...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker
2996 words long
this is my oasis of normality it is a nice oasis have a coconut
- 101 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
Things are getting kind of unhinged out there. (Getting?) OK, more unhinged. Dramatically more unhinged. I'm not oblivious to this--I wish I had the luxury to be oblivious, but I don't think anyone has that luxury, not really. I've been keeping a browser tab open on the latest political open thread at Metafilter, refreshing it frequently, and dreading what I'll see but being grateful for the intelligent and bleakly humorous tenor of the conversation there.
For the most part, aside from the occasional outburst in the social mediaz, I've been restricting my reactions to carefully worded faxes to my Senators and Representatives (have you met Resistbot?). I'm... going to stick with that, actually. If I start commenting more, especially here on a blog dedicated specifically daily writing accountability, the writing will get squeezed out and my ability to resist usefully will wither under the blow-torch of perpetual outrage and I'll wither, too, just wither away into an exhausted, whimpering ball of despair.
I'm aware. I'm doing my part. But I'm also setting boundaries and patrolling them as best I can.
Sometimes it seems like the best act of resistance I can muster is to simply continue, day by day, to show up at the page, to submit stories for publication, to publish each Friday's fictionette--to be a small force for normality in the world, pushing forward, come what may. To keep doing the good work of... just being this person in the world.
To raise my little flag that says, "I'm still here. I'm still writing, I'm still skating, and the fuckers can't take that away from me."
So. Hello. We are writing now.
Today was a good day. Good like most of last week was good. This week has not been so good--the crash-and-burn tendency caught up with me Tuesday and bled over a bit into Wednesday--but last week was great and so was today. It would be nice to think I've gone from a "one day on, one day off" cycle to a "ten days on, one day off" cycle. It would be very nice for that to be a permanent change. I mean, heck, ten days on, one day off--that's above and beyond the mainstream standard, right? It's a longer work-week and a shorter weekend, is what it is.
A couple stories came back with rejection letters. I haven't yet decided where to send them next, but I did send one of my other existing drabbles out. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles from the days when SpeckLit.com encouraged writers to submit ten at a time; since SpeckLit shut down and Drabblecast went on hiatus, it's hard to find paying markets for them. It's not as simple as sending them to places that welcome very short flash fiction. With markets that don't specifically solicit drabbles, there's the possibility that the editor doesn't really consider 100 words to be an actual story. On the other hand, if the market welcomes flash and doesn't specify a lower word-count limit, what have I got to lose by sending one in? I'm trying to thread the needle between shotgunning and self-rejection by targeting markets that seem more likely. The ones that have published, say, 300-word short fiction. Or that take prose poetry.
I could also take one of my drabbles and expand it. That's an option. As soon as the flash piece that's currently taking up my afternoon shift is done, I may just do that.
So. Onward. Just as though everything were normal.
that's it, no more crashy-burny for you (you don't even LIKE crashy-burny, what the hell is wrong with you)
- 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 3,339 words (if poetry, lines) long
So it turned out to be just 24-hour sinus drama. Went to bed sniffly and feeling crappy, woke up before seven o'clock still sniffly but with boundless energy and well-being. It's confusing as hell, but I'll take it.
I submitted three things to paying markets today, y'all. Three! That's five submissions this week! And one of the things I subimtted today was a brand new drabble (100-word short story) that I just wrote this afternoon. And I finished up the promised manuscript critiques, and I did all the required daily things, and I continue to catch up on the Fictionette Artifact backlog, and I cleaned the toilets. (They really needed it.)
And now I am back from scrimmage. It was a lovely scrimmage. We hit each other really hard, damn near ended in a tie score, and then we had a party with beer and cake. (Also, one of my teammates wore assless booty shorts. It was a themed scrimmage, so this makes sense. Trust me.)
Days like today scare me. Rather, what scares me is the prospect of the day after a day like today. Past recent experience says I'm due to crash and burn tomorrow. I always crash and burn the day after phenomenally productive and fulfilling days. That's what jerk brain says, anyway. I tell it, "Hey, jerk brain, you have selection bias like woah, you're ignoring all the non-crashy-burny days, there is no good reason that I should crash and burn--I mean, unless I get sick again or something, and it would be just like you, wouldn't it, to make me get sick again tomorrow just to prove your crappy naysaying point?"
I spend a lot of time talking to jerk brain. But you should hear the mouth it has. Someone has to stand up to it.
So the thing about drabbles is, I planned to put together a raft of eight or ten brand new ones and submit them to SpeckLit. That went rather well for me in the past. Only I haven't visitied them in ages. I visited them again after writing that one drabble today and trying to remember what kinds of things authors put in their author's notes there. Turns out, they closed their doors last September. Dang it.
But there is, as it happens, no shortage of online markets looking for very very short fiction. Not all of them will pay SFWA professional rates, but at one hundred words the difference between pro pay and token pay is more in the percentage than in the pocketbook. And I just wanted to submit something that was new. You know? Rather than just collect another handful of rejections for the stories I've been shipping around for the past few years?
So I found a place (which does pay pro rates, by the way), and I sent it, by the Gods.
This is me, feeling like Real Writer™ again. It is not my default feeling. I have to work at it. Tomorrow I will work at it some more. It'll be great. (You hear me, jerk brain? It'll be great!)
this fictionette is like an onion but there will be plenty onions
- 1,052 words (if poetry, lines) long
Lo, another Friday has arrived--well, to be honest, it has just about come and gone; I got to the writing things quite late, but the bills are all paid and the kitchen is really clean. Anyway, I've posted this week's Friday Fictionette. It's "The Thing with Feathers," which as we all know is Hope.
The piece is oddly literary in flavor. The speculative element is more magic realism that urban fantasy. And I had to rerecord the last paragraph for the MP3 because I, er, got a funny sort of cough and maybe something in my eye the first time around. You know what I mean. It would not be the first time something I wrote made me tear up a little at the end, but generally it's the longer stories that do that, longer both in terms of word count and hours spent in revision, and the effect is partially just "Finally I got it right, hallelujah, what a relief." It's a little weird for something as short and quick as a fictionette to do that to me.
So now I'm wondering, maybe I should have saved this one to develop into something I could submit somewhere pro? And I'm reminding myself that the Friday Fictionettes project is partly about teaching myself to let go. Story ideas are plentiful. I don't have to hoard them. There's enough of them to go around.
Meanwhile, the alien space glue apocalypse story did indeed receive a rejection, and has already been sent out to meet more nice people.
Other fiction projects have been put off for next week. Just you wait.
went out and spent some money, lookit
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- NaNo Oh-No
- Selling My Soul
- Spit and Polish
- The Beast That Rolls
- 1,400 words (if poetry, lines) long
Rejoice! I have finally replaced my camera. I have also gone grocery shopping and returned home with, among other things, fruitcake fixings. Now I have combined BOTH bits of good news into ONE splendid photo, which you can see here.
Fruitcake! Will contain almonds, currants, green (golden) raisins, candied ginger, strawberries, and dates. I will decide on the booze tomorrow when I actually process everything and start it soaking. It will probably be scotch or bourbon, considering what's currently in the cabinet.
Camera! Currently contains date stamp. This will be adjusted shortly.
The camera is a Nikon Coolpix S3700. It was on sale at Target, and further marked down as a repackaged item. Now, I didn't go into Target thinking about cameras. I was shopping for strings of holiday lights to donate to my roller derby league's holiday parade float (Because we're going to skate in a local holiday parade, of course). But the holiday section was right next door to the electronics section, which reminded me that I'd been meaning to replace my previous camera, it being ten years old and furthermore having recently ceased to function.
So this new camera boasts 20.1 Megapixels, which is a revolution in comparison with my previous. Its view screen is breathtakingly sharp--again, comparing it with my old camera. It's zoom function seems darn near lossless. It has a function list longer than my arm, and--ooh!--an auto-extending lens. Look, I'm over the moon just because this camera doesn't need a rubberband to hold its battery case closed, OK? My standards are somewhat generous here.
Mainly I'm just pleased that my options for Friday Fictionette covers are no longer restricted to A. find Creative Commons (commercial use OK) or public domain images online, or B. take a really crappy photo with my flip phone.
So there's your happy technology content. As for writing content, well, soon as I'm done with this-here, I shall be logging the most recent adventures of "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" in the Submission Grinder and in my personal log as well. I got a response to its latest submission just this weekend, but I haven't even opened the email yet because I've been drowning in NaNoWriMo writing and NaNoWriMo catch-up. If it's a rejection, I'll be figuring out where to send that sucker yet. If it's not a rejection, expect some crowing. Next I'll be spending a little revision time with "Down Wind" to get it ready to to go and meet some very nice people itself. I think that's enough for a well-rounded late night, don't you?
they live just down the ice floe from us
- 31,328 words (if poetry, lines) long
The weather's getting a head start on tomorrow. It's been overcast all day, and now it's misting down a light sort of rain/sleet mix that's turning everything cement and asphalt into a death trap. I nearly injured myself just walking next door (well, two apartment complexes down) for the late-night cat-sitting visit. There were places where I couldn't walk at all, just "skate"--which is to say, hunker down into good derby position and just slide my sneakers forward very, very carefully.
Speaking of skating, there were plans bubbling through the league to have a Thanksgiving morning "fun skate" at our usual practice location--but with tomorrow's winter weather advisory and the ice only getting worse and the temperatures not predicted to climb above freezing tomorrow, I expect it ain't happening. Well, it might happen, but it'll most likely happen without me. Brrr.
So... a good day to catch up on NaNoWriMo, right? I have a bit of catching up to do. According to the "At this rate you will finish on..." metric, I'm 10 days behind. But according to the "Words per day to finish on time" metric, I only need to increase my daily session from the original 3,125 plan up to about 3,500 or so. This is entirely doable. I've introduced a new plot twist that should be good for at least another 5,000 words, and with any luck it will spawn further plot twists and maybe even a plot resolution.
And speaking of NaNoWriMo: Look look look! I have a title now.
In other writing news, "...Not with a Bang, But a Snicker" (the one about the snow-glue apocalypse) came home from its previous outing this weekend, and it's gone right back out tonight. #WriterDoingWriterThings
buyin' my lottery tickets
- 3,330 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 2,345 words (if poetry, lines) long
Which is not, admittedly, the best analogy for submitting fiction to paying markets. It's not purely a numbers game. But it's partially a numbers game. Given a story that's publishable, as you continue sending it out to markets that are a reasonably good fit, the probability of its achieving publication approaches 1. No guarantees it'll reach 1, but it gets closer every time.
(Actually, if you want to be precise, the asymptote graph never reaches 1, but only gets infinitely closer and closer to 1. But forget that, I'm trying to sort of reference Godwin's Law and any number of internet memes that riff on it, and no one worries in that context that "approaching 1" isn't the same as "reaching 1," so shut up.)
But by far the strongest point of similarity between fiction submissions and lotteries is, you can't win if you don't play. Thus "submissions procedures" is one of the gotta-dos in my morning shift. Thus the stories go back out in the mail.
It does me no favors that most of the acceptance letters I've received have been in response to a story's first time in the mail. No one should consider that to be the norm. It's got me badly calibrated. It primes me to think that if a story accumulates two, five, fifteen rejections, then clearly it's not ready for prime time and I shouldn't even be sending it out. Which is bullshit, as any number of rejectomancy anecdotes will attest, but that's the writerly version of weasel-brain for you. It's such a seductive utterance of the weasel-brain, too, especially when the rejection letters come back so very quickly. I start getting self-conscious about particular stories--I start thinking, "Do I seriously believe an editor will want to pay me money for the opportunity to consume one of their precious story slots with this? NO ONE wants this." And also, "Why do I keep sending this story out, instead of writing new ones? Am I trying to rest on my laurels? Before they are even grown?"
That last one's a special grade of bovine feces, because I have sent new stories out. In fact, the story I've been trying to query status on is sitting in its very first slush pile as we speak. Unfortunately, the market that slush pile belongs to uses SPF filtering on their email, and apparently something's borked in my SPF record. I've got a support ticket to my domain host about it.
Weird thing is, though, the weasel-brain only has its say before I send the story out. Once I actually send the story, weasel-brain shuts up and lets me enjoy the fresh glow of "I submitted a story! Professionally! To a paying market! Just like real writers do!" Which only goes to show you that yet again, the only way out is through.
Anyway, I bought a lottery ticket today, and I bought one Thursday too. Metaphorically speaking.
In which we investigate other baskets suitable for egg storage
- 6,291 words (if poetry, lines) long
And yet more biking! This is getting to be a regular habit. It helps that today was Bike to Work Day. It was a warm ride from home to downtown, but I stopped frequently to sample the snacks and drinks offered at the various breakfast stations. Now if I can just avoid getting rained on while I bike home, I'll be in good shape... to go to roller derby tonight and really work out.
I tweaked the story a little more today (yes, after refreshing my memory concerning "The Red-Head Song"--Bobbie Mae might now be plausibly considered to be singing it to meter, if not on key). Mostly I'm just poking at it. A weekend away from it has not created sufficient distance across which to look at it with fresh eyes, alas, but at least I'm catching the odd clunky turn of phrase.
It's OK though. The heavy lifting happened in the previous weeks. All I really ask right now is that what I submit on Friday be a better manuscript than what I've got Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. I think that's reasonable.
I've begun expanding my day-to-day content writing options again. I mean, the ones that actually pay something vaguely reasonable. I have a lot of fun with Examiner, but "fun" is mostly all it is. I'd like to be able to make at least a little regular and reliable income, fiction sales being neither. So. Demand Media Studios, where in the past I've been able to earn between $15 and $30 for a 500-word article, is oddly devoid of titles in my approved channel at this moment, so there goes that idea. I'm investigating what it would take to apply for another. In the meantime, there's Textbroker, which doesn't pay a hell of a lot but is easy--most of its clients want blog posts written around random phrases they got off Quora.
If I exerted a little more effort I could probably find freelance assignments that pay better and might even be a credit to my byline, but I'm wary of putting too much focus in that direction. I'm very protective of my fiction-writing time right now. Getting to the point of actually finishing and submitting stories regularly, and staying there, has taken no small amount of effort. I'm not eager to make it harder on myself. (On that note--the space glue apocalypse story came back from its latest outing, bearing a form rejection letter. I shooed it out the door again.)
So... that's the state of the Niki, I guess. Um. How are you?
we have people to do that for us
Today I got the quickest response to a rejection ever. I think it came in under twelve hours. I submitted "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" (previously titled "Anything For a Laugh") to UFO3 last night, and got a personal note back this morning saying that it wasn't a good fit for the anthology.
That is awesome. No, seriously. Given that most publications I might submit will not consider simultaneous submissions (a story that is being simultaneously sent out to other markets) nor multiple submissions (sending several stories to a single market at one time), a quick rejection does two things: it frees that story up to be submitted to a new market, and it frees that market up such that the author can submit a new story to them.
Roughly speaking, of course. The latter is subject to some conditions. Some markets ask authors to wait a minimum number of days before sending something new. So a quick rejection means that countdown begins sooner. And of course some markets do allow multiple submissions; still, once you've sent your ten drabbles to SpeckLit, you have to wait for their response before you can send more. The idea is, each market defines what a single go-round in their slush pile looks like, and you have to wait for one go-round to be done before you can go another round.
In the case of Unidentified Funny Objects, authors may only send one story at a time. If that story gets rejected before the submissions window closes on March 31, the author may send a second story. (But not a third after the second is rejected, I think.) Unfortunately, I don't have a second story that's remotely appropriate. But I appreciate the speed and decisiveness of the editorial team for giving me the option.
That kind of rapid decisiveness is helped along, it must be said, by sending a story that was easily recognizable as not their kind of thing. I was afraid that might be the case. Witness all that maundering about "But is it actually humor, or is it just 'rocks fall, everyone dies' with some comic relief?" At the end of the day, it's a story about all life on Earth being wiped out. This is something that is intrinsically kind of depressing. OK, maybe Douglas Adams succeeded at making the destruction of the planet hilarious, but first off, we can't all be Douglas Adams, and second off, there's a lot more going on in his books than just "rocks fall, everyone but Arthur Dent dies."
My understanding is, the UFO anthology series wants humor of the uplifting sort rather than the bleak. My story falls more on the bleak side of the line.
So how come I submitted that story despite suspecting its balance of humor to bummer might not be quite their cup of tea?
Well, as the commonplace goes, "Don't self-reject. We have editors to do that for us."
That's not to say a writer needn't do any market research nor have any discernment at all. It's more a reminder that, beyond a certain point, the fit of story to market becomes too subjective a call for the author to make on the editor's behalf.
I can make the easy calls, like, "Send the 'soft' SF that's borderline fantasy to Asimov's, not Analog" or "Don't send a story with graphic sex and obscene language to Intergalactic Medicine Show, since they want to keep things PG." And I think I have a decent handle on what makes a story a Shimmer story. (I could be wrong.)
But it's possible to second-guess oneself into immobility, and that's no way to pursue a career.
Basically, as long as I genuinely think my story's in the near ballpark of what they're looking for, then I'm (probably) not wasting their time by sending it. I might be wrong, but that's what rejection letters are for.
And if I don't send it, they can't say "Yes."
So that's my take on not letting market research turn into self-rejection.
the meticulous and paranoid author submits a story for publication
- 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long
Just because I got to the end of my story revision last night didn't mean it was ready to submit.
I mean, there's spell-checking. Which apparently can't be done in the current beta version of Scrivener for Windows. (I am very brave, to beta-test Scrivener with my precious, precious stories. Or very foolish. It's so hard to tell.) So we'll compile to RTF and spell-check that way, making sure to make any corrections in the Scrivener project and not in the RTF.
Then there's reading the story out loud to myself, stopping every few sentences to cringe at the awkwardness and try to figure out how to tidy it up, tighten it down, and make it sound like something a reasonably competent author came up with. And then thinking better of the somewhat related bit three pages ago. And then realizing that the three-pages-ago bit, having been changed, requires a small change six pages ahead.
At some point, the thought occurs to me that three thousand and some-odd words shouldn't take this long to read aloud. We'll brush that thought under the rug because it is not helping.
Then there's another Scrivener-to-RTF compile, another spell-check for the sake of all the bits that got typed anew, and finally a half-hesitant nod of approval from myself to me.
Off to the submissions guidelines web page! Create new email message! Fill in subject header exactly as specified! Fill in correct email address and check it three times! Attach manuscript!
Read the rest of the submissions guidelines. Note, with a sense of "Shouldn't I have noticed this before?" that submissions are read blind, and, as such, attached RTF or DOC manuscripts should have absolutely no identifying information inside.
Open up RTF manuscript. Remove name and contact info from upper-left corner of first page. Remove byline from beneath the title. Remove last name from the header that appears on every page after the first.
Attach manuscript to email, replacing previous attachment.
Send email. High-five self. (Tricky, but worth it.) Log submission in personal records and over at The Submissions Grinder. Check off related HabitRPG to-do item and very nearly reach Level 11 thereby.
Realize that, since [MARKET REDACTED] uses a blind submissions process, perhaps I should not be blogging so chattily about how "Anything For a Laugh," which is the story about the [IDENTIFYING CONTENT REDACTED] and whose title I have changed to [NEW TITLE REDACTED], just got sent there today.
But it did just get sent there today. I am pleased.
Now. Back to "Snowflakes" for a few minutes today, with the greatest hopes for getting all the way through it tomorrow and tidying it up over the weekend. It, too, must be submitted by March 31. Working on it tonight is how I'm going to finish my 5 hours. I am going to reach my 5 hours, darn it, even though I have to be up until 1:00 AM to do it.
Look, I had ever so many good intentions for starting early today. But I didn't get much sleep last night. And no, it wasn't because I was up late playing addictive games. It was because all my roller derby playing bits were sore, with a stealth soreness that doesn't make itself usefully known until I've been tossing and turning and almost drifting away and then waking up again to wonder, "Why am I not sleeping?" and then realizing "Oh, it's because of what feels like a deep tissue bruise on my right arm that yelps when I lie on my right side, and the aching muscle of the inner left thigh that's yelping every time I roll over. And also, I have a headache." At which point I drag myself out of bed and take two ibuprofin, knowing that they won't actually start doing me any good until it's wake-up time. And then it's wake-up time, and I'm only just starting to enjoy sweet, sweet unconsciousness, so I say, "Eff it, I'm not going to stop now that I'm getting good at it." And I turn off my alarm clock.
And that's how oversleeping happened this morning. Also, my imaginary dog ate my homework.
But I did get that story submitted though. Hooray!
musing on hours allotment at the late-night office
- 1,699 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today's blog post comes to you live from Breaker's Grill in downtown Longmont. Breaker's Grill supports the Boulder County Bombers, so we support them back. At this late hour, all the activity is centering around the bar and the many billiards tables. The table seating area is entirely deserted. It is also separated from the bar-and-billiards area by an opaque partition. So although I can hear loud voices and pool balls going click, I'm effectively isolated: all alone in a room full of empty tables, just me and my laptop and what's left of my dinner.
It's perfect. I've spent two hours finishing up the rewrite of the snow-glue-from-space story ("Anything For a Laugh" isn't quite right, but I haven't come up with a new title yet), and now here I am writing this blog post.
As anticipated, today was totally a Wednesday. Which is to say, in addition to being Wednesday, it suffered from all the distractions and delays to which a Wednesday workday is prone. Only I can't blame roller derby practice or volunteer reading. I sort of overslept. By sort of a lot. (Why? I don't know. It can't possibly have to do with staying up until 2:30 playing 2048.) Thus my late start in the afternoon. Thus my needing to log another two and a half hours of writing after roller derby practice.
Now that I'm reaching the five-hour mark more regularly, I'm beginning to feel that five hours isn't enough. But I'm not quite trusting that feeling. On the one hand, I don't think it should have taken three days to rewrite a 2,300-word story. That it's taken me so long has to do with splitting my five hours each day between short story revision, content writing, and the "scales and arpeggios" stuff like freewriting and morning pages and so on. On the other hand, I know I don't actually function well when I do the same thing for five hours straight. I work best when I vary my tasks throughout the day.
What's to do? Experiment, I guess. Try spending more time tomorrow on short story revision ("Snowflakes" is waiting for me to return to it) and defer Examiner or Demand Media Studios to another day--like I did today, I guess. Definitely get started earlier in the day--especially considering Thursday is another day that ends in roller derby practice. Maybe log extra time beyond the five hours, breaking it up into reasonable chunks, and see how that feels.
The simultaneous advantage and drawback of working for yourself on your own schedule is that there's no one forcing you into a particular work-a-day rhythm. You get to work at the pace that serves you best. But first you have to figure out what pace serves you best.
In any case, one sure conclusion is this: don't wait until the week the story is due to start its rewrite! Right? Right. For what it does me now, anyway.