many details to keep up with. Consistency flaws to set right. Subplots to weave in. It’s really hard for me. I would much rather be concentrating on creativity than the nuts and bolts, and it’s hard sometimes to keep from jumping over to work on another project.

What is keeping me going is the opportunity to exercise creativity in adding scenes and editing the existing scenes to make them stronger. That part is really fun.

I’m starting to dread the second revision, though. That’s where things get down to strictly nuts and bolts. The story has to be complete by then and pretty much set in stone. I foresee major battles as my Muse decides that this or that has to be done to enhance or improve things. I’ll have to fight to keep out of the endless revision cycle.

Maybe I can promise myself work on a new project as a reward for getting this one done and out the door. I have several in the idea stage that I can get excited about very easily.

Enough chatter. Work calls. Mayhem must ensue.

Nov 15

How To Ruin a Novel

Very seldom will I invest enough time and energy to get halfway through a novel and then put it down and walk away. I have too many books in my TBR stack to put a whole lot of effort into a book that doesn’t helod my interest. In the present case, though, I’m going to have to abandon my attempts to plow through my current reading. It’s not bad writing or a boring or trite story or bad characters that is driving me away from this one. There is a much more obvious problem with this book: copyediting.

The novel is Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harris. She has written a good, fast-paced story populated with interesting characters. The main character, Rachel Mariana Morgan, is a witch. She is also a most painfully human character full of self-doubt, often confused by life, as are we all, and prone to the same misjudgements and misunderstandings that plague every person alive. She is funny, aggravating, bull-headed, sensitive, and very vulnerable. I really like her, and I would really like to be able to finish her story, but the quality of the editing is so poor that I cannot.

Someone has done Ms. Harris a serious disservice. The book is riddled with dropped words, doubled words, and several sentences in which the edited text is inter-mixed with the text that it was supposed to have replaced. The net result is a very rough read in which I am constantly tripping over weird sentences and having to go back to puzzle out their sense. The constant interruptions have kept me from falling into the story and, as a result, Every Which Way But Dead will fall by the wayside.

This is a most unfortunate situation for Ms. Harris, or for any writer. While she is certainly not to blame for this foul-up, she has to carry the responsibility. It is her name that will be forever associated in readers’ minds with poorly-edited books. She is the one who has to take the hit on future sales. It’s her reputation that is being slimed. Hell, no, it’s not fair. Hell, no, it’s not right. Unfortunately, it’s the way the writer’s world works.

One thing every writer has to face sooner or later is the fact that the game is rigged. The deck is stacked, the cards are marked, and the other players have aces up their sleeves. Writers are harried by deadlines and stressed by finances. The work is often hard, sometimes painful, and always demanding. Writing the book is only the first part. The writer also has to shepherd her work through the entire publication process. A hands-on approach is the only way that will work. As I said above, it’s the writer’s name on the book, it’s the writer’s reputation on the line. Attention to detail is mandatory.

I certainly hope that Ms. Harris has already raised Holy Hell about this. If not, now’s the time to start. Taking this kind of hit because of someone else’s sloppiness is unacceptable, and the consequences can be dire.

Mar 27

Attack of the Infernal Editor

My internal editor has been very active this weekend, throwing up all kinds of barriers. He even brought up incidents that happened when I worked at the prison, which I left nearly a year ago. Fortunately, I’m on to his tricks now and on guard for distractions. In spite of all his best efforts, I got another 300 words on “Wolf Moon”. Finished Scenes 2 and 3 and started Scene 4. Scene 3 is very short and may not survive the recision. Out of 7 projected scenes, I have finished 4 (the ending is already written) and started on another. The Finish Line is in sight!

In Other News

Cemetery Dance rejected TYSBAS without comment. Score: 27-8, Avg.: .296

Rejections still bother me. I hope they always do. Even though a rejection may not mean a story is flawed in some serious way, it does mean that this story did not knock this editor’s socks off. That means I still have room for improvement. Rejection = incentive to work harder and learn more.

Now I have to find my marketing notes and see who’s next on the list.