Friday, February 27, 2015

February Writing Intentions

Hi all

I'm still on track for my writing intentions for the year. See, setting goals is a big help.

Here is a list of what I've been up to this month.

1. I submitted a query for my middle grade fantasy novel, Oliver and the Underlings, to Evil Editor, which I mentioned in a previous blog entry. If you want to see my query, and its subsequent tearing apart by Evil Editor, go here:

2. I did some light editing on an old, homeless flash fiction story called "The Liar" and sent it to 365 Tomorrows, which provides a science fiction or speculative flash fiction story every day. If you're interested in either reading or submitting to this market, check it out:

3. I wrote a brand new piece of flash fiction called "In Search of the Squid" and submitted it to a contest being offered by Flash! Friday. You can check out the current contest here:

Submissions are still being accepted until 11:59 PM ET tonight if you're interested in entering. My story appears in the comments, submitted at 9:32 PM (to help you find it). Make sure to read all the other stories there, for this contest and past contests.

That's most likely all I'll tackle for the month of February, seeing as there is only a day and change left.

On to March!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"The Great American Sentence" Contest

Hi all

Recently I was hunting around for some interesting writing contests to satisfy my New Year's writing intentions, and I came across this:

Easy Street: a Magazine of Books and Culture is offering a contest where you can send in all those stellar first sentences of your books-in-progress. Or, if you have even more impressive sentences buried in the middle of your works somewhere, you can send those in as well. You can send up to 5 sentences, and winners will be paid $5 per word, or $10 per word if you share information on this contest on your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc).

If you're interested, you'd better hurry. Entries will only be accepted for another few days. The contest ends midnight on February 28, EST.

If I come across any more interesting contests in my travels, I'll happily pass them along. Check back often!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Latest (Much-Needed) Slap in the Face

Rejection. You can't ever really love it, but it's a cold, hard, and sometimes brutal fact when you're a writer and you're submitting material to be read and accepted by an agent or an editor. Your only other alternative is to keep all those stories buried in your notebooks and computer files somewhere, never to see the light of day. But what's the point of that? It's why you write in the first place. For your voice to be heard. For others to get the same excitement and joy from the story that you did when you first wrote it.

Except I think I've reached a point in my life where I DO love rejection. Especially when it comes with some helpful critique, which, as I've mentioned in my most recent post, is coming more and more frequently for me these days. In a world where agents and editors are increasingly busy and more selective, it's great when they can take time and provide some little nuggets to writers. I'm incredibly appreciative of any help they can provide. Personally, I feel the frequency I do get helpful feedback shows that I'm in a good place, that there's something there worth commenting on.

Let's get back to the brutality of feedback. Recently, I submitted a query for my middle-grade fantasy book, Oliver and the Underlings, to Evil Editor. For those who are unfamiliar with who Evil Editor is... well, I'm not 100% sure myself. All I know is, some anonymous professional in the publishing industry has set up a website to publicly help, and simultaneously ridicule, any writer brave enough to offer up their query for critique. In addition to his feedback, you also get, as an added bonus, his Evil Minions (a.k.a. his readers) supplying humorous interpretations of what your title could possibly mean, as well as his own humorous interpretation of your pitch. 

You can check out his website here for more information:

I sent my query last week, and today was the day Evil Editor chose to tear it apart. So here is Evil Editor's comments on Oliver and the Underlings, in all their un-glory:

On the surface, this seems very insulting. Those without a thick skin might slam their laptop closed after reading it and throw it out a window. 

On closer inspection, however, there is much to be learned here within the embarrassing commentary.

First, queries are all about perception. My book is an innocent middle-grade story about monsters, and yet outside readers picked up on all kinds of inferences I never intended nor realized I was making. One lesson you can take from this is to make sure your intentions are clear and appropriate for the age group you're writing about.

Second, queries need to be simple and easy to follow. A main character's goals, journey, and obstacles have to be clear and straightforward. Plus, although your book may have multiple plot lines to it, there is one major plot line that supersedes all others. It will most likely be the one involving the highest stakes for the main character. Find out what it is and make that clear as well.

Third, and this is the scariest realization of all for me, an unclear query might mean an unclear story overall. It makes me wonder whether queries should be written BEFORE the book is finished, almost as a guide to keep things on track. It also makes me wonder if my aversion to writing a synopsis or outline of a story is really a good idea. Although I don't think I'll be giving up my free writing style any time soon. Maybe queries, outlines, etc. would be good tools to use after the initial draft but before doing any real editing.

So, was the rejection harsh? Yes. Was it deserved? A little time to sit and think might be best to answer this, but in my case, I believe it is. Were my wounds deep? No. If anything, I liken it to that pain you feel after you've just done a hard workout. It's a good pain, just another step toward getting a healthy book out into the world.

Anyone else who would like to share their own experiences of rejection and how it has helped you or made your writing stronger, feel free to drop a comment in the box.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quick Check-In on 2015 Writing Intentions and Other Goings-On

Hi all

First, just a quick check-in on my intentions for the year.

For the month of January, I managed to submit a total of one short story, which means I'm well on my way of fulfilling my goals for the year (one story submitted per month, one book submitted for the year).

I did submit that story TWICE though. The first time it was rejected. The nice thing is, the first rejection came with some great feedback, which I find to be a major improvement and a good indication that my writing is finally making people notice. I'd rather have some great personal rejections any day than the ol' "Sorry, this piece is not right for our publication." Usually when I receive that, either one of two things have happened. Either I've targeted an incorrect market for my story (which is probably the more likely scenario), or the story is so bad that it doesn't even warrant a response. Being a more optimistic person regarding my writing, I always assume it's the first option and try to do a better job at targeting a new market for the piece.

I've also been working on improving my query for Oliver and the Underlings. I'll have more news about what I've been doing on that front soon. I've also been working on another book idea that started out life as as novelette, was restarted for NaNoWriMo 2014 (which I didn't get too far with), and is now being re-rewritten. I hope to have that book finished halfway through this year so I can use the other half to possibly polish it up and get it sent out to agents.

I hope you all are busy working on your own writing goals/intentions for this year. Feel free to let me know about your own progress and ups and downs in the comments.