So yea, 2016. This wounded artery of a year.
But, I am able to share good news for once: I sold my first short story, to be published in a Science Fiction Anthology either this Dec or Jan. The contract is signed and the publisher working away on the printing. I’ll share the details once it’s put up for sale.
Honestly, this is amazing news. I’ve worked very hard to get here, and hopefully this is the start of a writing career. I have several other subs out, so I’m hoping to keep up the momentum!
This particular story was rejected 6 times- but the sub times were long. One publication held it for five months, so I lost some time there. I finished the story in March 2015, after it went through eight drafts. The rewrites were helped along by Critters (I’ll report to them this “Woohoo!” once published) and one last, very incisive critique by a major magazine editor.
Making art is hard work. Lots of rejection, lots of technical and creative skills required, many late nights spent just trying to hit a word count so that they day can be considered well spent.
So, here’s to my little story. Hurrah!
Just had a story make the rounds through Critters, and boy are the reviews mixed. I’ve got people tripping over their tongues as though sozzled, the tintinnabulation of their praise ringing to the stars! Write more! Write often! You are a wizard with words!
And then there’s the Dark Side, the turgid fusillades at my disregard for SCIENCE! Don’t I know better? Don’t I know that people only bothered to read this story because they were dedicated to giving a crit? That if the readers were not dedicated, they’d print my story only to be able to set fire to it since my opening line was SO BAD? DON’T I KNOW I’M KILLING TREES?
And then, there were three people that struck the Golden Mean. The types that said, “this is good, here’s what I think about this since I’m a Scientist,” or the “This will be a harsh crit, but it’s better to hear this now, trust me.”
You guys. We’re cool.
I unpublished my Facebook page- not my personal page, just the author one. I have a blog and Twitter, and that’s been helpful in connecting me with writing pals without the extra medium. In fact, it was just redundant… people who became personal FB friends were linking the page, but not too much traffic otherwise.
Plus, I just shared my author page with my friends anyway, so I was starting to feel silly.I see so many established authors using their personal pages as a way to connect to their friends/ readers, and I’m more comfortable with that approach.
So I’ll just keep writing and editing and being a fandom nerd-gal and see where that goes!
So, say you’ve asked someone to read over a story you wrote. What you’re looking for is reader reaction: how much enthusiasm does the average reader have for what you’ve written? If something doesn’t work for them, they need to tell you so that you can figure out how to fix the problem.
It’s not a beta reader’s job to fix what didn’t work for them.
Read that again. Seriously. A reader is going to bring all of her own experience to your writing and it is going to form her opinion. If you get a bad review, better you know about it sooner than when that draft on the professional market. As you get better at writing, you are also going to be able to discern between actual problems with your story and an unreasonable misreading of your ideas.
And your job is not to fight a reader about their opinion.
And yea, that happens. I critique a few stories a week. Some authors are better than others, so if the author is pretty good I focus my review on their concept and point out things that I don’t think fit, always with the caveat of, “this is just my opinion.” And sometimes I get emails back from the author contesting my opinion.
Don’t. Do. That.
I don’t care if the opinion is rude, or says something insensitive like, “This story is a tire fire. Give up writing and go into middle management.” Beta readers are giving you their time and energy so that you can improve yourself.
The only things you need to say is THANK YOU, and then move on.
One of the drawbacks of signing up as a designated critic for a writing service is that sometimes, and only sometimes, I see writing so terrible that I just don’t know what to say. The honest thing to advise would be, “wow, go back to high school,” but I obviously can’t do that.
The trick is to be diplomatic, sure, but I also want to be genuinely helpful to the writer if I can be. It’s easier to help good writers that might have a few missing elements, like an unclear setting, bad tone, a confusing POV. For the bad writer, the one that doesn’t know the difference between its and it’s, there, their, and they’re, it’s so much harder to navigate. Do I redline every grammar mistake and ruin their dreams?
There’s only so many times I can soften the blow by bracketing my corrections with phrases like, “this is just my opinion” or “this struck me as odd but maybe that’s just me.” Sometimes I’ve really seen no other option but to say things like, “you need to look at the rules for commas; here are several places where you make the same mistake.”
Some people just can’t wrap their head around expository writing, which is essential for speculative fiction. I can’t count how many times I’ve suggested, “show, don’t tell” after reading a story where I’m told exactly what to think and feel by the author, which inevitably means I end their tale experiencing absolutely nothing.
I think editing projects are essential to becoming a better writer, so I’m happy to continue doing this as long as I can. I also think I could never be a professional editor, because I have a feeling I’m not good at being entirely diplomatic when I see egregious mistakes.
May is off to a good start: Futura Magazine, Medium’s Science Fiction short story collection, put up my Sci-Fi/ Horror short, “Arrogant Damned” . It’s about a murderer so know what you’re getting into before you leap! One of my beta readers for the story messaged me after reading the opening and said, “hang on I need to finish breakfast first.”
He was probably kidding. 😉
In other news I joined the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) and I’m now involved with NESFA Press. I’m currently working on a 240 pg editing project for them, which is very cool since it enables me to get a peek into the publishing process and work on something by a well-known SF author. I’ll be sure to share the work once it’s done and up for sale (and I can speak more freely to the specifics!)
So if you get published, suddenly, the hobby you indulged in while away from life and work becomes a job. Does the magic stick?
Reading an article by Jaye Wells is an eye opener:
Turns out, I started out right. I found a hobby that was rewarding and fun. It was when I became a pro that I got off track. See, what I figured out is that everyone needs a hobby. We each need something that doesn’t have ego or income tied to it. When my hobby became my job, I lost that safe space where I could create without fear.