if you don’t count the writing, the editing, the copy editing and the dealing with overworked slush editors. After all that, the waiting is the hardest part. I told you all about the piece that I have on the in-chief’s desk at a still to remain anonymous but Über respectable pro-zine. It’s still on that lofty desk. Editors say things to you when your story gets past a first or second round of culling. They say things like, “You’ll hear from us soon,” or “we’ll get back to you ASAP.” My friends, asap means: as soon as plausible. My only beef ( and if it were a less prestigious zine I’d have jerked that sucker) is being told very soon. Can we just cut with the niceties. Here, free to copy, is my universal reply for stories you want to keep around and think about.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to read your story. It didn’t suck! We would like to consider publishing it, and since consideration takes time we wanted to give you a heads up to retract this story before we spend a month forgetting it and then finding it at the last minute. We know you won’t retract it because the odds are that you desperately need the approval of a reputable market such as ours, but it seems good form to make the offer.
Just forget your story exists,
Now cut and paste. Voila, mercifully lowered expectations.
Publishing like this is a very slow process, tectonic even. You are talking in terms of one piece a year if you are productive and tenacious. I’ve gone longer. If you keep at it though, you’ll start to have some streaks. You might turn into the Indian subcontinent of genre writers, clipping along at three inches a year!
So I owe you the secret for finishing your short fiction. As I told you earlier, the secret is coffee. If you look at my pre-computer writing (as in before I owned one, not from 1944) you can tell how many cups I was consuming by the way the letters slowly turn into a kind of shaky bastard-cursive as you move along. By the end of it my writing looked like the worst of those captcha input/response generators. It was like playing a written game of telephone editing that crap, “is the word antenna or cocktease?” Yet finishing your work need not just be about alkali based stimulants. There are craft tricks you can use.
1:) Take your time- you will serve your story well if you don’t rush it. Think about what you’re writing and savor it. Like a fine wine it will blossom for you.
2:) Ask for help- use your friends, most are happy to help. They don’t need to be “writers” you can get great insight from anyone. An off-hand comment might be just the trick to jolt you into action.
3:) Keep up the work- you will take your time but not take time off. Even if you just spend some time thinking everyday about your story you need to keep focused on you product, and it is your product.
4:) Visualize the end- sometimes a stories end comes about in the telling of the tale, but not always. If you can pull of the old mystery fiction trick of writing the last chapter and working backwards you might be able to wind things up in a more internally consistent manner.
5:) Change horses mid-stream- your story is not alive yet, it’s just parts. You may have made the legs of a human, but if you decide that the story would be best served as a chicken you can go back later and cut those man-gams off and stick on whatever you want. Your story need not stay consistent in the writing, just in the final product.
6:) Read- I know, reading again, but it is so darned important. Reading while you write can inspire you or at the least show you how to put the nuts and bolts in place to finish the job.
Hope that helps. It works for me.
So I applied for an international editing coordinator position at Gibson guitars today. Although they will probably go with some marketing drone and pass on a guy that would spend the better part of his senior year running off to live in a cave on a Spanish island, I decided to at least tell them what I would do for them. Content upgrade my friends. I’ll keep you posted. I do love their instruments. Growing up I imagined that the Gibson was the guitar of the jedi. Such a dork!
Just a side note- new Absent Willow Review is out!!! I will be reading all of it over the next few days looking for a new story of the week. Maggie has given me a couple of leads for this as well so any of you out there find something fun or weird give me a hint.