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Archive for February, 2013

Daily Science Fiction has scheduled my P.G. Wodehouse homage, “Foundering Fathers,” for March 22. This will be my third appearance in DSF, which you should check out if you haven’t yet. For the cost of less than five minutes of your time, you can see stories from some of the finest short story artists writing today.

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Outline of an idea

Every writer knows there are two camps of thought about…well, pretty much everything. And it’s usually more than two. But in this case, there are two schools of thought about outlining your story before you write it. One camp thinks it’s the only way to achieve a coherent, thematically-consistent product, and the other camp thinks the first camp is full of garbage. Outlining, they maintain, leads to sterility and takes the joy out of the creative process. If you know exactly where you’re going, why bother to go?

For virtually all of my career, I have been a partisan of the latter school. I tried outlining my very first novel. Problem was, the outline failed to achieve a thematically-consistent thread, so the novel followed suit. After that, I figured, why outline if it doesn’t do you any good? And so I followed the “seat-of-your-pants” model; my career did, too.

But a few years ago, I did some work-for-hire based on an outline that was given to me. It was to be done in pieces, each piece with its own deadline. And working off of an outline, I beat every deadline with days to spare. So when I had an idea for another novel, I realized I might speed the process if I outlined it first. Then I got another idea, and the same was true for that one. So when I sat down to write another novel (which turned out to be neither of the books I thought I would write), I spent few days doodling with characters and setting out a basic plot.

And it worked. Now I’m a committed outliner. Thank heaven I didn’t surrender a few years ago to the temptation to have “Seat-of-the-pantser” tattooed on the seat of my…you get the idea.

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Winning through losing

When you’re a writer of a certain level, which is to say when you can still go to the supermarket and no one recognizes you, there are levels of success. Level one, of course, is making a sale. But even when you don’t make a sale, you can measure your success by the types of rejections you receive from magazines.

Today I received rejection from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a first-rate market. It offers good rates, wide distribution, reviews in most venues, and exposure for award consideration. Selling to F&SF is a long shot for someone like me, but I keep trying, hoping to break in. Up until today, my efforts had pretty much fallen on their face, gaining me a polite but impersonal note from an assistant editor who probably sends out a hundred such notes a day.

Today, for the first time, I received a note directly from the editor. This means that my story was read by an assistant editor, and for the first time, passed up the line. I don’t know how many stories at F&SF get passed up to the editor, but if it’s like most other markets, that means my story rated in the top 20%, if not higher, of their current submissions. I know the kind of people who submit stories to F&SF, and if I can come even within shouting distance, I’ve done well.

It’s not a sale, but on the continuum of success, I’ll take it. For today.

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The pre-sale page for the anthology in which I will be appearing, The Age of Certainty, and which asks the question, “What would happen if we had certain knowledge of God’s existence?” is here.

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