Writing–Canceling “Playing Chicken”

Last month I learned that due to lack of funds that the anthology that “Playing Chicken” was going to be published in was canceled. This bums me out for a few reasons. One, I won’t be getting paid. Two, I won’t be getting my story published. Three, one of my favorite small publishers (that’s published me in the past) is struggling.

It’s the third point that really troubles me. See, when I ask you to buy an anthology I’ve been published in, I’m not just asking for me. Yes, I want you to read the story I wrote, but I also want you to read the stories everyone else in the anthology wrote. I get paid a one time payment of a certain amount per word when the anthology is published. I don’t make royalties off of it. The money made from you buying an anthology pays the bills, allows the small publisher to keep publishing, and provides me with the future possibility of having another story published with them.

So, while I don’t reap the immediate monetary rewards from all of the copies the anthology sells, you are providing me with the opportunity to get paid by these people again. That’s important to a writer, especially in a time when the short story market is competitive, tough, and not paying a whole lot. Buying the anthologies and keeping the small publishers afloat help out not just the publishers, but the writers, too.

So, with that all said, the “Playing Chicken” ball is back in my court and I am charged with finding a new home for it. On one hand, that’s a pain in the ass. This story was sold, dammit! I should be done with it. On the other hand, it gives me another story to shop around which kind of gives me a boost for my goal to make more of an effort in my submitting. It’s easier to submit a story when you actually have a story to submit, which will be the key to reaching my submitting goals.

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. Let’s hope the next “Playing Chicken” door opens quickly.

Writing–January Projects

January is going to be one busy, crazy month.

I’m rewriting/revising Spirited in Spite for a contest. The deadline is February 5th, but I’m going to try to have the novel done by January 30th. Yeah, considering most of the book has to be rewritten, there is no way this can end well. If I can get it in somewhat readable shape, I’ll be happy.

The contest is in three stages: pitch, excerpt, novel. I will declare this contest a success if I can get past the pitch stage.

Really, since there’s no entry fee, there’s nothing I’ve got to lose by doing this. The hard deadline, the goal, will help keep me focused. I’ve rewritten/revised one other novel, but I didn’t complete it in the sense that I would feel comfortable with sending it. I can’t imagine I can get this book perfect in about 30 days (okay, to be fair it’s more like 45 days since I actually started working on it in December), but what I will end up with when I submit my entry is going to be better and closer to finished than what I’ve got right now. There’s no reason for me to pass up the opportunity to really work on my novel revising skills in a specific time frame and with a definite goal.

There will be stress and frustration. Let’s just hope that it’s not so severe I end up pulling out my hair.

I’ve also got a few short stories that need to be finished from December. “Another Deadly Weapon” is done and ready to go. “How the Night Haunts” will be up on the blog shortly. The rewrites on “At 3:36” ended up separating the piece into two different stories, “At 3:36” and “Powerless”. “At 3:36” needs more work, but “Powerless” just needs some polishing up, I think. “Anniversaries” and the untitled short story need more work, too.

Aside from “Powerless”, every other story is going to wait in favor of the novel revisions. With “Powerless” done, I’ll have four stories (along with “Soul Sister”, “Playing Chicken” (the anthology it was going to be in was canceled), and “Another Deadly Weapon”) to shop around, which I plan to do in earnest. My goal is to submit a lot more short stories this year.

Let’s see how this all works out with my birthday and me being in Chicago for four days. Let’s just see.

Writing–Feeling That Magic

I always say that I’m a better rewriter than a writer, and for the most part that’s true. I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with first drafts and I try to get them done as quickly as possible so I can get on to the revision process, which I like and feel I’m better at.

However, I sometimes get it right the first time.

Hard to believe, I know, but it happens.

There are times when I get an idea for a short story, the idea comes so perfectly formed in my head that all I have to do is write it down. The only revising that happens are little tweaks and some polishing of grammar, word choice, and spelling and that’s it. Those are scary moments for me because I keep thinking I should be changing more, but I’m not seeing the problems. Eventually, after some worrying and mind-boggling, I give up and call the story done. I end up submitting it, thinking it’s a sure rejection.

Three stories that this has happened with have been accepted for publication.

“Land of the Voting Dead”, about a very unique polling place, came out in a rush and was in great shape when I finished it. It really did only need a few tweaks when I was done. Then I found an anthology I thought would be a perfect fit for it. Unfortunately, I was more than a few words short of the minimum word count. Surprisingly enough, after a few days thought, the scene I added to expand the work count came to me the same way the story did. It fit in perfectly with the rest of the story and the whole shebang got accepted.

“Sentries”, about plants used to deter unwanted visitors, was written with a specific anthology in mind. With the theme of the anthology in mind, I thought about what kind of story I could come up with that would fit it. There was no pressure; if I didn’t come up with a good idea, then I didn’t try to write anything for it. No big deal. Less than a week before the deadline, the idea came to me. I wrote it with the word count in mind, adding in a couple of scenes that weren’t in the original vision. Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going with them and thought for sure by the time I’d written the last word the whole thing was crap. I gave it a day and then read it again. Upon review, with a few small revisions, I found that it all worked and it ended up getting accepted to the anthology.

I almost got “Playing Chicken” right the first time. For the most part, the bulk of the story about a group of kids playing chicken with a ghost train and how it affected their lives, was right on. But there was one scene I just couldn’t get right. I knew how what I wanted it to, but I just wasn’t getting the job done. In the end, it took a couple of rewrites of that particular scene to get the clarity and effect I was going for. It paid off in the end, as the story got accepted to an anthology.

This phenomenon happened again last week. I got an idea for a flash-fiction story called “Someone To Hold” based on a superstition that if you leave a corpse’s eyes open, they’ll look for someone to take with them to the grave. I wrote the first draft of the story in a rush that I recognized. This story is mostly done. The revisions I’ll make will be superficial ones, polishing and tweaking to make it as perfect as I can get it. My hope is that I’ll be able to scrape up the entry fee money to submit it to a contest that I think it will do well in.

Then we’ll see if I really was feeling that first draft magic.