Who Wants Your Fiction? Be Sincere With Yourself.

28 01 2015

For beginning writers, I cannot say loud enough or enough times: read the publications. All of them. Including Cat Fancy.

It also goes for published, aspiring professional writers. Read all the professional level publications. Not all the way through; just enough to know what their editors are looking for.

Everyone else says this, too.

I don’t recall ever being told what I’m about to tell you.

First, here’s what I learned and how I learned it.
I was tempted for years to go out and conquer all the pro level publications. If I am a professional, I figured, I should be able to published anywhere. So many big names seem to swagger from ToCs of “F&SF” to dark erotic anthologies to cute YA publications! Surely that flexibility is a hallmark of the true writer.
Such things are not working for me.
There are publications I would not read for fun. There are publications which I find to be holy shrines where I slap myself in the forehead and say “Oh God, what is this?” Plots where little seems to happen, or are lists broken by typesetting and layout, or blatantly not in their professed genre.
Many times I thought “Ha! The style of this pub is such piddling stuff! I can write a story and show them up!”
Don’t do it! Don’t! I wasted so much time doing this.
While spite has gotten me out of bed more times than I can count, I can only write what I want to read.
I found through enough rejection letters and workshop crits that if I didn’t like writing the story, no one will like reading it.
The first ten years of writing for me was not only finding my style, but also finding my audience, then becoming comfortable with the results of that style.
You will find an editor who will respond to what you write and give you advice. Keep sending to that editor. If that editor buys what you write, keep sending to that editor. Do not bother to send to others just to see if you can “get in”.
Learning to write publishable work means finding what you like to write, the ways to write it, and what rules you can break to create your own style. It also means finding the venues which best suit your style.

So: Finding your editors will be just as important as learning how to seize attention with your opening line.





“The Flesh Sutra” is ON PRELIM BALLOT for the Stoker Awards

21 01 2015

 

Originally, I thought “short list” and “ballot” were two different things. Headline was a bit over enthusiastic.

It’s still an honor to have impressed the judges. That alone makes the effort worthwhile.

http://www.locusmag.com/News/2015/01/2014-bram-stoker-preliminary-ballot/





Another Great Reader Review For “The Flesh Sutra”

20 01 2015

From Eric Stephenson:
“Wow! Really enjoyed reading this … dark, twisted and very well written! Would HIGHLY recommend if you enjoy a good macabre story!!”





A Question, A Feeling, and Maybe It’s Crap. Interview: Author Kij Johnson, Writer-in-residence

16 01 2015

Interview: Author Kij Johnson, Writer-in-residence.

A very reassuring interview with an innovative, thoughtful professional shows how established writers wrestle with the same worries as the beginner.

Like Body Horror? Look up her story “Spar.”





“The story I am working on may suck and that’s okay.”

15 01 2015

The two main reasons I procrastinate are “Fear of Failure” before I write and “Trying To Be All Things” after the first draft.

Both have dogged me in humor writing, writing horror, writing blog posts, and — if the Japanese concept of “Do” is applied here — in my life in general.
It takes effort for me to trick myself out of these mindsets which cause the procrastination. Here’re some things that have worked for me.
“Fear of Failure”: I joined a comedy group when I was at college and I went a full year without writing anything or performing on stage. The other performers were very patient. The problem was that I imagined that I had to be the greatest thing ever to happen to comedy. I imagined that my entire reason for existence was to be the greatest comedian-humorist the planet ever produced.
The same problem happened with writing prose. That story I was working on had to be the one to set the world on fire.
Immature and self-absorbed? Hell, yes. At the same time, I was terribly self-critical. If what I did wasn’t received enthusiastically, I would despise my effort.
How did I get around that chronic insecurity?
I started small. I showed what I wrote to a few friends whose opinion I respected. A writing group is good for that, whether face-to-face or online. I got to realizing that writing and performing were learned skills (yes, one can teach “art” and “writing” and “acting”). I didn’t expect a man who was leaning to play piano to bang out a concerto or write a symphony in the first month or even the first years, did I?
Art is a dialogue. You learn from it while doing it. You learn more by showing it to others. Then you write another story. All writers have stories that didn’t work and bursting trunks full of half-baked ideas.
When I read slush for Weird Tales, I was told by the editors that even Big Name Authors submitted stories that made the staff scratch their heads.
So I allowed myself to fail.
To get around “Fear of Failure” I remind myself “The story I am working on may suck and that’s okay.”
Related to that…
“Trying To Be All Things”
Sometimes I come up with an idea for a story or sketch and I get that rush of inspiration. The first draft goes well. I “cast” my story with people I know and tweak those people to fit the plot needs and discover the characters still worked. The ending has a satisfying conclusion, whether it be funny or bleak or whatever. The theme that emerges doesn’t make me too uncomfortable.
Who am I kidding! Those things never happen in the draft stages!
Because that first idea will lead to another idea and another, and I want to include several generations of ideas in the story. Or I’ll read a blog that I agree with about how there’s already way too much stuff out there that’s This Thing, and there needs to be more That Thing. By this time the tone is vibrating between “body horror” and “commentary about the US surveillance state” and “post-modern YA urban fantasy”.
Eeesh. I get a headache just thinking about it.
To get around this “Trying To Be All Things”, I remind myself the story does not have to accomplish anything but have a plot, provoke an emotion, and reveal a deep and lively truth. Decide on the emotion and the plot will fall into place.
Which emotion? Whatever the writer finds most satisfying.
My solution at this time of my life: “Which emotion makes me, the author, most uncomfortable?” Not just in terms of making me say “eww”, but in revealing something new to me about myself.
Where I believed myself One Philosophy then discover maybe I understand or appreciate Something I Had Held In Disdain. In this case, perhaps, where I had disliked YA Urban fantasy, I discover and feel the uplifting and inspirational aspects of the genre.
Why would I resist that sort of uplift and inspiration? That question would be the source of conflict for the story.
But what if I discover that I like the idea of torturing cats? Don’t I have any ethics, man?!
Hence “deep and lively truth”. One of the few things I like about Ayn Rand was her insistence that art inspire people to want to get out of bed in the morning (my paraphrase. She would have said that in 30+ page monologue. zing!)
What if my “truth” annoys someone?
Part of art’s dialogue is weighing what reader’s say. I haven’t really had to deal with aggressive disagreement, so I’ll find out what I’ll do when I get to it.
So! Write like its a biological function! Show it to others! Listen and weigh opinions! Keep your work to one message or feeling! Repeat!
Excrete, sculpt the poo, fling. Get the judge’s scores. Adapt your technique. Repeat.





“The Flesh Sutra” Chapter Is One Of The Best Of 2014!

9 01 2015

According to the blog “Diabolical Plots“, my story “The Metal and Its Mold” was one of the best on Pseudopod last year, in such company with James Tiptree Jr., Elizabeth Hand, Ferrett Steinmetz, and Charles Dickens.

That story is Chapter Five of “The Flesh Sutra”, available on Amazon.





Human Gene Cheese: Unsettling Questions

4 01 2015

Read this article! Here it be!

Questions!

1) What DNA source was used? Yes. I am talking about that.

2) Is this cannibalism, or cannibalism’s newborn cousin “can-nosh-alism”?

3) How the hell is something made from people called “vegan friendly”? Answer: The DNA is from a friendly vegan!

4) Is it cannibalism if the donor is still whole, unharmed, and a volunteer?

5) Imagine its creamy texture? On your tongue warm and rich? In your Four Cheese Macaroni? Have you achieved “eww” yet?

6) If a more highly advanced civilization came and bought the rights to manufacture this, what would the logo look like?

7) Would a generation starship use this as an option?

8) What do you think the “food replicators” have been using in Star Trek? Why do you never see anyone who works in the cafeteria of the Enterprise?

9) If a civilization is uplifted, or goes through The Singularity, that civilization would be “post-food”. Eating would be merely a sensory experience. If nothing is food, then couldn’t anything be considered “a gourmet flavor experience”?

10) Would those people without benefit of Ultimate Technology be considered food for the gods? How long before condos are built in the stockyards?

11) Are there experience-based economies in the universe? How many quadloos to savor a human?

12) Would a person with an especially savory gene sequence have to litigate to retain rights to his recipe?

13) Would the departed by cultivated in tubs to be savored wistfully on a rainy day?

14) What would the bagels be made from?

 

 








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