Tag Archives: fiction

March Reading Review

Below is a list of my favorite science fiction short fiction in the last month (you can find my review for last month here). I like to read them and give myself a little time to think about them. If you still remember and like a story weeks later, it was a good story.

Happy reading on this snowy Monday!

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February Reading Review

Every day, new, wonderful works of fiction are published, more than most could ever read. Lately, I’ve tried to read a couple of science fiction or fantasy stories each day. It’s a good way to learn about the magazines, and the state of the genre today. It’s also a way to read some great fiction. In this post, and in the ones like it in following months, I’ll list some of my favorites.

Short fiction:

Longer stuff:

  • Beyond the Glass Slipper: Ten Neglected Fairy Tales to Fall in Love with by Kate Wolford (2012): In this book, Kate Wolford, editor of the fairy tale magazine Enchanted Conversation and teacher of fairy tales at Indiana Southbend, presents ten unusual fairy tales. All are historical, but told less commonly. She offers commentary and discussion about each. I bought this on a whim rather than a purpose, but I absolutely loved it. Her discussions pointed out things I hadn’t considered about fairy tales, and gave me a whole new angle on them. I found it both fascinating and very inspiring.
  • Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer (2013): I am still working my way through this book, but thus far I am very pleased with it. This is a guide to writing that actually inspires while you read; I find myself jotting down notes about things to try or aspects of old things to revisit. Often, I find myself feeling somewhat self-conscious and discouraged, no matter how kind the tone of a writing book, so I really found it noteworthy. It is packed with quirky or even absurd illustrations, and lots of visually based diagrams. It is also not only by VanderMeer, who has taught at Clarion workshop, but features essays by writers both super famous (Ursula Le Guin and Neil Gaiman, for two) and unfamiliar to me. I have read 3.5 chapters of 7, so I will have to report as to my final reaction, but so far, so good.

Today I sold my first story

Today I sold my first fiction story. It’s hard to express my thoughts and feelings. I will keep working hard, and I will eventually sell more, but today I am elated.

Below are some musings and reflections on what led me to today’s achievement. This is hardly to say that I am an expert after a single publication; it’s a list of things I think I did right that might be useful ideas for others. I have read many tips on getting published from experts. They doubtless have more experience than me, but they got published when the industry was really different. They have had years to gain some distance from the hard emotions associated with the process.

  • I learned to finish projects. I used to be good at big ideas and poor at execution. I made grand plans and I never finished anything. I dreamed but I didn’t labor. I credit grad school and aging for teaching me to finish and work on the long scale. The Fairy Tales collection featured on the side of this page was the first big project I finished; it took about a year.
  • I exposed my work. For some people, this is easy. It was very hard for me. To me, exposing my work involves more than having others read my work–it’s about hearing what they say about it. Unlike engineering, writing is subjective (which is terrifying!). If enough people say it’s bad, they’re likely right. As a first step, I started this blog, slightly over a year ago. Then I joined a local writing group.
  • I accepted critique. This is related to the point above. Of course I think my work is good, but sometimes it just isn’t. If one reader didn’t get the joke, maybe they’re a little dense. If several didn’t, the joke wasn’t properly conveyed. I’ve met a lot of other aspiring writers who are uncomfortable with this fact. It’s very hard. I wrote in a vacuum for years; sometimes I got it wrong. I got great critique at critters.org.
  • I wrote regularly. For the first several months of this blog, I posted three times a week. Three times a week I had to say something (semi) coherent. My writing group has a monthly theme, and I made myself write something every month. It wasn’t always good, but that was good motivation. Recently I’ve been writing at least one writing prompt a week and posting it here. This month I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo.
  • I submitted. And I submitted and I submitted. Stories are rejected for tons of reasons; inadequacy is just the tip. Many places accept only 1% of what they get. Some places only publish half a dozen stories a year. Some places are vague about what they are looking for (in my experience, beware the “we never get enough of x” statement). Sometimes they already have a story about a cat, or a story where the protagonist is disappointed, or a horror story, or an intimate first person story. Any of the above are reasons to get rejected. My story got rejected three times before it got accepted; it was the 32nd thing I submitted since the end of June. My favorite story has been rejected 8 times so far. Others in my writing group have excellent work that they have submitted and have had rejected. And then they stopped.
  • I researched those markets. I read what they said about themselves. I used places like The Submission Grinder and Duotrope to find out their response times. A lot of my rejections have come from sending pieces to unsuitable markets–it’s hard, but I got better at it.

But mostly, I am so happy. I worked hard and got very frustrated sometimes. This post is as much to motivate myself as anything, since the journey is hardly begun. I hope it will be useful to others as well.

Great Places to Read Free Science Fiction

You can read some great science fiction and fantasy for free online. This is nice for aspiring writers, looking to see how good stories are constructed, and it’s nice for readers who simply enjoy a good story. These aren’t just b-rate venues, either, markets both elite and humble have online content.
Clarkesworld– one of the best venues in science fiction.
Daily science fiction– they have a great subscription list. Sign up and they’ll send you one story every business day, mostly flash fiction .
Escape pod– a science fiction pod cast. They also have sister horror and fantasy podcasts (pseudopod and pod castle).
The colored lens– they have new stories weekly. If you’re interested in submitting works, this is a great venue as they respond quickly and personally. And there’s no better way to see what a venue wants than what they’ve bought before.

Happy Monday! (This late, possibly oddly formatted post brought to you by my busted computer screen and my phone.) :)

Editing

Editing is a word I hate. I’m one of those people that always wants to be on to a new project. Bigger, better, and newer. Realistically, nothing I write is publishable after only the first draft, and this is true for most people.

Perhaps part of my dread of editing is that I’ve read very little advice on how to go about doing it. I try to write what I write as best as I can the first time, but then what? But it’s something I have to learn to do, so I am forcing myself to learn. Here are three of my approaches, and some links to some sights that have more experience than I do.

1. Maybe leave that small error in there on the first draft, if you are debating it. It helps you get through the writing faster the first time. I find it helpful to have a toe-hold of some error you know you want to fix, and then move into the manuscript from there. I sometimes feel the urge to make the first draft as perfect as possible, but I think for me, it’s actually better to leave it rough. This also makes it easier to take a machete to it where needed, since there’s less sense of loss.

2. Leave it the hell alone after the first draft. This is two-part in motivation. One, I love it too much initially, and it guts me to rip it apart immediately. And two, I’m more likely to overlook awkward phrasings or logical leaps if it’s still too fresh in my mind. For both parts, it needs some time to gain some other-ness.

3. Work top to bottom. Does the character change behavior inexplicably? Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Big, basic stuff. Then I think about things like pacing, and then about specific sentences.

Some links that helped me think about my approach to editing:

So happy editing? It’s a miserable process for me, but it makes the fun bits worthwhile. In every worthy endeavor, there are parts that are inevitably less than thrilling, but we keep going. I welcome any suggestions from others, too, since I am learning always.