My first brush with Rejectomancy

March 21, 2014

I’ve heard a lot about rejectomancy, the practice of puzzling over a rejection letter and trying to figure out what it means. I even critiqued a very fun story where the term was taken literally and the MC could always tell what was on somebody’s mind from any sort of rejection, be it verbal, electronic, or printed. But I guess I’ve never really gotten into the act until today, where I sorta tripped over it backwards.

I’m not going to share the market with you all, but it’s a pro market that takes science fiction and fantasy. I submitted ‘Tough Love’ to them a week ago, and got an email back this morning saying no thanks, it didn’t push enough boundaries for them, and actually suggesting that I read what they publish to get a better feel for it. (D’oh!) I did read a few stories from this market before I submitted, but I guess I didn’t pick up on how much they liked really weird stuff, or I put it out of my mind because I thought ‘well, I can’t tell how weird my own stories are.’ Maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but now that I’m really thinking about it, I have to admit that Tough Love is not particularly weird.

One of my Odyssey friends suggested that I should write something weirder next time, but I’m not sure if I can be weird on command. My natural inclination is just to not bother submitting to this market again until one of two things happens: either somebody else suggests them to me as a market for a particular story, or I spontaneously think, “Oh wow, this story is so weird I have to submit it to [Market]!”


Grinding through markets

March 1, 2014

First, a minor note: The official NaNoEdMo boards appear to be off-line for 2014. I’m still going to go for the 50 hours challenge, and Elizabeth Twist is apparently joining me. What about you?

Something else I’ve been working on lately is an item I put on my 2014 goals list: “Become familiar with plenty of possible markets.” I figured I needed to get organized for that, so I drew up a plan:

  1. Pick a good market search engine; I went with the Diabolical Plots Grinder¬†because it was free and I’ve heard good things about it.
  2. To start with, I’m working on a simple list of criteria: Markets that take fantasy of about 1600 words, at pro rates. The first two criteria are specifically because of ‘Tough Love’, the first story I started submitting after Odyssey, which I’ve been scrambling to find markets for. (I also wanted to focus on fantasy markets because I know of some good markets like Analog and Asimov’s that will take science fiction but not fantasy.)
  3. Working off the list that the grinder spit out, I visited the website of each and built my own spreadsheet, listing how familiar I feel with the market based on my own reading and secondhand news, if I’ve ever submitted to them before, general notes, and the various options and price structures for reading what they’ve published in the past, if any. A few of the entries on the list are one-time anthologies or magazines that haven’t published an issue yet, so I suppose with those I’d just have to read the submission guidelines and hope.

Having gotten this far, I should be able to dive into the actual reading soon. I’ve been enjoying the stories I’ve been reading out of Strange Horizons, as well as the usual magazines on my Kindle; Asimov’s and Analog had new issues out a week ago, and F&SF for March/April just hit the stands today. And I still have plenty of Escape Pod and PodCastle to catch up on!

Race score down one (for now,) Rejections count up one

January 17, 2014

Yesterday I got an apologetic form-letter rejection from Sheila Williams at Asimov’s, passing on ‘Return to Civilization.’ I think this is only the second rejection I’ve received since getting back from Odyssey, so I need to kick the submissions up as much as I can.

First step would be sending Return to Civ out again somewhere else. I’m thinking I could try Analog but I’m not entirely sure. I’ll try to get it submitted before the weekend is out. That’ll bring my race score up to three, and then I can see what I can do about getting ‘Gotta Have that Look’ or “Orpheus and the Cameraman” whipped into shape to submit too.

An Eagle Can’t Sit Waiting on the Wind

August 23, 2013

Well, I’ve been trying to get myself up into submissions gear again, after more than a year since I’ve submitted my work to a market (as opposed to applying for workshops, getting critiques, etcetera.) I set a goal of making a submission in August, which I might not make, just because I don’t want to send anything out that I know I can make better with a little more time.

I find a lot of good personal inspiration in certain country/pop songs, and when I came upon one particular number yesterday, I realized that it could serve as my anthem for submitting fiction. The song is a duet by Mel Tillis and Pam Tillis (who are father and daughter,) and it speaks to me about chasing your dreams instead of sitting around hoping that they’ll find you:

Of course, the big problem is telling the difference between “Waiting on the wind”, and the times that you really need to take a rest because your wings are way too tired. An eagle can’t fly all the time either, and taking off in a dead calm isn’t as easy as it looks.

IWSG: Facing rejection and accepting ‘as good as I can make it now’

August 7, 2013

Okay, it’s time for the August 2013 edition of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Apologies for not participating in July, but I was pretty ragged with Odyssey writing that week, and my blogging was down to the minimum.

It’s nearly two years now since I last submitted anything to a publishing market. At the time, I told myself that I needed to concentrate on the craft, but really, that was probably just my insecurity, finding a way to avoid rejection. Well, I’ve definitely learned a lot about the craft of writing, and I while I was at Odyssey a lot of people told me that I should be submitting a lot, that I was ready for it. Jeanne told me, Sheila Williams told me, Nancy Holder told me, I think Patricia Bray told me, the resident adviser told me and my fellow students told me. So I’m doing it. I’m going to submit again before August is finished, and I’ve set a tentative goal of reaching 42 new rejections in the year after I left Odyssey.

Part of what I’ll need to get me to that goal, as well as a willingness to face the rejection again, is a willingness to accept something short of an ideal perfection in my writing. Basically, if a story’s as good as I can make it right now, then it doesn’t get to sit on the hard drive for months as I learn more about writing; I pound the digital pavement and start sending it out. Yeah, I’m going to learn more about writing in the meantime, and use what I’ve learned to write better stories; maybe I’ll be able to revise something in between rejections, or maybe it’d be better not. But I can’t let the process bottleneck at the end. Keep writing, keep revising, keep submitting.

The story of ‘Atlanta Nights.’

August 17, 2011

This is a somewhat old story, but I just heard about it today, and I just had to share it right away!

Once upon a time, there was an evil vanity press called ‘PublishAmerica.’ In fact, they’re still around, and recently launched a new deceptive marketing campaign implying that they can pitch your book idea to JK Rowling, and it was a discussion thread about that I was reading on the SD message board which mentioned Atlanta Nights.

So, Atlanta would con naive and hard-working authors out of their money, and pretend that they were a traditional publisher with really high standards. (Of course, those of us who aren’t so naive know that with traditional publishers, the money goes the other way.) And they also said some really nasty things about how science fiction and fantasy writers know nothing about how to get published, or even how to write well – which was apparently payback because sci-fi and fantasy authors were leading the way in warning the naive masses about the PublishAmerica scam routine.

So, an author named James MacDonald came up with an idea for a stunt to do an expose on just how crappy a book PublishAmerica would take and gush about how it was the best thing ever. He recruited a bunch of writer friends to each write a chapter of a semi-coherent plot outline. Friends, the number of absolutely bone-headed ‘mistakes’ they deliberately crammed into this manuscript is something kinda wondrous to behold:

What have I been working on lately?

May 23, 2011

I thought I’d bring all of you up to speed on a few things.

  • The ‘Request for dedicated readers’ that I answered at is going fairly well – I’m up to around page 125 out of 184, so more or less on track for finishing by the end of the month. I’m liking the story so far, and hopefully I’ll have some helpful feedback to share with the author.
  • New smartphone apps! I’ve been learning some good tricks with NS Basic App Studio, and have completed little apps for date calculator, (figuring the difference in days between two dates or the date result of offsetting an input date by a particular number,) and a data collection front end that feeds into a web application back end. I’ll post some screen captures in a few days if I remember.
  • The Straight Dope Message Board short fiction contest went well, though I didn’t win in the voting. But I really like my story, which actually took the character of Lisa from Chatterboxes, which is fundamentally a speculative contemporary sci-fi book, and put her into an urban fantasy scenario, learning sorcery from a teacher who isn’t quite what she expected.
  • I’m a little behind on my goal of submitting a story a week this month – I’ve done two, and I want to make a few more revisions to the Landing based on my critique tracking results before sending it out again.
  • I’ve nearly finished the second out of three fandom chapter updates I wanted to make in May – this one is ‘Children of the Molecule’, my Roswell/Doctor Who crossover, which is finally drawing towards an end.
  • And I’ve written a new scene for ‘The Long Way Home’, with Naveli getting Ereyu as a pet ferret.
It actually looks somewhat impressive when I type it out in a list like that.

Strategies Seminar: Getting published.

May 7, 2011

I went to a seminar today on Strategies for getting published, co-presented by Brian Henry and Ryerson university. Basically, the event was a three-person panel featuring a well-known Canadian literary agent, a publishing director for Doubleday Canada, and the founder of a small Toronto-based publishing house, with Brian moderating.

There was some good stuff, which I’m still in the process of sorting through in my head. Each of the panel had their own introductory and closing remarks, but most of the session was Q&A from the thirty or so of us in the audience. A lot of it was stuff that I felt like I’d already heard before, but there were a few new viewpoints thrown in, and reinforcing the traditional wisdom on things like query letters and book doctors isn’t a bad thing – there’s a lot that I’ve heard once but hasn’t been reinforced, so it doesn’t fit in my head as ‘traditional wisdom.’

One good thing that was mentioned by Mike from Insomniac Press relates to this blog and the reason that I founded it in the first place… nearly a year ago? When’s my anniversary, anyway? Anyway, a few times, Mike mentioned the idea that the ‘net is like a lot of tiny little villages or other communities, and that for a writer of any kind to try to build an online audience for his writing, he needs to find the villages where people who’d want to read his books are already living, move in, and start building good relationships with the neighbors.

That’s the sort of thing that I want to do in my platform building, and though this blog is a good start in that direction, it isn’t the entire process. So, I guess I need to keep an eye out for online communities built by science fiction and fantasy readers, and start thinking of putting new content for readers (as opposed to writers) up on the Kelworth Files.

One other bit that pops to my mind was Marilyn Biderman, the agent, talking about her four-page writer’s agreement – how some agents don’t believe that ‘good fences make good neighbors’ and don’t have authors sign a contract, and that looking at some of the contracts in use she found glaring conceptual problems, including the frequent absent of a ‘sunset clause’ describing exactly what happens when the author and the agent wish to part ways. And it was interesting to hear Lynn Henry talk about the realities of championing an author based on a great query letter, when the book is one that will be a tough sell to the publisher’s marketing department.

Submitting stories

May 4, 2011

I submitted a science fiction story, ‘Harry and Mars’, to a magazine yesterday. I feel somewhat good about having actually gone and sent something in somewhere, but I’m also waiting for the rejection shoe to drop.

The magazine that I sent to is called “Title goes here”, and it seems like an interesting market. I found it through the Duotrope engine.

I’m not really sure if the story is where I want it to be, but I included it in my applications for Clarion and Clarion West, so I figured that it was worth a shot. Then again, Clarion and Clarion West both rejected me already, while Odyssey, which didn’t get a look at this story, put me on wait-list. Hmm.

In a weeks time, the critters get a chance to look at ‘Harry and Mars’, so I guess I’ll see what they think then. And it’s probably a good habit to not let myself wait for a piece to be perfected before I start sending it out, at least when it comes to short fiction. Maybe one editor will like something about a story that I might change if I get a chance to do another draft. It’s more important, in the long run, to be actually getting my work out there, instead of chasing after a shining diamond standard that might be an illusory and unreachable goal…

Right? What do you think??

Duotrope for the win, and other submissions stuff

December 31, 2010

So, one of the items I mentioned on my December goals list was ‘submit two short stories to publishers,’ and I’ve been putting that off. So I finally sat down to do it this afternoon after I got home from work, and I remembered that Elizabeth Twist had mentioned something about a new way to find markets in the Hamilton Nanowrimo lounge. (As well as Ralan, which may be very complete, but just always makes my eyes hurt to spend much time on.)

So – Duotrope! This is a very nifty little writer’s market site, with a submission tracker that lets you state where you’ve submitted what stories, what the response was and how long it took – and a search engine that lets you say what kind of story you’re looking for a market for and it comes back with a list of possibilities. The two of them are integrated, as well, so that you can tell the search engine to order results based on a good acceptance rate or quick response time, and it’ll use stats from other writer’s trackers to give you those results. Very cool.

I submitted the new rewrites of “The Landing” and “Wolves of Wyoming” to places with decent acceptance rates, and spent some time working on getting the formatting right for each of them. And then I came upon something else – this little article at sfwa about the proper way to calculate a word count.

Now, there’s some very good points to this. It makes sense to me that the ‘word count’ that an editor would be interested in would have very little to do with words as we understand them, but more with the characters/6 metric that they were using since back before there were computerized word counters. I hadn’t thought of the extra fudge factor designed to take account for short lines of dialog and estimate how many lines worth the text will cover – though of course that metric will vary based on how many characters per line you can fit in with your font and margins.

The ridiculous thing, to me, is the notion that we should still have to tote this magic number up by hand in the 21st century!

It seems like it should be possible to get an MSword macro to do all the logic for me – but I’m not quite sure if it can actually be done or how, because you’d need to make MSword VBA aware of the way the text is actually broken up into lines on the page. Is there actually some function or property for that?

Happy New year, everybody, and wishing us all great creative energy and focus (not to mention plenty of time,) in 2011.

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