Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Setting Goals for Writing

One of my goals for 2018 was getting published in Pulp Literature, and here is Issue 21 (fifth anniversary issue!) of Pulp Literature with my story in it.

My second goal was to place a story each month, but that appears to have been over-reaching. I only placed six stories in 2018, though I sold a seventh first week of 2019, so maybe that one almost counts.

My third goal (in support of the first two) was to have as many stories out in circulation as possible. In addition to the six I placed in 2018, I had another thirteen stories sitting on various editor's desks awaiting a decision. At the peak, I had 20 stories in circulation at one time and gathered a total of 35 rejections. Selling short stories is largely a numbers game. Writing is only the first step; keeping them out there until they sell is equally important.

My goal for 2019 is to finish the damn novel.

Monday, December 3, 2018

"A doctoral student and their advisor walk into a bar. The advisor orders a draft and they sit in awkward silence for eight months."
—S***T Academics Say, Facebook Page, Dec 3, 2018.

These days, one of the things I specialize in is coaching graduate students through the writing process. It's astounding how many folks get caught in blank page syndrome or writer's block for months at a time without seeking help. Or who find themselves overwhelmed by their advisor or committee's feedback, when really, the feedback was (should have been) really helpful, had they been but able to interpret it. And I love helping students maintain their motivation and momentum as thesis-writing angst inevitably sets in.

By the same token, it's sometimes heart-breaking when students seek my help when they've left it too late. I've had a couple of cases where students wanted my help two weeks before the deadline for submissions or the meeting with the Dean about what to do now that they've failed. If they had only approached me five months earlier, they'd be graduating instead.

Or even the successful students who approach me for simple copy editing (APA or Chicago or MLA formatting) two weeks before their submission deadline. It never seems to occur to them that all 400 of the graduating class(es) are going to be seeking copy editing those same two weeks—because no one wants their thesis rejected by Graduate Studies becouse of some simple formatting error—and it's only those who booked their editing weeks or even months in advance who are going to actually have editors available. I'm usually able to work one or two extra theses or dissertations in by working overtime and on weekends, but that means double or triple time charges, so not everyone can afford that. If only they thought to book help earlier.

Of course, people often think of editors like the guy at the copy centre: open to walk-ins 9-9, no appointment necessary, and your work back Wed, Today for a rush job. But editing isn't like that. You need an editor who understands your discipline and maybe a bit about your topic, so that means shopping around: generic copy shop is not the model here. And you need to book ahead because the good editors are already working on large projects weeks if not months in advance, and you may not always want the editor that's free to take on your thesis/dissertation/book today. It's like, if you forgot to book the wedding photographer, you can find one the day of, but um. . .that same day booking explains why some wedding photographers are still in business.

For a free booklet on successful thesis or dissertation writing, go to Writing Strategies for Theses or Dissertations

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Short Story Submissions

The elements that we consider make up a "well written" story tend to be those we've observed in stories we like. When we consider stories for Neo-opsis, the first thing we consider is, "did we like the story?" not "would my English teachers have approved of all the elements of the story?" One story didn't have what some would consider the best writing techniques, but when I read the story, I felt like I was in the story watching it, rather than looking at words on a page. That to me is far more important than whether their grammar was perfect, if their tenses always matched, etc.

It's easier to fix the grammar in an interesting story than it is to make a well-written boring story less boring.

—Karl Johanson
Editor, Neo-opsis Magazine

Saturday, November 17, 2018

CBC item on Author Incomes

Story from the CBC on author incomes https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/canada-authors-poorer-than-ever-says-study-1.4908086?fbclid=IwAR0aQoqPF4QwQrNCStYOyAhLKudveZrw4qTxEmsTTdhx1qbBaiMZNIEF06M

I've been saying this for a few years now...there is no money in writing novels any more. The best you can hope for is a little extra pocket money or enough to subsidize your writing hobby. Poets have accepted this decades ago. You can count on your fingers the number of people who make a living as poets. But people still write poetry, publish poetry and value poetry. So it has become with novels. There are a few who are best sellers, but that is the same category of profession as lottery winners, and has nothing to do with you or your writing. That doesn't make the novel less valuable in the other sense. Just because we live in a capitalist society that measures value in $, you don't have to get sucked into that. Write the novel for self-fulfilment and for your readers and for your contribution to the cultural conversation that is literature. But don't ask me how to 'turn professional' how to make a living at this because that job category has been in decline since the invention of television, and was killed by the invention of the internet and social media. But you don't have to be a professional writer to be a great writer and to have appreciative readers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dave Duncan (June 30, 1933 - Oct 29, 2018)

Dave Duncan, 2014

Dave Duncan, author of over 60 novels, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, Monday morning, Oct 29, 2018. He had fallen the previous Thursday evening and suffered a brain haemorrhage from which he never recovered.

I was working flat out Monday, so had stayed off email for once, but my brother-in-law phoned me on the way home and told me to pull over, he had some bad news. So that's how I heard. I couldn't believe it. I kept saying, "No, he just emailed me Thursday, so that can't be right, you must have heard that wrong." I was devasted when I opened my email and saw the notice from Duncan's son.

Duncan had been having a particularly productive period. Having announced his retirement several times after suffering strokes, he had recovered enough to start up again, and he had gone through his unfinished manuscripts and redone them and completed some new ones as well. He told me how much he loved writing again and I certainly saw that the books were coming out fast and furious.

On Thursday afternoon, Dave Duncan sent me his most recent novel to edit. I sent back the edited copy Sunday evening—noting that there was almost no editing needed on this one, just one trivial change in the world-building and some copy editing (the result of his having some trouble with typing largely one-handed). It was a standalone SF novel called The Traitor's Son and is absolutely up to his usual high standard. He told me he already had an agent interested in it.

It's the third novel I'd worked on for Dave in the past three or four weeks. The White Flame series consists of Corridor to Nightmare (which is finished and great) and the sequel, The Angry Lands, which was only a third done. The Angry Lands hadn't quite jelled for him. We talked about what had been done so far, but he told me the ending—which I haven't seen—wasn't working. He said, "I'm worried it may turn out to be my Edwin Drood" but that he'd get back to it this week or next, once The Traitor's Son edits were finished.

I hope Corridor to Nightmare is published. It would be fine as a standalone novel; or perhaps there are notes for The Angry Lands that would allow for it to be finished. I know he's sold one other novel besides The Traitor's Son, and there may be others I haven't seen. I certainly hope so, because he really was my favourite author and I'm not ready to stop reading Duncan.

With 65 books, if I ration myself to re-reading one every two months, that should see me through to the next decade; and then I could start over again, if I'm still around.
Dave Duncan at the Aurora Awards, 2005

Conversion, 1996. Al Onia (standing) Karl Johanson, Robert Runté,Jean-Louis Trudel, and Dave Duncan.

Update Nov 17: his obituary in the Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books/article-dave-duncan-85-was-a-popular-novelist-who-dreamed-up-fantastical/?fbclid=IwAR0-0RJGCiGXCgq4SiMWPTrC-EvMUNomcxlt5N7mkXc9Kk7q3rwXX-_jgcM

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The First Line Literary Magazine

I recently discovered The First Line Literary Magazine, which has a fascinating premise. The call for submissions for each issue gives you the first line of the story, and then you take it from there, the idea being that different authors will have very different takes on where to go with it. So fun!

I submitted a new story in my "Ransom and the ..." series in response to "The Window was open just enough to let in the cool night air" and "Ransom and the Open Window" was one of eight stories selected out of the nearly 1,000 submissions. Pretty pleased with that, given it was my first try at this game. If you're looking for a stimulus to get you past writer's block or just want a fun challenge, one could do worse than giving this contest series a try. It's a paying market, but the fun quotient far outweighs the token payment.