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Adam Israel
Week 1: Knock on wood 
8th-Jan-2010 12:33 am

When I started out following Booklife and documenting my writing progress, I suspected the first few weeks would either be really easy or really hard. Establishing a habit takes times and it’s easy to make excuses to skip writing. We all hear or use them — I’m too busy, too much day job work, kids/family, etc. Then there’s the Resolutionists, who make a bunch of goals at the beginning of the year and waver after a few weeks. Also guilty as charged.

I set three goals for the week:

  • Write at least 250 words every day
  • Decide on topic for Dollhouse essay
  • Reread The Descent of Iron Hammer and make editorial notes

I ended up averaging 507 words/day, hitting 3,555 words on the redraft of Recycled Dreams. If my pace continues it will be ready to rest in a deep, dark desk drawer by the end of the weekend. I picked the topic of my Dollhouse essay but it’s a closely guarded secret for now. Then there was The Descent of Iron Hammer, my mash-up of Dwarves, airships, and steampunk, but with lightning instead of steam. I had some nice editorial comments from it from the PARSEC contest lo those two years ago. I read through it again tonight. Wanting to set the manuscript on fire and dance naked in the snow as its ashes scattered is probably a good sign that I’ve made some improvement since I wrote it. Broken, but fixable.

In other writing news, I have my application stories (Clarion, Viable Paradise) out to a couple readers. Once those comments come back I’ll make another pass of edits and then out into the pool of hopeful writers they go. Two submissions out, both to Writers of the Future. Results for 2009 Q4 are trickling in so I should hear back soon (I will be trudging off to the post office tomorrow to check the mail). I have a third story that I really should send back out but I haven’t worked up the nerve to send it back out. It’s had good rejections, bad rejections, and a rewrite request. I’m torn on what to do next.

Say you have a story that you think is good, but doesn’t really reflect the quality of your writing today. In other words, your internal editor says, Hey, we can do much better if we rewrite this, only you’ve already rewritten it a couple times and you’d rather be working on newer things. Do you keep sending it out, lowering your sights until it finally finds a home or do you end up trunking it, convinced better to never see the light of day than get a credit that you’re afraid to list on your cover letter?

Jeff VanderMeer’s Seven Points to Consider When Submitting Short Fiction would argue that even that non-paying market that’s more accepting is a good post to the uncertain ego of a newer writer. I see the validity of that, but maybe I haven’t exhausted my list of preferred markets yet and even if they reject them, maybe there’ll be a tiny bit of feedback that’ll resonate. Things for me to consider.

[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

8th-Jan-2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
Interesting post - especially that penultimate paragraph.

You're right. There has to come a time when you decide the story is ready to send out, even though it's not perfect, but it can be a tough decision. I wonder if a way around that is to revise it each time it gets rejected.

Congrats on hitting those early goals. Keep at it :)
8th-Jan-2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Do you keep sending it out, lowering your sights until it finally finds a home or do you end up trunking it, convinced better to never see the light of day than get a credit that you’re afraid to list on your cover letter?

I keep sending it out until I run out of places that fit my personal "standards."

A story I know I'm never going to re-write--you know the kind, the very idea of one more revision pass makes you want to start crying--I'm not ever going to fix it, honestly, and I might as well get a few bucks for it. No point in listing such a sale in my cover letters, but fifty bucks and a link I can direct people to, that's better than it sitting in a drawer.

If I only wanted the public to see works of utter brilliance from me, I would have sent out, oh, maybe one thing I've ever written. And the number of times I've had people tell me they really really love something I was frustrated with, or thought was badly flawed is actually fairly high. I've had editors reject what I thought was some of my best work and then turn around and buy something I was almost embarrassed to send them. So at this point, I'm not entirely trusting my instincts in that area.

Sometimes, though, a piece is, yeah, not really ready, or ever going to be ready. I have exactly two pieces like that. One is the first attempt I made at short fiction, when I started writing seriously--it went a few places and then I looked at it and realized I could do much better and sending that around was kind of pointless--and one is...well, I sent it around, it didn't go many places, but I'm pretty sure it's unsalable, for various reasons. I may or may not rework it someday.

Those are the only two I've intentionally trunked. I have a couple others that may run out of markets--but they'll go out again when something opens up or an editor changes.

I figure at this point, once I've spent a long time working on a story, there had to have been something at its heart that was compelling or I'd never have finished it, never spent the time on it, so my current feelings about it probably aren't objective or relevant. There's still a chance someone out there will be taken with it.

I won't go below certain bars, though, no matter what. I may have a credit or two that I wouldn't put on a cover letter, but I have no desire to have credits I'm actually embarrassed about.
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