Monday, August 3, 2015

Critiques, Complaints and a Sale

Since I last blogged, I've sold another short story and attended a meeting with my local critiquing group about literary magazines. The story I sold was a straight sci-fi piece, bringing my sold genres to: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mainstream, YA fantasy and a weird sci-fi/fantasy mashup.


I've always sought out critiques from the people around me. In high school I made my friends tell me what they thought about stories I was working on. In college I made my roommate do it. In the past few years, I've made my kids and a friend do it. But earlier this year, I branched out into an actual critique group where you have to get dressed and do your hair and drive somewhere. 

The process of it was just like what they did on Girls; everyone sat around a big table and discussed each work in turn with each person talking about what could be improved and anything they liked about the work. It was actually the most fun I'd had in a while because I'm a giant nerd and talking about plot points, tones and character creation for hours was super fun.

But here's the thing, because isn't there always one? It occurred to me over the next couple of days that having my work picked apart and every little part of a line that didn't work and every little plot point that people didn't agree with kind of aggravated me. It wasn't that I wanted people to like the story more or that I didn't like it being critiqued. Quite the contrary- I know very well that not everyone can possibly like the same work (I actually know someone who hates Harry Potter and found the books to be awful.), and I do want to know what can be improved in any story. 

No, the problem was that it started occurring to me that this is the only branch of the arts where every little thing is picked apart and a work isn't considered a good one if there is any little thing that people don't like. Consider the world of music. Are there critique groups that pick apart songs and tell the singer that a note near the end wasn't very good or a line didn't sound sincere? Do directors solicit critiques about every scene they create and find out which shots aren't perfect? Do painters have their brushstrokes critiqued and have people tell them which parts of the painting didn't work? So, why then do writers do this?

I do like being critiqued. I  am actually going back this week to be picked apart again and this time with a story that isn't as good as the one they saw last month. I'm looking forward to telling them that I sold the story I submitted to them last time and hearing what they think of the latest weird offering. But I am annoyed by the idea that this is the only branch of the arts that is so savaged and so willing to have its minutia combed through. Sure, it may make your work better to hear what's wrong with it. Maybe. I'm not sure. I think any improvements that I've made over the years, though, have been because I read what I'd done and it didn't have the desired response from me. I rewrote items until they did. In the end, that may be the only real way to improve- write until you have something you enjoy reading. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Literally Forgot I Had a Blog

I haven't blogged in a while, and the title tells you why. In addition to this being the roughest market for finding content work that I've ever seen, I've had the novel monkey on my back as well as trying to shop short stories.

I do love crafting a short stories, but there are a few problems with doing so. I am considering not creating as many of them to focus more on the two novels I've been working on for the last couple of years.

Here's the trouble with short stories:
  • They pay crap. It's unbelievable how little most publishers will pay for a short story. I generally won't submit to a market that pays like five bucks (yes, there are tons of those). There are actually a lot of them now that pay nothing at all- and they are still choosy and demand your best work. Nope, not subbing to them either. I always sub to the high payers first, get rejected by them and then start subbing to the mid-paying markets. Those markets, however, are still going to be low paying and not truly worth the time it took you to write the work and submit it out from a monetary standpoint. I have bills, man. Lots of bills.
  • The submissions process is grueling. Speciality magazines, ezines and fancy literary magazines are the markets that I have primarily been submitting to with short stories. They are so specialized in both topics and voice that it's tough to get on with most of them. This has made it necessary to submit most of my work to dozens of them, and that takes dozens of hours. This has further reduced writing income by keeping me from doing my paid, non-fiction work to spend hour after hour querying, signing up for every site's submission system and altering cover letters to suit each. Again, bills, man.
  • It's been a distraction from my novels. Since I've been writing and subbing out short stories, I've sold five or six and have another four or so that I've been subbing out. That is a significant amount of time that has been taken away from the novels that I need to finish. One of them is a strong edit away from being done, and the other is still just an adolescent learning to walk in high heels. They both need time and attention.
Once I get my remaining stories either sold or thrown in the trash and lit on fire, I think I may just retreat from short fiction for a while. At least, until all of the rights revert back to me and I can sub them all out again as reprints. :o