Tag Archives: writing


sad dragon
Bummer, dude

I heard back from C.C. Finlay, who’s guest editing an issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (or F&SF, for short). Regular readers of this blog may remember when I posted about submitting a story for this issue. Charlie doesn’t plan to use my story this July/August. He liked it, but he didn’t love it. Actually, here’s his email, verbatim:

Thanks for submitting “Gathering for the Feast.” I enjoyed reading it — I like the setting, the history, the magic, and characters. But in the end it didn’t quite win me over — part of that was it felt just a bit too long to me for the amount of story in it. So I’m afraid I’m going to pass on it. Best of luck with finding another home for it, and thanks again for giving me a chance to read it. If I do this again I hope to see another story from you.

A friend of mine also submitted a story, and received a rejection. In the interests of ferreting out exactly how personal my rejection letter was, and how much it was  form letter, I can report that both our rejections began and ended pretty much the same way. “Thank you for submitting [title].” appeared in both letters. So did the ending part: “Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for giving me a chance to read it. If I do this again I hope to see more stories from you.

The part where I know he actually read my story, and my friend’s—or at least, he got decent evaluations of them from a careful reader—comes in between the form sections. My friend’s center section was different from mine. Not exactly a form letter, right? Anyway, I’ve decided to take it as encouragement. Why? Because I can!

So now I need to decide what to do next. There are two options I can see. The first would be to go back in and see if I can figure out where and how the story is too long. The second would be to just go ahead and submit it elsewhere.

Here’s the thing: if I didn’t have any other projects vying for my attention, I would probably go back in there. I might find something to improve, something that’s escaped me up to this point. However, I have at least two other works in need of revision. Also there’s the whole, “what if while I’m trying to fix it, I just make it worse?” question. You know how, when you’re having the beginnings of a bad hair day, and you keep futzing around with your hair, and by the time you’re done, it looks even worse than when you started? That’s my dilemma.

Here’s the way I’m leaning: decide in a day or two.

My plan for today is to revise a different short story. I marked it up yesterday. I want to get it in shape to put up on Critique Circle. Once they’ve had a go at it, I was going to run it by my other critique group. Then I was going to push the little darling out the door.

In the meantime, I have a hot mess of a novel which requires surgery and other doctoring. I plan to get back to work on that tomorrow.

Next week is Capricon. I can see doing a first draft of something, or even marking up a draft, while also attending a con. But to do revisions I really need to spread out. Unvisited marked-up pages go on the left, finished pages go on the right, my computer is in the middle, and my pulled-out hair is in the wastebasket. I’d rather deal with all that at home, thank you. So I won’t bring my novel along. I might take my rejected F&SF short story with me for markup, if I decide to have another look at it before sending it out again.

Anyone out there on the interwebs have an opinion? Do I just submit the story elsewhere, or do I try to fix it? I’d love to see your comments below. If it’s easier for you to respond using Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, feel free to comment that way instead.

Updated Scoreboard:
Year: 2014
Submissions: 2   Acceptances: 0   Rejections: 1

The Three-Legged Stool of Creativity – The Last Leg

Filling the Well -or- The Care and Feeding of Your Muse
Part Three of a three-part series on helping creativity flow

All three legs

You can only stare at your computer screen or scribble words on a page for so long before you start to go wacky. Ask Stephen King. Or his character, Jack Torrance.

Don’t let it get this bad, fellow writers!

There are a bunch of ways to fill the well/care for your muse (pick your metaphor). Julia Cameron, whose book, The Artist’s Way, was mentioned in the first post of this series, recommends Artist Dates. For an artist date, you set aside maybe an hour a week to do something fun, but you need to do it by yourself. No significant other, no kids, no pals. You explore some new, interesting thing without having to worry about what anyone thinks of you, or of the experience. It’s a great idea. It’s also more difficult than it sounds. It’s not usually hard to participate in your Artist Date once you get there. What’s difficult is committing to take the time to do it. It’s easier, as Cameron says, for most of us to work at our art than it is to play at it. I’m not that good at it myself, but I have actually tried this in the past. Some of my artist dates have included:

  • Sitting in a bookstore and looking at gorgeous art or travel books
  • Going to Naper Settlement, a local living history museum
  • Pulling out a kid’s set of watercolors and painting, even though I suck at it
  • Bird watching
  • Driving to Starved Rock State Park to hike and take photos
  • People-watching at Union Station while jotting notes about people and my surroundings

The Union Station trip was a particularly good idea. It was a week or so into NaNoWriMo, and I was hating every word I’d written. I couldn’t face the page anymore. After a few hours of writing about something other than my novel – something no one was going to read – I came back refreshed and ready to write on my novel again. It was like magic.

You don’t need to fill the well all by yourself. Hanging out with other, like-minded people can be energizing, too. There’s no way I would have stayed as committed to writing if I hadn’t found my writing group, The Journey. We support each other as a group. In addition to working on our craft together and commiserating, we also find ways to have fun. Various activities have included visiting The Art Institute or Morton Arboretum, seeing live theatre, starting our own reader’s theatre group to read Shakespeare plays together, learning archery, going out for drinks, and playing games. And when possible, we try to find ways to organize a potluck lunch or go out to dinner.

So there are at least two ways to go – solitary or social. I recommend both. If you haven’t already started a muse-feeding, well-filling practice, try the one that’s easier to manage, and try to do it at least once a week if you possibly can.

National Novel Writing Month – 2013

Have you noticed that the world is full of fun things to do?


One of them is writing. Yeah, yeah, I know.

1. It’s hard to find the time.
2. Blank pages (or screens) are terrifying.
3. Trying to express your excellent ideas  can be frustrating. What you write never turns out as fabulous as what you imagined.
4. It’s lonely.

Okay. I’ll give you the first 3.

As for number 4, what if I told you that you didn’t have to go it alone?

A few  years back, my friend Cheryl’s husband mentioned that she couldn’t hang out with us because she was writing a novel. She was not taking on any social obligations for the month of November! I thought it very noble of her, sacrificing herself for her art like that. I was filled with admiration. However, even though I’d also written a fair amount of fiction in the past, I didn’t see myself doing what she’d signed up for. Write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? What a recipe for disaster! I might be able to key 50,000 words into a Word document. There were no guarantees that it would end up being a novel.

But the idea stuck with me. Then, as November of 2010 approached, I found myself checking out the National Novel Writing Month web site. I checked some of their recommended books out of the library. I read inspirational pep talks from previous years. I discovered that writing a novel in November really means writing a horrible first draft. Heck, anyone can do that just as soon as they bind and gag their inner editor and stick her in the basement, with promises to let her out by Christmas. I saw that my friend Cheryl could be my online buddy through the ordeal. (Cheryl’s NaNoWriMo handle is CeeCeeMee, if you want her to be your writing buddy, too.) So I signed up.

One issue: Cheryl lives in Indiana. There was no way she could physically hold my hand. So I began searching for support closer to home.

That was when I teamed up with The Novelistas.

I also began to hang out with my local NaNo region, whose site is here. They have become my peeps. I promise more about them in future posts.

With all of us cheering each other on, a bunch of us won, and I was one of the proud victors. I have participated in NaNo ever since.

Did I write deathless prose in November of 2010? Or in November of 2011 or 2012, for that matter? No freaking way. But I got at least 50,000 words each of those years. Here comes the disclaimer: even though what I wrote in 2012 is a steaming pile of you-know-what, I feel like, given a healthy pruning and with some missing parts filled in, it could amount to something some day. I will keep you posted on that front.

In the meantime, if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel someday, this could be your year. Seriously.

And if you want me for a NaNoWriMo writing buddy, my handle on the site is Cee-Bee.