The Fictorians

Weird Antho Angst

14 October 2014 | No Comments » | Quincy Allen

It’s not the waiting the kills… it’s the waste.

One of the more common ways of getting into the writing business and building “street-cred” is to peruse the calls for submissions on sites like Duotrope.com, Ralan.com, and Submission Grinder. Those sites are great for providing loads of opportunity. The problem is that many of the themes listed are pretty specific. Most of them run along the weird paths of cross-genre or niche topics that are hell-and-gone from the mainstream.

Sure, it can be fun writing a story about zombie porn or purple unicorns, but it’s also exceedingly risky. And yes, I have a buddy who is in a zombie porn antho called 50 Shades of Decay, and I just had a story come out in a purple unicorn anthology titled One Horn to Rule Them All. I can say with confidence that the quality of stories in these off-the-beaten-track collections is on par with mainstream fiction, and can be even better as a result of the topic.

The problem stems for the fact that once you write the story, you have to wait weeks or even months to hear back on whether you made the cut. That’s the same as with any short story submission, certainly, but with one of these, the bar is sometimes a bit higher than “normal” fiction. With regular fiction the bar is established and fairly well understood by the community. With non-traditional anthos, however, you not only have to write a good story, you must more accurately discern the tastes or intent of the editor or publication putting out the call for submission.

It can be like trying to hit a kangaroo from orbit with a drunken koala.

(Just let that visual sink in for a minute).

Now, if you make it in, great. But statistically speaking, the odds are that you won’t make the cut. That’s where the real pain comes in. If your story isn’t selected, you have one to six-thousand words that you’re going to play hell placing elsewhere. I mean, what are the odds that Asimov or Fantasy & Science Fiction want something that was written specifically for someplace else? It can be done, but those are pretty long odds, especially if the story wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the antho.

There are no easy roads into the business, and while weird anthos are one of them, you may want to go with the more mainstream topics when you’re first starting. Once your writing is cleaner and you’re placing stories more frequently, or even at will, then it’s time to hit the weird stuff.

Not Another Edit!

13 October 2014 | 2 Comments » | frank

EditsMost non-writers, and many new writers, have no idea that finishing that manuscript and typing END is anything but the end. I know when I started writing, I couldn’t see beyond reaching that final scene. Of course, that first novel was a 300,000 word monstrosity that took me over two years to complete, but the principle is universal.

The first draft is not the final draft.

That truth is even more daunting when we consider how few wannabe writers actually reach the end of their first draft. Of those who do, many lack the determination to see the project to its full completion.

It’s easy to assume the tragic artiste pose and proclaim in an awful imitation of an accent from some European country, “This is my Art and the muse must be honored. The words were given to me like this for a reason.”

Not if you want to sell it and actually have someone read it.

This becomes the dividing line between those who like dabbling in writing as an enjoyable hobby and those who are serious about becoming a Writer as a career.

Some first drafts are pretty good, but pretty good isn’t enough. Every successful author I know recognizes they will need to make several editing passes through each novel before it’s ready. One of the reasons we’re encouraged to write what we love is because if we don’t LOVE our stories enough to work through them at least half a dozen times, we’re going to HATE them before the process is complete.

Many new authors don’t understand this and unfortunately in today’s ebook world, it’s all too easy to complete that first draft and throw the book right up on Amazon.

I for one have read some of those stories. After wading through the piles of novels that make me cringe when I look at the cover or read the first page, I’ve selected one that looked like it had real promise. Many times those ebooks turn out to be pretty decent, maybe have a great concept and tons of potential, but where the author wasn’t patient enough to really finish the work.

I find it tragic when I complete an ebook like that. When I think, “You know, that could have been a really good book. But it was only about 90% finished and needed more polishing.”

What a waste.

Not only of my time, but of the author’s time. They worked so hard bringing that novel to life, only to not put in the effort to get it that last 10%. It’s like Frankenstein stitching together the perfect monster only to not bother raising it up on the platform during the lightning storm. That last 10% is what infuses the story with it’s real life.

That’s one of my fears: that my novels won’t be ready.

I cringe when I think back to my first monstrous novel. With how little I knew about the industry, about editing, I was convinced it was a great work and totally ready to go. Had the ebook revolution already been underway, I probably would have self-published it.

I would have destroyed that story.

I’m glad I didn’t have that option and that the dozens of rejection letters finally clued me in that there was something missing. I’ve since thrown that novel away and rebuilt it from the ground up. The resulting story is ten times better and is one of the eight books I’m preparing for publication in my upcoming “Eight Books in Eight Months” publishing blitz.

Before I pull the trigger on those novels though, I’ve dedicated the time to rewrites, I’ve gathered honest feedback from beta readers, and I’ve worked with professional editors (including Joshua Essoe and Evan Braun) to make sure they’re really ready.

Even so, I still have to wonder, are they really?

This time I feel a lot more justified in saying, “Yes.”

Rejection: Everybody Hurts Sometimes

10 October 2014 | 3 Comments » | Kristin Luna

Rarely Oftentimes, the writing life feels like an uphill climb. First comes the Dear Sir or Madam rejection, then the personalized rejection. Then, the editor gives you personal feedback and/or reasons why they couldn’t publish your work. After that, you cry into a Blue Bonnet-sized bucket of chocolate ice cream and ask the gods why you can’t just be good enough, already. All of that time, all of that work! What you wouldn’t do for a hot, luscious, sexy, multi-paged contract in your inbox. You are the Charles Barkley of the writing world: pretty good, just not good enough to win a championship. You’re a Baby Ruth when all you want is to be a Snickers bar.

I know it may be hard to believe (har har), but you’re not alone. You’re actually in really good company.

Every now and then Pretty much every week or so, I read about a classic or popular book that had been rejected a bajillion times by every publisher on the planet until one said yes. Here is a list of those books, just for you to keep handy. May it bless you and keep you, and may it help pry your fingers off of the tub of Rocky Road.

1. Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Rejected 140 times, one publisher claiming it was “too positive.”

2. Dubliners by James Joyce. Rejected 22 times, only sold 379 copies in the first year (James Joyce bought 120 of them).

3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Rejected 121 times.

4. Carrie by Stephen King. Rejected 30 times. We have Tabitha King to thank for it seeing the light of day, as she dug it out of the trash when King threw it away.

5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Rejected 38 times. Mitchell won a Pulitzer for her efforts.

6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Rejected 26 times. Awarded a Newbery Medal.

7. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Lewis amassed over 800 rejections before selling a single piece of writing.

8. The Diary of Anne Frank. Rejected 15 times. Recieved the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

9. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. After receiving so many rejections, Potter was forced to publish the book herself.

But my favorite story of all time goes to Dune. You can read an interesting story from Frederik Pohl here, but here’s the abridged version of Dune‘s publishing history. Frank Herbert spent years trying to get a publisher to pick up Dune, and received about 20 rejections. After years and lots of revisions, he sold the book to a small publisher that was known for mechanical manuals for automobiles and motorcycles. It’s now one of the most celebrated science fiction novels of all time.

Keep your head up, and keep on going. You really don’t know when or from where your big break is going to come.

Moderating the Fear & Loathing Panel

9 October 2014 | 2 Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Guy Anthony De Marco.

I’ve always enjoyed going to conventions. After getting back into writing professionally following a 20-year hiatus, I decided to see if I could get on a couple of panels at my local cons. It looked like a lot of fun, and since I was used to talking in front of people due to my time in the college teaching trenches, I thought I could at the very least be entertaining.

The first convention I approached was already booked, but the programming chairwoman noted there was one panel on H.P. Lovecraft that only had two people on it. She graciously invited me to participate, and I accepted after I sent in my credentials.

Around this time, my son expressed an interest in going to a convention, so I invited him along. I was quite sure he would enjoy himself.

Unfortunately, at this point the villain made his entrance. This antagonist was dressed in the suit and tie of the convention chairman.

The two folks who were already on the panel were the Guest of Honor and an author I personally admired. I sat through a couple of panels with my son, parked in the front row. He enjoyed most of the panels, as did I. When it was almost time for my panel to start, I started to stand up.

The con chairman walked up to the front table and said (on an open mike to a packed room full of fans and attendees) that there was someone “that nobody had ever heard of who wants to be on the panel. He won some award from a small pro organization and nobody has read his stuff. Do you want this nobody to sit on the panel?”

I was taken aback, and my son was too.

“If he bothers to show up, we’ll see if he’s just wanna-be and sort him out,” the panelists said.

I sat down in shock. The panel went on for only twenty minutes before it fizzled out and they ended it. Most of it was a bashing session by the Guest of Honor. They never even got around totalking about things like how much Lovecraft valued his friend, Algernon Blackwood, or his formative years before he became a writer. I had actually put in hours of research, looking for stuff that the average reader might not know.

My son was very angry as to how I was treated. He doesn’t attend conventions anymore.

At this point in our story, I was full of doubt, fear, and yes, even loathing when it came to being on panels. It’s only natural to feel despondent at getting rejected, particularly in front of a room full of strangers. In some ways, it’s the same set of feelings that convince some writers to give up writing after their first rejection by an editor. I could have just shriveled up and hid under a rock. For my sake, and to set a good example for my son, I decided to swallow those negative feelings and applied to be on some panels at MileHiCon in Denver.

This time, even though they did not know who I was or what I wrote, they treated me well and placed me on a couple of panels. The experience was night-and-day different. My son didn’t attend, since he had decided conventions were not worth the effort. Too bad, because I think he would’ve enjoyed attending MileHiCon. The panels went very well, and the programming chairwoman said she heard positive feedback. Ever since then, I’ve been invited back every year to sit on panels.

So, what’s my bottom line? You are going to have setbacks in your career as an author. You will have times where you are treated like dirt. You very well may feel unworthy because of someone who disrespects you—sometimes in front of a huge audience.

You can duck your head and decide not to stick your neck out, or you can give it another try. As long as you act professionally and avoid any negativity originating from your camp, you have an excellent chance that your second “debut” will be the one you remember fondly. I ended up becoming fast friends with several of the local authors from those panels, including frequentFictorians contributor Quincy J. Allen.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

DeMarco_Web-5963Guy Anthony De Marco Bio:

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.

A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at WikipediaGuyAndTonya.com, and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

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