Archive for the ‘Humble efforts’ category

three strikes

April 25, 2019

Wow! I’ve already received three rejections this week, and the week ain’t over.

It’s not as tough as I make out. One piece had been out for 11 months before I got the rejection, and it’s just as well since in that time I had substantially revised it; I wouldn’t have wanted it published as it was from back then.

Another was a long shot, and I don’t think the story was really finished anyway. I think the substance of it is there, but I’m still tinkering with it. So no hurt feelings here.

The third was for “MTWTF” that I’ve talked about here before. It’s a quirky story, which doesn’t really hurt its chances, I think, but it’s also a long story, which, in combination with quirk, I think does hurt its chances.

Still, onward!

But this reality of creative writing and submitting convinces me more and more that paying a fee to submit a story is not a cost-effective production model. (And as I think about it, I see plenty of cautions against submitting novel manuscripts to publishers who charge an up-front submission or reading fee. Invariably, they’re identified as scammers or at least places to avoid. Yet for journals, we’re supposed to be okay with that same thing?)

and so, a turn of the year

January 1, 2019

I’ve long thought that the first day of spring ought to be when we reckon the changing of the year.* It makes a sense that I can see — the whole rebirth thing — that I can’t see in making the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere) the apparently arbitrary turning point.

But enuf of that. I “finished” the story “Three Small Words” yesterday. It’s part of the One-Match Fire universe though it takes place long after the end of that novel. (I know these characters so well now that it’s “easy” to write about them.) And at the top of the first page of the story I wrote “Copyright 2019 by the author.” It felt daring when I did that. A day early, of course, but also ambitious and hopeful — the first of a year’s worth of efforts in what really is a difficult and only infrequently rewarding craft.

I had intended to write a post here about the comparatively large number of publishing successes I had in 2018. But calculating this is iffy in itself. (Alliteration doesn’t work so well with the letter “i”.) Stories published within the year? Accepted within the year? Submitted within the year but accepted after the turn of the year? (I even have a story that I learned late last year was shortlisted, so should that be accepted soon in 2019, does it count for 2018? Or should I be fudging all of these dubious standards to swell my acceptances in 2019?)

As it stands, here is how 2018 broke down: seven of my stories appeared in print during the calendar year. At least one I know had been submitted in the distant past of 2017. By any count, that’s been my most successful year since I began writing/submitting fiction earnestly. (And as full disclosure, I also submitted eight other works in 2018 for a total of thirteen submissions still pending. Should any be accepted today or later, I’m going to tally them in the 2019 column. And fuller disclosure, I had twenty-seven rejections in 2018.)

In the coming days I hope to write my annual post about my visits to Roundrock for 2018, but I have to get down there to retrieve the calendar hanging on the wall (perhaps this weekend if the weather favors my fate). I’m not striving for any “successes” with those visits — not more than the year before, for example — but I always feel I don’t get down there as much as I’d like. Life interferes. (I read someone’s account of having several hundred rejections last year. Was he more diligent than I or less selective?)

I guess our little monkey brains want to quantify our lives so that we can make better sense of them and hold the (mostly) illusion that we are in control. Whatever.

I hope you stride hopefully into 2019. I know I’ll want to hear all about it.

*And some cultures do, as I learned when I acquired a Moslem daughter-in-law.

triplets, triptychs, trinities

December 31, 2018

My high school English teacher had assigned Lord Jim as my reading and term paper project in my senior year. That turned out to be a watershed moment in my (eventual) creative life because it introduced me to Joseph Conrad, whose novels I’ve read throughout the ensuing decades. Some I’ve read more than once. Lord Jim I’ve read thrice. (Maybe more. I wasn’t keeping good records in my callow youth.)

When my reading turned to Philip Roth, and I read some of his nonfiction, he discussed the influence Conrad had on his own writing and teaching. What I specifically remember was his respect for Conrad’s use of threes in a sentence: three examples, three clauses, three points.

I had long noticed by that time that I was commonly using threes in the sentences I wrote, and I was delighted to learn their apparent influence from my extensive reading of Joseph Conrad. Normally I don’t want to know too much about my creative process since I fear familiarity will lead to analysis, which would slay creativity. (Have I really been writing this blog for more than a decade?)

So here is a sentence I recently wrote for a story I’m working on (with the apt title “Three Small Words”*):

“Nonetheless, he wanted to find some moment, some event, some thing in the past that could be blamed and attacked and conquered rather than admit that his father had been mortal all along, was now simply getting old, and had a limited number of days as all men do.”

By my count, there are three incidents of threes in that sentence. I did not do this consciously; it just rose from the murk of my creative subconscious and flowed through my fingers onto the keyboard and then onto the screen.

I realize that it may be one of those darlings you’re supposed to kill, and that my yet happen since I’m only in the first draft stage.

But for the present I’m going to wallow in the perceived influence of Joseph Conrad.

*The three small words in the story are “Don’t tell Mom,” and an argument in the story is conducted with a series of three-word sentences, but the title harkens to some other threes in One-Match Fire including the three notes of the whippoorwill and the words “I love you,” a feeling that permeates that novel in many unspoken ways, so the whippoorwill is given the job of saying it.

writing is rewriting

November 26, 2018

and I much prefer writing.

I mentioned before that an editor liked a running story (with a hint of leprechaun) that I had submitted and asked for a rewrite, enhancing the (possible) supernatural element of the tale. I’ve been struggling with that task ever since.

I’ve found that actual rewriting — taking a “finished” piece and reworking it — is different from the ongoing rewriting that is part of the normal editing and evolving of a story in progress. The latter is in flux in my mind, and I can wrap my head around its shifting nature. Not so with the former.

I suppose when I consider a story “finished” I lock it down in my little mind. Its words and sentences and order and development are all in their proper places, and any change to that, especially directed from the outside, is a kind of violence to the settled system. Each word had stood in its exact place in the “finished” work, the right flow was achieved, the right order led to the inexorable end. But with a rewrite I have to rip much of that apart and try to piece it all back together, with new, added parts that also need to find their places.

The story deals with a man asking a wish of someone whom he drunkenly thinks can grant it. This happens, but cautionary tales through the ages have warned of the need to be careful and specific in phrasing wishes to supernatural wish granters, and my character learns this lesson.

So I have the basic rewrite cobbled together now. It’s not finished. It needs a lot of love and a fair amount of cosmetics to smooth the clumsy transitions where I forced parts together. But it’s something I can work with. I’ll give it time to gestate and return to it to see what can be done.

 

“Deadfall” finds a home

October 29, 2018

My One-Match Fire story “Deadfall” has been accepted by Hedge Apple for its “Personal Identity” themed issue. It should appear online next month (and is apparently “in the running” for the print edition to come out in December — I do like seeing the shelf with the journals carrying my stories getting fuller).

This story is a recent addition to the novel, one that I had originally intended to be part of the “inevitable sequel.” It’s a companion to the other recent addition: “Spring Fever.” The two clarify and then resolve the major conflict in the latter half of the novel.

This is the fifth story I’ve had published this year and my thirtieth published story.

pledged

October 3, 2018

So one of the lit mags that ran one of my stories, The Magnolia Review, which ran “Fire Sermon,” has a Kickstarter campaign and if they raise enuf money, they’re going to put out a print edition of the issue with my story in it. Through some quirk, I received an email about it, welcoming me to make a pledge.

While it is nice to see the shelf with the journals holding my stories getting more full, I don’t absolutely have to have a printed copy of each one. Still, I went to the site just to see what it was all about.

And what did I find but that they excerpted my story as a sample of what was in the issue.

As I write this, they have a long, long way to go to reach their goal, but I confess that I did do my part to help them reach it!

Update 1NOV18: The campaign did not reach its goal by the deadline, and I got an automated email telling me this. But the emails contributors received from the editor herself prior to this spoke of seeing proofs from the printer, as though publication was going to happen. I don’t know where this stands, but I’m guessing this one won’t be added to my shelf.

betwixt

June 25, 2018

I find myself in that in-between place again. I have three stories I’m working on at the moment, and though some part of my brain thinks this is probably counterproductive — my creative “genius” being diluted across too many efforts — another part of me says that words are words, and if I can get them down in any fashion or location, I should call it a win.

I’m about three-fourths finished with the first draft of Finnegans Fogbound, a novel-length ambition and something I had embarked on to give myself a break from all of the fraught, literary anguishing I was doing with my One-Match Fire stories. The Finnegans novels are more light weight works, something like cozy mysteries that, while demanding in their own way, can be written without too much personal investment (if that makes sense). I don’t make literary references in them; I don’t strive for some profound, controlling metaphors or psychological insights that span Western civilization. Thus, a break.

But I may have stalled on that story. I’m not sure. I certainly know where the plot needs to go. I have all of the characters in place and developed nicely. I have all of the pieces on the table before me, but I can’t seem to bring myself to finish putting together the puzzle. I suspect it’s temporary and I’m just feeling the daunting demands of a novel-length effort. So I seem to have taken a break from the break I was taking.

And find myself back in the One-Match Fire universe after all. I’m making some decent progress on a story called “Spring Fever” which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s a love story, and I don’t write many of those, but I found I needed to get the points of this story worked out so I could revise a different story: “Little Gray Birds” which is part of the One-Match Fire novel and which I realized I needed to refine so I could consider that novel finished and ready to submit to scary agents. (You’re following all of this, right?) “Little Gray Birds” takes place after “Spring Fever” so what happens in the latter affects the telling of the former. Thus once I get “Spring Fever” worked out, I will go back to “Little Gray Birds” and hone/refine/enhance it and call it good.

So I’m busy with that.

And I’m still riding the creative wave of that story “MTWTF” about an incident in my distant and murky past (highly fictionalized in the story) and find myself making notes — even writing bits of story — about one of the characters in “MTWTF.” Clearly I have more to say about this person and need to write another story to do it. (“MTWTF” is not yet published, and it’s being read by a trusted friend now.) Thoughts intrude, and I don’t mind making notes about future work while they occur to me. I can see the structure of the story — it’s really just a character sketch using a day-in-the-life structure to hang it on — and I know the character, so the ideas are coming fast and frenzied. It’s not a bad state to be in if you’re a writer, I suppose.

So if I’m not too diluted and dissipated by my creative ferment, a few good things should result in the coming days. Fingers crossed.