Monthly Archives: March 2014

Slushy Rejections

Back in January I was on two panels that dovetailed nicely: learning from reading slush, and what rejections mean.

I’ve read submissions for two different magazines. When I first started, I had heard a lot of horror stories, so I expected to see unintelligible sentences, transcriptions of D&D games, and plagiarisms of The Eye of Argon.

But most stories weren’t that bad. In fact, many of them were just fine. The problem is, a “just fine” story just doesn’t stand out. I might pass it up to the second round, but even when I do that, I know that we’ll have better stories to choose from–stories that are more original in idea, or style, or plot. Good isn’t good enough.

Reading slush has been a great way of learning what rejections mean: the story didn’t stand out, for any number of reasons. The editor is having a bad day. The editor has read three stories in the past half hour that have the same kind of main character (this happened to me this morning). The plot was fine, but the prose didn’t shine. Everything was great until the ending fell flat. The editor just read an awesome story and this one doesn’t measure up. It can all be summed up as: not for that editor, not right now.

I’ve also learned that perfection isn’t necessary. Good thing, too, since it’s impossible to obtain. A story that I love, everyone else might hate. A story that does nothing for me, other readers might love.

One final note:  stop writing stories that involve killing or abusing women. Leaving feminist concerns aside, I see it so much it’s just boring.

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March MG Madness

This week I’m a guest over on Word Spelunking for their March MG Madness festivities!  Check out their review for THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY and some Q&A with me.  There are wonderful giveaways going on as well, including one where you can enter to win a copy of THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY.

Check it out.  The interview was great fun, and as a bonus, I got to talk about cupcakes!*

*not part of the giveaways  😉

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That’s rough

So how’s that book coming, almost no one asks…

Well, I just finished the rough draft! Yay, me!

So (all numbers approximate)–

That was around 105,000 words in about 2.5 months, which works out to around 1400 words a day. My goal to do at least 1000 words each day, but go for 2000, ended up being very useful. On days that the kids were in school, I got my 2K. On weekends, snow days, and sick days, I got 1K. There were some trips and holidays in there too, where I got zilch, but they were easily overcome by the fact that I was usually writing 2-300 words over my goals, especially on the 2K days.

Lessons learned- Detailed outlines are good. Reasonable goals are good. Consistency is good. Both children in school is good. Having a little room to write in is good. Scriveners project goal word count thingy is good. Snow is bad. Cats in front of the monitor are bad. Olympics and football are good, which makes them bad.

So now I can relax for a bit. Well, I have to revise this quick and send it out to my writing group. And then I have to revise that other book, so I can send it out to agents. And I have that short story I’m supposed to be doing. Plus all the other short story ideas that were bugging me while I focused on this novel. And I’ve fallen behind on sending out submissions. And even more behind on sending things out for reprint. And I need to do that detailed outline for the next book. And start it.

Oh, and I still have to revise and polish this one and send it in.

Also, there’s family, friends, house, exercise, life, etc.


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That Gig I was Telling You About?

I’m doing book reviews for Black Gate. My first review is here. While I’ve done book reviews in the past, it’s been on my blog or this blog or on Amazon and such. I’ve not ever done it for a respected outlet such as Black Gate, and I’m honored to be a part of the team.


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Recently, someone on a writing forum I belong to asked for advice on voice. Since voice isn’t a skill I’ve worked on, all I can really say is that writing lots of short stories has helped, especially writing characters who are very different from each other.

But in general terms, I thought of some things that helped me improve a weak spot in my writing once I finally identified it. (In my case, it’s character emotions.)

* Lucking into several critiquers (hi, guys) who will hold my hand and say “she needs to react here” or “needs more feeling in this paragraph” rather than just a general “you need to show her emotions more”

* Lots of writing exercises focusing on adding emotions

* Taking just about every class on characterization and pov that was offered on SavvyAuthors for about a year (which combines the first two items on this list)

Which I can sum up as “practice and get feedback in that specific area”.

Out of curiosity, I scoured my writing bookshelf to see what books might help. I found surprisingly little.

* Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint (Nancy Kress) covers…characters, emotion, and point of view, which is related to voice.

* Steering the Craft (Ursula Le Guin) covers various aspects of prose style. In chapter 7, Point of View and Voice, she writes “For our purposes in this book…I’ll treat voice and point of view as so intimately involved and interdependent as to be the same thing.” The exercise in this chapter is to tell the same scene five times, using a different character or point of view each time.

* Voice & Style (Johnny Payne) is an obvious one to look at for this topic. It’s been on my shelf for years but I’ve only looked at bits and pieces, so I can’t comment on its quality. It covers both dialog and narration, and each of the 8 chapters has 3 or so exercises that seem useful.

This has me looking at the story I’m currently revising in a new way. I’ve been trying to figure out the main character, and her voice is going to be important to how the reader perceives her.

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We’re having a party!

This announcement is intended mainly for local readers, although I’d certainly be flattered if you came from afar to attend my book launch.

That’s right, we’re having a party to celebrate the release of THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY!!  Details, I haz them:

When: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble in Champaign, Illinois.

Will there be cake?  Not sure. I’m working on it.

I can guarantee there will be free bookmarks and temporary tattoos for the kids–or the adults.  I’m not about to restrict people.  Of course there will also be hardcover copies of the book for sale, and I’m encouraging everyone who comes out to shop and support the store, even if you don’t end up buying my book.

So spread the word, and all are welcome!  Come help me celebrate!

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