Friday, January 29, 2010

You’re Not as Good as You Think

If you’re a writer who’s still trying to crack into the professional markets or can’t sell a piece to specific markets that interest you, it’s likely that your writing isn’t as good as you think it is.

I used to believe that the reason I couldn’t get into certain markets was that I wasn’t writing the right kinds of stories or that I just didn’t have the right credentials or contacts. While there is a certain amount of truth to these reasons, they prevented me from taking a critical look at my writing in general.

There have been times when I’ve sent fantasy stories to markets that don’t publish fantasy (or don’t publish the kind of fantasy I tend to write), but when you read guidelines routinely and even subscribe to a few magazines, it’s pretty simple to learn about what gets published and what doesn’t. If you’re submitting genre/subgenre stories that match a market, don’t use this as an excuse.

As for having credentials to get published, I think this can be beneficial in getting noticed, but being published in the past is no guarantee for being published in the future. I’ve seen gripes from writers about certain markets that never seem to publish new writers. Certainly it can seem that way with professional markets, but the problem with professional markets is that your story is competing against stories from professional writers. It isn’t their credentials that get them the contracts; it’s their consistency in producing excellent work.

Finally, knowing editors might help you to get them to read your stories from start to finish, but I think that’s the most you could hope for. An editor isn’t going to put the reputation of his or her magazine at stake in order to grant a favor to a friend or acquaintance.

Rather than blame shifting, focus your efforts on improving your writing. Great writing will get noticed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Crooked Way

I recently finished reading "This Crooked Way" by James Enge. I actually won the copy as part of a contest on Black Gate by answering Morlock trivia questions (I think I only missed one), thus proving my Morlock fan status quantitatively.

After a deadly encounter with a stone beast, Morlock the Maker discovers that his horse, Velox, has disappeared. There are traces that suggest the beast devoured Velox, but Morlock discerns that the clues are false, a ruse that is clearly the work of another maker. Out of a sense of loyalty (and having nothing better to do), Morlock begins a long search for his steed.

During his travels, Morlock discovers the shell of his mother, who has been confined to mortal life through an anti-death spell. Only by recovering her other parts can Morlock hope to give his mother rest. Unfortunately, he also has to contend with the spell’s caster… his father, Merlin.

"This Crooked Way" is an entertaining and exciting novel. This is a must read for those who enjoy Enge’s stories, several of which you’ll find within (in slightly altered form). Actually, this is a must read for those who enjoy adventure fantasy. Imaginative, witty and surprising.

Great work, James!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Getting Back Into It

Now that Christmas and the New Year holidays are in the past, it’s time to get back into a working pattern. If you’re anything like me, holiday leisure time leaves little room for writing projects because there are other things going on. Now is the time to return to normalcy.

I think it’s good to take breaks from writing, especially around holidays or vacations. Let your mind unwind a bit, and enjoy time with family and friends. Just don’t let your mind wander so far that you can’t bring it back.

I find that the sooner I get back to writing after a break, the more likely it is that I’ll stick to it. Projects that are left for too long on my desk get dropped. It’s more difficult to return to the frame of mind I was in when I began a story if I leave it for too long. Completed drafts are easier to pick up, but incomplete rough drafts become cloudy in my mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to overdo it. Return to a similar pace that you had before. People make all kinds of outlandish New Year’s resolutions, and I’m sure that in the writing world, such resolutions become goals for how many more words per day to write or how many more stories, etc. Just focus on getting back to your usual pace first. Then ramp up when you can, if you really want to. Of course, ramping up to anything more than your usual pace means taking time from somewhere else, so where will it come from?