Story Submissions

Today’s topic, by popular demand of my loyal readers (all three of you), is about story submissions, and a few neat places that I’ve checked out that you may consider for your writing porpoises.

Hah, porpoises.

Bear in mind that as a naturally non-competitive person, I was never really into contests. There are a host of them out there, and I don’t claim to be in the know for which ones are “the best.” I suppose “best” is, like in all things, determined by preference. So, with that little disclaimer out of the way, here’s a list of six contests I’ve come across that I find relevant to me (that is, to science fiction and fantasy fiction).

Anyone who’s read my previous posts would find this name familiar. I’ve read both great things about the contest and … odd things about its origins. Be that as it may, the site is easy to use and there’s zero risk on part of the writer, and quite a lot to gain – in both cash and notoriety. They accept all manner of fantasy and science fiction in the form of short stories, novelettes, and even novel excerpts (under certain conditions). I’ve got a short ready, but in the future I plan to toss them a few chapters of my novel-in-progress.

As of this post, there’re two weeks before the next quarterly submission deadline. Hustle them cheeks.

If you’re into flash fiction, this could be something of interest to you. Flash fiction, for those who don’t know, is what it sounds like; a really short story. I’ve read arguments as to how long the minimum actually is, but generally a FlashFic can be between 500-2,000 words.

What makes this challenge fun is that as a participant, you are assigned criteria of three specifics; a genre, a character requirement, and a subject. For me, back in 2013, mine turned out to be: a caper story involving a biker gang and a telemarketer. I succeeded in churning out a story, but the result was less than awesome. It was, however, an excellent exercise, and whenever the challenge comes back for 2014 – presumably in autumn – I’d recommend everyone to swallow the $20 submission fee and just do it.

A podcast about which I have written in the past, and love to this day. They accept short story submissions from new or established writers, and actually pay them for it, all professional like. As a regular consumer of audiobooks and the like, I often dream of hearing my own stories read out by experienced voice actors. While I’ve some time before getting to that point, the Drabblecast may be an excellent place to start for many of you.

Tor is one of those names you see on a lot of books on shelves out there, as one of them-thar umbrella companies. They pay as well, so this makes them more of a traditional publishing-type organization rather than a contest, but they’re well known and have a penchant for science fiction and fantasy. They’re not into novels, though – seems their focus is short story/novella length works, so up to 17,500 words.

Here’s another name the likes of which always echoed with prestige whenever I’ve read about them. They’re more science fiction oriented, but are much like Tor in that they seek shorter works. There is no submission fee with them either since they’re a publisher and like Tor and the Drabblecast, will (gasp) pay you for your work.

And lastly, we have a smaller e-zine that I came across some time ago, the likes of whom have accepted a short story by yours truly. As a “fresh literary magazine,” which I interpret as “startup,” they do not pay submitters but likewise there is no submission fee. I shot them a story of mine knowing that outlets like this are not to be dismissed; I’m no established writer (yet), so what’s the next best thing for the humble pieces I churn out? Exposure. Magazines like Beyond The Imagination are an excellent resource for new writers, and I do hope you’ll pay them a visit as well.

Chances are, the more stories they receive, the sooner they’ll launch.

And with that, I’ll end it with a piece I’ve been digging and oh lordy, must I share it.

Happy writing, dear readers! Do you have any favorite places or outlets you follow or submit to, or plan to submit to?

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Event: WotF 2014 1/4

So if a month after the bells, turkey-silence and ball-dropping has not been reminder enough, it is in fact a new year. That means the Writers and Illustrators of the Future is back, starting with a fresh new quarter. As of this post, the current quarter runs from the January 1st to March 30th … nice three months, as the word quarter might imply.

Yes, I’m aware I’m writing this at the end of January.

~~~

Those of you familiar with WotF, feel free to skip this paragraph.

So to those of you unfamiliar with Writers of the Future, we’re talking about an annual event that consists of a four-part contest, one held each quarter of the year, where “new and amateur” writers and artists submit their work. What makes this different from other contests is that entries are free, the submissions are international, and winning the contest is really quite a big deal. An entrant can enter for each quarter, and award ceremonies are held in Los Angeles, where one has an opportunity to meet leading fantasy artists and writers of the day. Got some pieces laying around but nowhere to send ’em? You may as well check this out.

Triva: You may find it amusing that the individual who founded the contest, L. Ron Hubbard (deceased), a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy, was also responsible for the foundations of Scientology.

Thankfully the contest itself doesn’t have anything to do with them, but there is a little bit of controversy.

~~~

As for me, a story is coming along, placeholder-named “The Telescope,” and I’ll be refining it for entry shortly after this very post. To date, I’ve only entered this contest once, but as part of a New Year’s resolution, I intend to submit an entry every quarter. Three months is ample time to invent and write a short story of 17,000 words or less, and besides, they accept novel portions.

This is going to be a good year. Whether or not I actually win, this is a healthy goal, and according to Wikipedia:

Often writers will repeatedly enter the contest, quarter after quarter, until they either win or become ineligible due to publications elsewhere.

I find this encouraging. In a later post, I might talk a little about my own story, but in the meantime, what of you, dear readers? Are you familiar with WotF? How was your experience, and, do you have ideas for what you’ll have ready for this – or next – quarter?

Resolutions Circa 2014

I’ve never been really big on New Year’s Resolutions, in part because it felt so cliche. Also because I did not believe in the power of the mind as much – more often than not, I heard stories about people breaking their promises to themselves. Almost always about weight. And there’re plenty of reasons for that, but I’m not getting into it here.

Recent years have really put a new perspective on the power of will. I’m not really on board with the Law of Attraction and The Secret, but there is something to be said about carrying positive thoughts and discarding negative thoughts. I like to think this can and does apply to promises. Heck, how likely do you think you’ll hold a resolution – to yourself or otherwise – that you think you can’t hold? Much less than someone who thinks they can, that’s for sure.

So with that in mind, here are my resolutions, my Goals, for the year 2014.

  • 1) Finish the First Book

So I’ve got a novel layout and something of a couple of broken drafts for something I always think fondly of as the Novel Project. For the last couple months, I’ve had the majority of it ready to go, except for that last piece: actually writing it. I keep telling myself “If only I had a few months of free time I could complete it.” That may be true, but the likelihood of me getting that much unstressed time to myself is slim, so I gotta do it like everyone else: bits and pieces, consistently.

So it will be completed this year.

  • 2) Become More Active on Social Media

I’m pretty anti-social. As much of a dog-person as I generally am, I think my behavior is more akin to that of a cat. I’ll go out and be with people but usually when I want to (as opposed to bend to social pressure), and most of the time I’m pretty content with keeping to myself. This doesn’t really do well for anyone claiming to be a creative, especially when trying to cultivate an image and an audience.

Thus I have resolved to become more active and interactive. I’ll gladly answer anything sent my way, I’m not rude, but it’s gotta go both ways.

  • 3) Keep Physical

This last year actually has had me the most physical – consistently – for the first time in my life. A cheap gym membership, some readings on willpower, and an occasional self-kick in the butt (along with that of a friend from time to time) goes a long way. Regrettably, NaNoWriMo really put a stop to a consistent after-work exercise regimen to which I had adhered quite well, and December … the “recovery” month … has been difficult. I blame holidays and NaNoHangover, but now that things are finally calming down, it’s back to the weights on a regular basis. No more of that 1 or 2 times a week crap.

Besides, keeping physical helps restore brain function, and one cannot be expected to remain a creative mind if the body becomes lethargic. Besides, teaching your brain and body to go to the gym every (other) day is the same process it takes to teach one’s self to write every day.

  • 4) Read More

I’ve got a list of books both of my own choosing and as has been recommended by friends. I hardly read as much as I should, though, and as a writer that’s a pretty nasty double-standard. It’s like trying to become a better painter but never looking at what other people have produced with their own brushes. Heresy!

If I can pull these goals off, alongside or in spite of whatever other issues Life will through in my path, chances are 2014 will be a good year.

NaNoWriMo ReSuLtS

So the results are in!

After weeks of grueling stress, sweat, some adrenaline, yours truly as made it through the annual National Novel Writing Month. In case I have not made it abundantly clear what this is in previous posts, think of it this way:

You sign up. You invent a new or perhaps bring in a previous novel that you wish to work on. The goal is 50,000 words in one month. That comes to 1,667 words per day. In the editing industry, that would equate to a little under seven pages of text. However, there is no editing permitted – your task to write, even if it’s crap. That’s the point. Get it out, you’re allowed to edit it later.

And trust me, I used a lot of placeholder dialogue and description scenes. My piece will require thorough editing.

At any rate, I managed to finish a day early at 50,120 words. See above about sweat and stress. I had to quit going to the gym for the last two tendays of the month, turned down a number of social opportunities, and spent a large amount of energy thinking and making notes at The Place Where They Think I Work.

The experience was grueling, as I’ve said, but incredibly positive. I’ve made a few friends and learned how to use a nifty website; the graphs are particularly encouraging after uploading one’s total word count. I had even fallen behind – on two consecutive weekends, things happened with people – but tightened the old belt, rolled back the old sleeves, and forced myself onward.

NaNoWriMo is not about having a good idea, though that helps. It’s about discipline, and I’m sad to say that very few of the people I’ve met before and during the challenge did not make it. This is not an easy thing to do, and without getting too personal, I simply wanted to say that I had a number of emotional obstacles that would have otherwise seriously derailed me.

What matters most is that I proved something to myself with the NaNoWriMo challenge. The night I completed it, the night I proved to myself that I can in fact write such a volume in such a span of time, I rewarded myself with choice “victory” music, and will likely soon watch an anime (don’t get me started!!) that I’ve been wanting to watch for years. These may seem like small things. But you understand, dear reader, don’t you?

For one thing, I am very particular about my music – why, when and where. We will get into this another time; but suffice it to say for now that my allowing myself to listen to victorious, uplifting tracks such as this is rare. I actually felt like I earned it, like I accomplished something.

I’ve got stories to write and books to edit. There is yet a lot of work to do.

But now, dear readers, now I know I can do it.

Inspire: Birds (Part 1)

So today, I shall tell you, dear readers, about my latest project.

As some of you may know, the Writer’s of the Future contest deadline is approaching, and only recently did I have a story concept developed enough that I wanted to really pursue it. Lo and behold, 1.5 weeks later and with about one week left, I’m on a roll, spinning this tale like a potter atop a merry-go-round.

One of the fun things about writing stories, for me anyway, is some of the back research needed to set the tone and detail the setting well. The story I am writing for the contest, which I’m torn between entitling “What Happens To Dead Vultures?” and “The Phoenix Pearl,” is, as you might have inferred, about birds. When it’s complete, perhaps I’ll shamelessly make a link to a post somewhere online for public viewage.

The story is more or less a creation myth, as told by what we know today as vultures. There are some familiar characters – cranes, eagles, a condor and hell, even a goose. This is not Animal Farm, this is more along the lines of Hero’s Journey myth.

But what I’ve had a grand old time researching was a variety of birds, and in my internet travels I came across this beauty:

Image

One can never run out of cool stuff on Wikipedia.

I was astounded by this thing. Why haven’t I heard about a hoatzin before?

Now, I suppose I could dedicate an entire post to birds – I have a sort of thing for animals and science – but looking at this creature, I could invent a myth about it. There’s something awfully phoenix-y about it, eh? Despite the fact that it makes its home in the branches of Amazonian trees.

Birds symbolize things we’ve all heard before: grace, freedom, flight, pride and all that. But they’re often misunderstood, or simply not understood at all. You know all that lovely singing you hear when going for a stroll in the woods? Those sparrows and larks aren’t singing because they’re happy, they’re essentially shouting off rivals and cat-calling mates. I’ve seen similar behavior on the streets of New York near a construction zone.

There are thousands of birds to choose from for any amount of reasons. The hoatzin I displayed above is not necessarily my favorite bird, but it makes the list of newly discovered Top Ten. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually post a list.

During part 2 of this Inspire: Birds series, though, we will discuss birds that inspire fear in yours truly, and I’ll talk about how I harnessed that and use it in my writing.

Until next time, consider from what birds might you derive inspiration. Let me know if you’ve a favorite, even!

WDCE 2013 Pitch Slam

So I went to it, the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference. I was only able to attend Saturday’s events (it lasted Friday to Sunday), but let me tell you, that day was packed, and most nerve-wracking of all was the 1.5 hour Pitch Slam. I’ll describe that in a moment.

There were multiple talks and events being held, some during the same time slot, so attendees such as myself had to choose between things. I’ll talk about those in another blog entry. As for the Pitch Slams, there were two, and one must register to whichever beforehand. I opted for the earlier one, based purely on the idea that I’d only work myself into further anxiety the longer I waited. Besides, I heard afterward that supposedly by Round 2, the agents are already tired and supposedly less receptive. Who can tell?

First time conference and first time pitching.  I was nervous. Yet I had done my research, rehearsed my lines, and gotten there on time. But nothing compares to actual experience.

I had left a talk ten minutes early to get to the designated “pitch room,” only to find that about 10,000 other writers had the same idea. We waited, I made small talk with those before and behind me, and eventually the line moved – and then, I was there, stepping past some majestic double-doors and into the presence of dozens of agents, any one of whom might show elating interest or offer a crushing rejection.

Now, every article you find about “how to pitch your book” will tell you about how the agents are only human and that a rejection does not necessarily mean your work is bad. Indeed, easy words to pass along, but not so easy to practice on the first time around. This was the gateway, the starting judgment. That’s not easy for people to take casually.

But the difference is choosing whether to subject yourself to judgment or to avoid these things altogether. Books that are kept secret don’t get published. Unless they find ’em after you’re dead.

Here’s how it went. Agents lined the walls, each seated and behind a table. Lines of us aspiring authors formed at each of the agents we hoped to see. Now as I said, I did my research, and had the names of the ones who I gauged to be most interested in epic fantasy. I had made a list of 6 ‘primaries,’ agents that had priority, and another 8 ‘secondaries’ in case the lines were too long, someone cancelled, or whatever. Good thing I did, too, because i saw that some agents had not showed up (all mine did though), and the line to meet one of my primaries was too long by the time I got to her.

Time with an agent is about 3 minutes. At one end of the room, some folks with a bell and a loud speaker would ring on intervals. “Switch!” And “One minute left!” When it’s time to go, it’s time to get up; and when it’s time to sit, you blast off with your 90-second pitch following a brief introduction.

So I pitched, and I slammed. Of the 7 agents I managed to see during those 1.5 hours, 4 were interested to see more of my work and two had given me the names of people (who weren’t there) they thought I should contact. Then, at 5 minute remaining, I thought i’d simply call it quits, but then I spotted one of my secondaries looking lonely. He wasn’t interested in my pitch, but happily gave me the name of someone else he knew. It pays to make that extra effort.

Not too shabby. You will hear whether or not anything comes of that, trust me.

Regarding the Slam itself though, I’d read horror stories about this event. Rude agents interrupting, timers being off-key, things like that. I’m here to tell you that the worst part of the entire experience was my own anxiety.

The agents, even those who were less-than-interested, were polite. Only one urged me to hurry up (“Alright, tell me the end”) and several times someone in front of me stood up early – which threw timer off. This meant that once or twice I had benefitted from an additional 30-45 seconds of agent time before the next bell buzzed and the system reset. That’s like, a week in Pitch Slam years. With one agent, the same happened to me, giving whoever was behind me some extra time as well.

I emerged from the clamor with an air of victory. And that feeling was exponentially magnified after the events that would take place later in the evening. But like I said, that’s another entry.

Back to the Slam. Listen, as an amateur I don’t think I’m authorized to dispense advice. But I did learn a lot, and after speaking to dozens of other folks there, in conjunction with my experience, I feel safe emphasizing a few points to other would-be authors:

  • Get over yourself. “Fear profits man nothing.”
  • Talk to people. You’re all there for the same reason – you’re not against one another so make a friend.
  • Research and plan who you’re seeing. I can’t emphasize this enough, since I met some writers though who’d done nothing. They went from agent to agent at random, only to be rejected multiple times just because that agent wasn’t even into their genre.
  • Target the agents you want, based on what they’re after, and form a back-up list.
  • Get over yourself.

Happy writing!