Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Now That I'm Relaxed...

Now that the election is over I can relax and come back to this much-neglected blog. The truth is I didn't have anything to say. In light of my own Re:Fiction article on blogging I've had second thoughts about what I write about here (excluding typewriters of course, but I don't add machines to the fleet often enough to post about that regularly). It's hard not updating this blog every week like I used to. Serious amateurs and professionals will post two or three times a week (but most usually have a lot more going on in their lives/jobs that makes constant content possible).

As such, I've waited this long to make sure I have writing-related things to talk about.

First, look for my short story The Curse of Horace Jonah in Bards and Sages January 2017! I've sold many pieces to them, but until now they've all been for anthologies. This will mark my debut in their quarterly magazine. I usually don't return to the world of a short story. Horace began as a contest entry that was done at a furious pace, got shortlisted, but ultimately lost. I tried selling it to other fantasy magazines (curious how there are not a lot of children's fantasy magazines that will accept stories over 800 words...), and when B&S bought it, I thought I was finally done. But this character was too much fun not to expand upon. Ideas for sequels started forming and I made notes accordingly.

Then, I did something that I thought I would never ever do. Since my bought with JRA a decade ago, I swore off handwriting whenever possible. It's hard on the wrist and fingers (namely the thumb joint). But while I was in Texas over the holiday weekend, a new Horace Jonah story started fighting, desperately trying to break out. All I had was a spiral notebook I use for ideas and plotting. I'd written a flash piece in it, but a full-length short? I tried to suppress the urge. Tried to content myself with reading. I even tried lecturing it. You stay right there! I'll deal with you in a minute! But it was impossible. One morning, I sat down and started handwriting a new tale.

I thought I would switch to the typewriter once I got home, but curiously enough, I was unwilling to abandon the mental track I was on. I was afraid that switching mid-draft would somehow jar me, interrupt the flow. Truth was, I managed at least two, sometimes three pages a day (barring headaches, fatigue, other obligations, etc.). Could it be I was going so slow that I didn't have opportunity to be blocked?

Six days and thirty-three pages later Horace Jonah and the Legendary Fox is complete! First draft, but I feel really good about myself right now. I've just proven that if the worst happened, if some maniac broke in and stole my collection of typewriters (or if the house burned down), I could go to Dollar Tree, grab a notebook and a pen, and start over.

I really really don't want that to happen, but...the work will continue.

Now I'm entertaining a crazier idea. My science fiction story At the Edge of Life has been deadlocked for months now. Numerous false starts. Can't make up my mind who should be the protagonist. POV is all over the place. Can't seem to make it work no matter what I do! Would going really really slow help me unblock it? At Courtney's suggestion, I've started using a daily planner to help balance my work goals so I don't get overwhelmed by the thought of not writing enough. I'll be dipped, it's working!

Speaking of Courtney, she and I went on yet another book-hunting expedition. Among other titles, we came home with a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories. This is a writer I've sadly neglected until now, though he has my respect. Hard to knock a guy who sold everything he wrote to pulps and died before he could break out and go mainstream. It's a fate I fear myself. As Harlan Ellison said, "Every writer is trying to beat the clock, to write that one story posterity will remember them for." Lovecraft certainly did that.

Before leaving Texas, mother-in-law gave us some early X-mas money. I thought I might be able to snag the Remington KMC from the local antique store with the double Gothic font. It was gone. Disgruntled, I decided to take a quick look around and see if there were any newcomers.

Lo and behold...

I probably wouldn't have gotten the machine if I was unable to talk the guy down from $90 to $60. I pointed out that the machine didn't have the top half of its case, which would make safe transport and storage difficult. Also snagged a first edition copy of Michale Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead while there. Serial number V689754 puts this machine around 1934-35.

This came on the coat tails of my other great find.

One of my earliest typewriter finds was a wide carriage KMM with a Sedalia sticker. Sadly, it went missing after a trip to the repairman and I've never gotten over it until now. What are the odds that a machine in the 1930s would have survived until now with all of its decals intact? It's a tad blemished in other places, but works great. Currently waiting on platen recovery and then it needs a typeface alignment.

As you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for, and that doesn't require a single holiday.

Power to the pen!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Persistence is Key, and the Key to Writing

About two years ago I wrote a short story. I had a novel idea forming and wanted to test some of the characters. If you've been reading this blog since 2014, you know it was called "After Their Kind," and deals with sentient animal societies that have arisen in the wake of humankind. I thought it was a pretty good story. 4200 words. Some action to go with the mystery. And the characters were not "furries," they were real animals.

I thought it was a good story, but it racked up seven rejections over the course of almost a year (owing to most magazines' policy against simultaneous submissions). As I kept writing and better stories came out I started to think "After Their Kind" was unsellable, and I wasn't so desperate that I was going to give it away for nothing. I went on to sell "The Nimrod Lexicon," "The Black Lady," and "The Voice of Thunder." I've got a dozen more in circulation right now.

Then one day I hopped onto Submission Grinder and noticed a new anthology was advertising: "The Dogs of War." An anthology dedicated to animals in military situations? It was practically tailored to my story! I read over the manuscript and made some minor revisions before sending it off in July. I got the acceptance letter yesterday. It won't pay much, but people will read it!

Professional fiction writing is only for the patient and persistent. And the key to writing is to write. Was I sad by the thought of being unable to sell what I thought was a perfectly good story? Yes, but not crushed. I had more stories coming out, and each one was better than the last in some way. I was getting personal rejections from one or two editors at major magazines. Hopefully in the coming years I can change those into acceptances too.

I learned some important lessons from this experience. One, never throw away old work, even if it doesn't sell immediately. Two, keep writing. Seriously. It's so simple it's stupid. Stupid simple. By continuing to write, you will eventually solve every problem that your fiction currently has. Brandon Sanderson once said that the writers who succeed are usually the ones that are moderately talented but unlike the lazy or the super geniuses, they don't quit.

That doesn't make it any easier when you get nothing but rejections for seven months, or you have to restart that one short story idea you love because the first three beginnings left you blocked.

Keep writing. There's no other way but forward.