As promised, I have come to tell you about this week’s Write About Dragons lecture.
This week we had ANOTHER guest lecturer, Nebula award winner Eric James Stone. Google him, he seems like a cool cat.
So, this week we talked about short fiction, because that’s what Eric James Stone writes. He’s never published a novel, yet makes a living writing. That’s pretty awesome in my opinion.
Ok, so the notes look something like this:
The What and the Why of the Short Fiction Market
And then there are just tips and tidbits littered all over the page. I actually really enjoyed this guest lecture. I’ve had modest success in the short fiction world, and have been a bit sad imagining that I’d never write a short story again. I’m not quite sure why I thought I wouldn’t, but I just imagined that if I wrote novels, there was no way I could write short stories too.
And then there’s the first tidbit:
Submit short fiction while you’re working on your novel.
And it was as if the proverbial lightbulb exploded from a sudden surge of realization. My mind immediately started racing through my current short stories I’ve shelved in order to commit to this novel. And I don’t think that was a poor decision. I’ve yet to actually finish a novel, and I need to really focus and commit to this story to see it through to the end. Which has worked. The end is in sight, and I actually have an understanding of how I’m going to get there. And so, once the first draft is done, I’ll return to this short works and get them ready for spring submissions. And once that’s done I’ll start the rough draft of the next novel, and then the revision process of Vessels will begin.
So, more excitement on my part about writing. It’s a different kind of excitement than I’ve ever felt in relation to anything else, and I truly don’t know how to explain it. Hit me up in ten years. Maybe I’ll know how then.
Below this genius idea given me by Eric James Stone is a disclaimer. You don’t have to write short fiction if you don’t want to. There’s a misconception, especially in creative writing classes, that the best way to start writing is by starting small. It’s what I did. And I don’t regret it. I learned how to write well and to lay out scenarios and plots quickly, which is a major hurdle for most new writers. But, if you don’t like to read short fiction, and you don’t want to write short fiction, you’re going to hate writing if you try to write short fiction. I’ve found that I really just like writing. It doesn’t much matter how long it’s going to be. If the characters are alive and have a tale to tell, I’ll follow them until they’re done.
Stone follows this disclaimer with a rule. If you want to write short fiction, READ short fiction. Which is exactly what Brandon said earlier on in the course. Although he said it in the reverse: Why are you writing short fiction if you’re reading novels? Same concept. Read what you want to write. It’s the best way to learn.
And so, to help us read more short fiction, Stone lists some Sci-Fi/Fantasy magazines in circulation. I’ll do that for you here, for those who’d like to check it out.
- Analog Science Fiction and Fact
- Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
- The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
- Daily Science Fiction
- Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
- Clarke’s World Magazine
- Strange Horizons
This is also brilliant because it gives us a place to send submissions. Do I think for a minute that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show will publish me? Not really. But, it can’t hurt to try. Also, Eric James Stone is an editor there, so that’s cool too.
Stone also recommends that we buy a book titled Year’s Best SF, or Year’s Best Fantasy. They are anthologies of what editors have decided is the best in Science Fiction or Fantasy for that year. Think Best American Short Stories, but with a fun genre twist.
Then Stone goes on to give Tips on Keeping Short Stories Short.
This was mostly stuff that I already know, either from previous classes, or have directly experienced in my work. For instance, enter scenes late and leave them early. I literally wrote beneath that, with an arrow, “I’ve heard this from Patrick a million times.” Patrick being my creative writing instructor and department chair at Chandler Gilbert Community College, Patrick Michael Finn. You should google him too, because I know for a fact that he’s a cool cat.
If you really want more details from this section of the notes, leave me a comment and I will either reply with the details, or edit them in later for you.
Tips on Submitting Short Stories and Category Length
Here Stone mentions something I’ve not heard. He recommends the Writers of the Future contest. I guess he won it, having never been published before, and it launched his professional writing career. Basically, if you win, you get prize money, published, a trophy, and flown out for a week long workshop with professional writers.
I haven’t looked into all the details yet, but it’s definitely piqued my interest. Food for thought.
Then he mentions a website with a pretty painful URL. Thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com. Basically, it acts like Duotrope, but for free. You can search for magazines with calls for submission based off all kinds of criteria.
And then Stone reminds us that we WILL get rejected. Don’t let it get you down.
After that, he lists Category Length. Which is basically the lengths for categories in award competitions, etc. I posted this a long time ago but it’s nice to hear it from a pro.
Novel = 40,000 words +
Novella = 17,500-40,000 words
Novelette = 7,500-17,500 words
Short Story = 1,000-7,500 words
Flash Fiction = <1,000 words
Micro Fiction = <100 words
Nano Fiction = Ridiculously Small
Q&A opened up after that. My favorite answer was to the following question:
Q: How do you know when a story’s ready for submission?
A: When I can’t think of a way to make it better.
Q: Where do you submit Novellas?
A: Intergalactic Medicine Show, Analog, and Asimov’s will publish on occasion, usually as a serial.
He then admits that novellas are really hard to sell.
Q: Self Publishing?
A: Also hard to sell, though novellas have a better chance. Short fiction has a really hard time selling as ebooks. You could bundle them and sell as your own collection.
He doesn’t recommend self publishing as a first attempt. He reminds us that, once you get published conventionally you can always go back and re-release work in ebook format. Which is not a bad idea.
The last note I have is a pretty important one. It reads: Stop putting work on the blog! This one makes me a little sad, but it has to happen. Anything I post here, because it is public, counts as first time publishing. Most magazines, upon deciding to publish your piece, ask for first time publishing rights, which I wouldn’t be able to give them if the work had appeared here. So, from now on, no more original fiction will appear in this blog, at least not anything I intend to publish.
It hurts me a little, but I think it’s important, and so I will stick to it. I’ll just be here talking about my works a lot more!
Anyway, this blog is long enough now. I need to stop avoiding chapter 16 and get on over to it. Thanks for your time and patience Blogland!