Sunday, 26 February 2012

Success or not - Did my short story get published?

Dear Robert.

Thank you for submitting "Sunglasses" to Midnight Echo.

Sadly, we regret to inform you that we are declining acceptance at this time.

This was an original piece, well written and approached taboos unlike anything I've read this submissions period. However, I felt that the emphasis was on the disgusting rather than the horror that arrived a little too late in the story.

Good luck in placing this submission elsewhere.

I have to return to work tomorrow.  The $58.36 before tax isn't coming.  Fortunately, the writing industry has prepared me for this occurrence.  In Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’ he says he would stick his rejections on a nail.  He started submitting stories to magazines very young, but didn’t get published until he was 20:

By the time I was fourteen … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.

I’m starting later than Stephen, but unlike tennis, the muscles required are less prone to old age.  The response is encouraging, and gives me a hint on how to improve.  Let’s see if somebody else is willing to publish.  Meanwhile, on to the next story...and continue with the novel.

But what about you?  Are you wondering what generated the phrase emphasis was on the disgusting?  What did I write about?  You’ll have to wait until a publisher picks it up to find out, or, in a couple of decades, when I’m rich and famous, I release a money-making anthology of short stories that no one would publish before.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Co-efficient of Friction - what surfaces conflict in your life?

You may remember a recent blog about Momentum.  Who knew that my Bachelor of Science in mathematics and statistics, with a dalliance in physics would come in so handy?  Let’s move on to understanding friction.

Not the friction that occurs between me and my daughter when she wants to play for a fourth hour on her Nintendo 3DS, and I want her to practice the piano.  Although, this blog might be applicable.  Let’s come back later and test it out.

No, I mean the friction between two surfaces, that either stops the objects from movement, or slows down their movement.  It gets a little more complicated than momentum (I can tell, because I quickly understood the mathematics around momentum, but am struggling a little with Coulomb’s Law of Friction).  Suffice it to say, there is a value known as the Co-efficient of Friction, which varies depending on the two surfaces in contact.  For example, ice on steel has a very low co-efficient of friction, although not as low as Teflon.   
Another time, I’m going to write about Teflon coated people, but let’s master the basics first.

Rubber on dry concrete has a high co-efficient of friction, and this is important when you lock your brakes up.  You want the car to come to a quick stop.  Another pair of surfaces that have a metaphorically high co-efficient of friction are writing and procrastination.

As I write, with the momentum I have, there is a force working against me.  That’s how friction is experienced.  I’m tempted by so much.  Should I stop and check how many hits my blog has had?  Are any of my friends saying anything of interest on Facebook.  Recently I rediscovered my love for table-tennis on the Wii.  It’s very realistic, mirroring topspin and slice.  Next thing you know, several hours are gone as my daughter and I strived to defeat the Champion...without success.

How did my earlier conversation go?

‘Daddy, I’ve already practiced four times this week.  I don’t need to practice anymore.’  Siena’s voice needs a shriek meter to measure the decibels.

‘How often does your piano teacher say you should practice?’

‘Twice a week.  That’s all.  Why are you so mean to me?  Give me back my things.’  Blackmail is a constant in our house, as Siena reminds me.  It’s a big concept for a ten year old, but she understands it well.

‘Let’s call your piano teacher and ask her.’  Parents can be so wicked.  I disturbed our Piano teacher on her Saturday morning and was rewarded with the knowledge that Siena should practice twenty minutes every day.  But the best advice was to ask Siena to complete her Piano practice diary every day.  I don’t know if that will work, but it’s certainly worth trying.  It’s probably a good idea for me to overcome my writing friction.

What are the surfaces conflicting in your life, and how do you overcome the co-efficient of friction?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

There are words we shouldn't use.

There are words that we should just not use.

In the seventy-five thousand words of Chapters One through Twenty-Three of the first draft of my novel, there are 651 iterations of the word ‘that’, and 135 instances of ‘just’.

There are words we should not use.

The second draft of my recent short story focused on removal of these terrible words.  They kill the flow and remove the immediacy.

There are only three ‘just’s in the finished product, two in dialogue, and one I agonised over before leaving.  There are too many ‘that’s in the story – eight in total.

Deadlines are the enemy.  I was busy correcting some logic flaws and missed some word and line editing.  Let’s hope it’s still OK, but there is a lesson here.  Allow enough time for the required editing.  Here are my rules, developed over a few years of writing, articulated for the first time.

Draft 1: Get the story down.  So the story is shit.  Burn it and whip a sharp knife across your throat, or finish the bloody thing and see what’s needed to fix it.

Draft 2: Correct the logic flaws.  Oh, you forgot to mention the bad guy is a sniper until he needs to make a thousand yard shot.  Oh, you need to have a cold, wet and windy night, but it’s the middle of summer.  Oh, the back story requires your main character to have experienced something before they were born.  These become obvious as you write the story, and are fixed with the addition of a paragraph, or the changing of a number.

Draft 3: Correct the word errors, such as ‘just’ and ‘that’, or the repetition of the same word in adjacent paragraphs.  Don’t worry about understanding misplaced modifiers, or the difference between future perfect verbs and past progressive verbs.  I’m no grammar expert, but if a sentence reads funny, there’s something wrong.  Stop and change it, even if you can’t spot the grammatical issue.  Trust your reading.

Draft 4: Beautify the wording.  To all my lecturers over the last six years, thank you!  In my recent short story, I looked, ever so briefly, at rhythm and poetic elements.  A critical paragraph full of colours, originally described as yellow, green and black, lifted from flat to interesting, as green became ‘spinach-coloured’, yellow became ‘jaundiced’, and black became ‘inky’.

I should have finished draft four several weeks before the deadline, and let the story rest for some time.  Next time, hey.

The Australian Horror Writers Association short story competition is open until May 31.  I’d best get cracking.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tax advice please - disclosure of a writer's earnings.

Imagine putting on your tax return under profession: WRITER.

I submitted a story to a money-paying magazine for the first time yesterday.  Two cents a word.  The story is 2918 words, so if it gets published, I get a cheque for $58.36.  Woo hoo.

Will I have to declare the income and pay tax?  Of course, there are significant expenses to negatively gear.  Late fees on library books not finished within the allotted time; cups of tea purchased on breaks at TAFE; journals purchased and never opened.  Legitimate expenses incurred in the development of my writing career!

What’s that you ask?  If they pay two cents a word why not write more?  Good question.  The limit is 5,000 words but the payment is capped at $75.  A fortune was never going to be made.  Better to let the story happen in the best amount of words.

No doubt the magazine receives many submissions...the odds of selection are slim.  If, in a few weeks, it doesn’t get published, you’re welcome to ask for a copy.  No charge, because it wasn’t even worth $58.36.
But the tax advice is still relevant, because if this one doesn't get published, another one will.