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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 10:46am on 26/05/2014
Sadly, I don't have time to type and retype my journal entries into multiple sites. Honestly, I'd prefer to use Dreamwidth and just cross-post to LJ for the people I contact there, however LJ has a feature that Dreamwidth doesn't -- cross-posting to Facebook.

For reasons out of my control, the vast majority of people connect with me on Facebook. Facebook is the place where I must post to reach those people. Facebook is *NOT* where I like to keep my thoughts on record.

Livejournal gives me the ability to cross-post a sampler to Facebook such that Facebook friends can know I have posted and go read what I wrote on LJ.

Dreamwidth gives me no such option. Dreamwidth has indicated they have no desire to support Facebook. I feel strongly for, and agree with, their distaste. However this decision is not available to me. And thus, I must use LJ rather than Dreamwidth.

I will set up some of my blogs to cross-post to here so that if you are only friended with me on Dreamwidth you will get to see something of my life. Feel free to comment here, I'll see your comments and respond here too. But if you are following me on LJ I will totally understand if you unfriend or unfollow me here since it will be entirely redundant.
Mood:: 'sad' sad
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 02:16am on 05/05/2011
It's oh-god-thirty but I've finished a new draft of Children of Another Star. I combined more scenes. I reduced point of view. And I added a lot more details here and there to help tie the story structure together. It's a lot stronger now.

One more pass on editing for late night gotchas, and I'll punch it out to readers.
Mood:: 'accomplished' accomplished
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After a lot of consideration this week on various issues, I've come to a decision.

Two years ago when I accepted a friend's challenge to actually submit my writing to professional publications, I did so with a strong caveat. I don't expect to ever make money doing this, and I don't want to get caught in the depressing cycle of rejections that I see many authors in. Not that I care about rejections, but that I don't want to have to care about them.

So I spent a lot of time over the last two years listening very closely to successful writers, agents and editors talk about how to give them a story they can sell.

NOTE: I never wrote anything specifically to meet their guidelines. My muse doesn't work that way. I just tried to learn tips about things to do, or not do, to make it easier to sell. How I might decorate the story after I've already written it down. Because my muse doesn't take hints ;-)

Frankly, the advice comes down to some very simple things. 90% of it is obvious good sense if you understand what an editor has to do. And then 10% of it appears to be total BS that originates from a typewriter mentality the publishing industry is still thinking in. You must round your word count because *senior editor* will toss away any story as "too anal" if it has an accurate word count at the top. OMG really? (I'll skip a dozen other things I heard from the big names in this business that make just about the same amount of sense)

Last week I got caught in the middle of an argument between two editors. Both are successful editors of small science fiction presses. Both presses have awards in their names. Both have sold many stories to other publications. And both of them were telling me I was an idiot for believing that other idiot who had no idea what he/she was talking about.

I was flattened. I had nowhere to go, no way to win or even influence the conversation in any useful way other than fold to both of them, duck and run. And I found myself completely uninterested in writing any more. I did get past that and my muse is kicking my head pretty hard right now, but it has set me to thinking seriously about what I'm trying to get out of this. And I think it's time to realize that I've just wasted 2 years.

I set out thinking that if I worked on making a better story and learned what editors had to say about successful stories, I would be learning how to make a good story. Well yes... but no. Meeting the randomized and entirely personal requirements for selling to an editor has only a marginal relationship with writing a good story. You can't sell a bad story to a good editor, but there are hundreds of reasons why editors won't buy the best stories either. These are not 1:1, I don't think they are even 8:1 to be honest. It's the wrong focus.

It made me realize that (just like every other profession) the successful authors are the ones who accept all the crap. [personal profile] jaylake says it's a meritocracy, but not a fair one. I think he's forgetting something. He says it took him 10 years to sell his first story. I think that over the 10 years he became completely inurred to the BS required, and eventually was able to tip the scale in his favor.

ANYWAY... this just goes to my point. Jay wants to sell books. I don't. I want to write something really well. That's all I care about. I cannot imagine that I will ever be a good enough writer to buy more than a cup of coffee with my earnings ;-) Focusing on selling my stories is wasting my time.

From this point forward, I am going to focus 100% on writing the best stories I can. This means that I am going to stop submitting my stories. It takes too much time, sometimes involves a significant amount of frustration, and frankly I haven't learned a single useful thing about writing a story from dealing with submission requirements of editors.

I am going to keep doing what I can to improve my writing. And when I have done the best I can do with a story at this time, I am going to publish it in ePub (B&N, Apple, etc) and Mobi (Kindle) formats online. For free. Why? Because it takes me half the time to create and check it in both formats than it generally does to prepare the submission packet for a magazine. More time in my hands and less frustration means more value to me.

Yes, yes. I will forever be a self-published author with no credits. You know, I think in the balance I'm going to be very happy with that.

There is a twist on this, and I'm curious on what most of you have to say. I'll post more about that in the coming week.
Mood:: 'amused' amused
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 08:44am on 22/02/2011
I received a rejection today. Not because of the story's merits or lack thereof, but because it wasn't (in the eyes of the viewer) in standard manuscript format.

Oh wow, that was stupid of me for not sending it that way. Really, I mean. Except... I did.

What happened here is that they ask for documents in Microsoft Word. So I exported the story to Word, opened it up in Word and viewed the format. Everything looked fine except for the final line, which surprisingly had no indentation. So I selected the line of text and changed the style to match the remainder of the text. Perfect. I printed it to PDF format (where it looked perfect too) and then sent the Word file to the magazine through their e-submissions.

A few days later I opened the Word file to send a copy to a friend who wanted to read it. And found that suddenly all of the text was single-line spaced, unindented. Word strikes again.

So yeah, this is likely exactly what the reader at the magazine saw. Was this my fault? No. I did everything I could as a person to send that story in SMF. I have PDF output from Word demonstrating that it showed up correctly on my screen.

The fault is with the magazine. They requested a story formatted a particular style in a binary format for which the viewer is notorious for adjusting the formatting on the fly. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. I used to be required to maintain documentation in Microsoft Word format, and we found and documented for Microsoft more than 50 ways in which a perfectly normal document would consistently lose its formatting. Microsoft never fixed a single one of these bugs. That was Word 6, FYI -- yes, 18 years ago. It hasn't gotten any better since then. I received an unreadable word document at work last Monday from a co-worker. I walked to her desk and it looked perfect on her screen. At least 3 of these bugs I reported for Word 6 have been reported in recent bug reports for Microsoft Office 2010.

The only other submission format available was RTF, and this is impossible to control how it appears. I can open RTFs in dozens of programs... and it doesn't look the same in any of them. Not a single program will render an RTF file in the same way.

If the magazine is going to judge the writer based on the format in which they deliver the manuscript, then the magazine needs to allow submission in a format where the writer can guarantee that the document will appear to the reader as it did to the writer. PDF is the obvious choice, but there are a number of other solutions.

I, myself, will no longer submit to magazines which give me only Word and RTF as submission choices. Because I want to be reviewed based on the words, not based on the quality of software from Microsoft -- which is impossible for me to control.
Mood:: 'pissed off' pissed off
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So I've recently been working with an editor on some of my stories, and having a very frustrating time of it. He's very good. He's very talented, and he's likely more representative of editors that I am trying to sell to than anyone I have worked with before. But I've heard things from him that I've never heard from anyone else who reviewed these stories, and it confused me greatly.

It turns out he has a very interesting habit that I am having trouble dealing with. It's best to show by analogy. Imagine if someone was talking about having read Fellowship of the Ring, and they said something like this?
It seems like a solid book, but it's got such a slow start. Nothing happens until Rivendell. They need to either start the story at Rivendell, or make the trip difficult. Give us some challenges, something to have to get through on the way to Rivendell. That would be a much better start.

You'd be staring at the person like they had grown a second head, wouldn't you? This is exactly how I felt when reading his reviews.

After a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time thinking about this and looking at several of his reviews, I finally figured out what the problem is. He picks out things in the story that he doesn't believe or doesn't work for him, and then completely removes them from the story in his head. They simply cease to exist. For example, in the analogy above, with some probing you would learn that he found the nine horsemen unlikely. Because the explanation about them didn't work for him, he simply disbelieved them out of existence. And thus found the trip to Rivendell boring.

I think that most review-group peers are willing to point at something and say "this didn't work for me" but assume that the thing does exist, and the interactions with the thing are still part of the story for them, and review in that sense. I know that I give peers a bit of tolerance so that I can try and see what they intended.

However, even when I'm reading a story for pleasure and something doesn't quite strike me right, I do notice it. But I hold some suspension of disbelief, some trust in the author and let the story flow.

I totally understand than an editor should identify what doesn't work and flag it. I've just never seen such an intense activation of disbelief -- willing characters, scenes and plots entirely out of existence. And without much mention of the thing that was disbelieved. You have to go through the story carefully to pick out the thing which was dropped from his mind.

In the latest review, he suggests that the first scene could be cut. He then goes on to criticize things in the story that would absolutely be true... if the first scene didn't exist. But as these things are very clearly laid out in the first scene, most of the other points don't make much sense. They make perfect sense to him, who has already disbelieved the first scene out of existence.

This begs an interesting question. How many readers out there do similar things? I guess I find it hard to believe in, because I've never seen this before. I've seen many people argue or whether or not a given character or scene was believable, but I've never seen the person then disbelieve the character or scene out of existence and then make a judgement of the rest of the movie/book/story with the assumption that this thing was never there.

I do intend to think about this more, and see what I can change in my writing to prevent this. But I know from experience that lots of people disbelieve things with are 100% rational, true and existent today. It's a funny thing that the futuristic bits of my science fiction has rarely been challenged, the vast majority of challenges have been about real things that are commonplace today. And I've had to write justification into my stories not for the futuristic technology, but to justify things you can see on the evening news every day. So I've got a significant sense that this might be an impossible effort.
Mood:: 'confused' confused
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 02:51pm on 30/01/2011
Late Friday night I finally hammered home some very necessary edits to Descending Pitch. Unfortunately the story has grown by 750 words. It has no hope whatever of being edited below 3000 words like I had intended. On the other hand, the changes were reviewed very well by everyone so far. I have a couple suggestions to consider, a final read-aloud edit to do, and then it will be submitted.
Mood:: 'accomplished' accomplished
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 12:35am on 15/11/2010 under
This has been a productive weekend. I finished some revisions to Door of No Names on Friday. It was reviewed at a much-revived Adhoc Writer's Group meeting today and I received very little criticism. I may even have won over someone who professed once that it wasn't a story they would ever like.

That said, I did get some really solid feedback that I was able to incorporate. I like the changes, and I think it's really strong now. I'm glad. It's time to start submitting this and focus on other stories now.
Mood:: 'accomplished' accomplished
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 10:53am on 04/09/2010
I got some feedback on Descending Pitch that I would really have preferred to ignore if just one person said it. Unfortunately I heard the same thing in various forms from both writer friends and the most novice of readers.

Did everyone dislike the villain? Yes.
Did they like the victim? Yes.
Did they understand the plot, the complications and the consequences? Yes.

So what was wrong? Across the board, everyone told me they wanted to like the villain more.

*The mind boggles.*

But I can't ignore it when I got the same complaint all the way across the board. So now I'm struggling to build more depth into the villain of a story that is already 15% too long.
Mood:: 'confused' confused
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 05:16pm on 03/09/2010
I spent 3 hours cutting hard on Descending Pitch. The prose is much improved, story is much better. I'm very glad I did all that work. And checking word count I find... 224 words off.

That's less than 1/4 what I had hoped to remove.

So I'm learning that (a) this is hard and (b) I'm really not certain that I can operate in a format this small. This is such a very small story, with only 2 characters and a hell of a lot of tell instead of show to keep it snappy. And I'm still straining hard to get below 3600 words.
Mood:: 'disappointed' disappointed
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posted by [personal profile] jorhett at 01:13pm on 03/09/2010
Descending Pitch gained 998 total words since I've started working on it, or a full 33%. Now I've started the process of trying to pull back 1000 words from it. I really want this story below 3k words. We'll see if I can do it.
Mood:: 'contemplative' contemplative

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