Archive for submission

Year One: What I’ve Learned About Writing (So Far)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by theclockworm

So it’s been about a year since I really decided to buckle down and write fiction seriously. I still haven’t been published; to catch you all up, I had a near-miss rejection from Clarkesworld for my story The Exploded Manifestations of Ari Ascher, the first story I finished. It was a happy sort of disappointment; cracking the top 10% of that market is an accomplishment in its own right, especially for my first story. Today, I got a rejection for the same story from Asimov’s. In total, I’ve submitted five times.

In the meantime, I’ve written three other stories of considerable length, all of which need some amount of finishing-up/editing, as well as four or five shorter works. In addition, I’ve generated pieces, beginnings, ideas, and have even been working on a collaboration.

So I obviously don’t have any secret wisdom when it comes to getting published, though I’m not sure there is any, really; I’m fairly sure it’s a balance of talent, skill, timing, and luck, with a dash of procedural correctness for good measure. But I can reflect on some of the practical things I’ve learned about the writing process and the other end of doing it yourself – the hunt for markets and the process of submitting.

1. Learn how to use manuscript format. Look at examples from many sources (they differ), learn what publishers in your area (genre/level) really want, and then write in it. I got tired of having to convert everything afterward; it felt like a whole pile of busywork, and it kept me from submitting. Once I got the format down, I started writing all my stories with it in place from the start. In addition to getting rid of that pesky bit of effort later, it gets you out of thinking in terms of “lay-pages -” a ‘nine page story’ might be twenty-six pages in MS format, and that’s the way you’re going to want to think about it.

2. Don’t over-think cover letters. Most places don’t require them, and if you have nothing to include in the way of publishing history, that means you have nothing to mess up, and therefore nothing to worry about. If a market requires one, look at this little guide and keep it brief. A good story speaks for itself (though “active member SFWA helps).

3. Get used to rewrites. That’s everything from nitpicking a story line-by-line to starting from the original idea, again, on a blank page. I wrote Ari Ascher initially in first-person present tense; knowing how unwieldy that can be, I reworked the entire story in third-person past tense. That made certain parts totally useless, and necessitated new things I’d been fine without before. After living with it for a while, I realized it didn’t work, and I converted it back, having to work with both the old version and some of my new changes. I changed the basic premise – twice. In the end, I’m glad I let go of my initial choices, even if I reclaimed them later. It’s a better story now than it was before.

4. Figure out whether your story needs the amount of attention you’re giving it. Some premises are totally solid, and you might think it’s a fully reasonable device for a twenty-page tale. But does it need twenty pages? Some of the ideas I was most excited about ended up being flash fiction when I realized they were basically just neat premises or characters or moments, snapshots instead of tomes. Which leads me to my next point…

5. Write flash fiction- write it regularly, write it at will. It helps to get you into the habit of writing regularly without the looming tension of a big goal. It also outs the fakers – ideas that are good at lobbying for your time, but which might not be worth the investment. You’ll build a nice little collection pretty quickly, which is a boost to confidence – having something to show makes every new story that much more executable – and there are a lot of markets for flash fiction, which means that in theory you could get a few sales in before shooting for a bigger market, padding out your cover letter a bit. Or you could post it for free – it’s a good way to get people reading your stuff.


The Benign Invasion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by theclockworm


Some of you may have noticed that I removed my earlier post about Gnosticism. This comes after a long week of some fairly unpleasant realizations and conversations. I’d like to be able to talk about some of my ideas, but I’m not sure what the proper forum for that is; I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.

That said, I think I’ve figured some things out in the past week. I started out feeling like no one had ideas even similar to mine; After some serendipitous stumbling around the internet, I discovered some evidence to the contrary over here.  I have yet to make my way through the entirety of Mr. Stratford’s online writing, but suffice it to say, on the major (non-theological) interpretations, a lot of his ideas are similar to mine. There’s a lot less of the religious focus, a lot more openness to the full variety of philosophical implications, and a lot less ass-holery in general than some other places I’ve been. But there’s still a big gap; there’s more than a fair share of the religious language that I’m not so thrilled about, and, indeed, a bit too much of  “gentle” focus on application (in a way that tends to lose the thread of the ideas).

Then today on Totaldickhead, I noticed the word “Techgnostic” used to describe someone (the person in question happened to be Erik Davis, who coined the term as far as I can tell). I hurriedly hunted down some information on this word. Now, obviously I don’t know what Mr. Davis’ book says just yet, nor do I know much about the popular use or understanding of the word. But, judging from this, I might have found something that, in certain iterations at least, begins to approximate my ideas: an evolving philosophy based on a fully non-religious, non-theistic interpretation of certain aspects of Gnostic cosmology.

In short, it’s a form of Panentheism, but without the theism. This post has a handy chart; just substitute “Total reality” for “God” and “Our Reality” for “Universe,” and you have the simplest possible outline of what I’m inclined to think. It’s not a dualistic rejection of the physical, but an emphasis on role, function, and literal interactive potential as the primary characteristic of an object. It is an ontology based on possible action, a cosmology based on access to information.

It’s neat that a scroll through that scholarly piece and the front page of Mr. Stratford’s blog will show mention of PKD. He is just everywhere (ubiquitous, if you will).

So, I’m going to set out to explore and articulate some of my ideas and understandings – just as soon as I figure out a venue and method that seem to fit.

On the one hand, the temptation to compare the representation of these super-celestial realms with the complexity of cyberspace is intellectually suspect because rational mathematics, network architectures and programming codes are so technically distinct from the mystical mathematics, celestial architectures and demonic codes of angel magic. But perhaps, from a qualitative perspective, complexity space is complexity space–any information system, when dense and rigorous enough, takes on a kind of self-organizational coherence which resonates with other systems of complexity.



In other news, I submitted my first story to Clarkesworld – and got my first rejection notice. I’m not too bummed though; I didn’t expect to get published on my first attempt. I turned around and sent it right back out to another market; I’m readying my second (perhaps more publishable) story for submission in the coming days, though a big move and lots of other crap may force me to hold off for a few more days.

The important thing is, I’ve begun the process. The wheels are turning now – I’m writing, editing, submitting, re-submitting. If I can use the momentum the process generates to keep myself going, well, then I’d be a perpetual motion man. Luckily for me, since no such thing exists,  life  provides some fuel as well.

Virgin Submission (Not as Sexy as it Sounds!)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by theclockworm

In less esoteric news, remember that story I told you I was submitting a week ago? Well, I did it last night. I was waiting for a final read-through from someone whose opinion I trust, but she’s simply too swamped at the moment, and the pressure was irking both of us. So I checked it for spelling, made sure my formatting was solid, slapped a cover letter on it, and sent it off through the ether. I should know within the next day or so. If it isn’t accepted, hopefully I’ll at least get some constructive criticism.

I think,  regardless of the response, it’ll be easier for me to keep going now that I’ve broken the ice.

Cross your fingers for me.