Tag: submissions

Analog switching to electronic submission

In case there are any of my writer friends out there who have not yet seen the news that SF Scope broke, Analog (where my story, “Take One for the Road” will be appearing in the June issue) will be switching to Neil Clarke‘s electronic submissions system, just their sister publication, Asimov’s did several months back.

I like Neil’s submission system. It appears to be flexible enough for the publishers, while greatly simplifying the process of submissions for writers. No more trips to the post office, no more futzing with big envelopes. No more SASE’s. One factor that I’ve heard both Stan Schmidt and Sheila Williams talk about is that they can read manuscripts on their Kindle’s and no longer have to carry around stacks of paper. That makes sense for them too.

I’ve written before about how writers live for the mail. Now the only market to which I submit stories that doesn’t yet take electronic submissions is F&SF, but I think the pressure is on. And despite the fact that I won’t be going to the snail  mailbox to look for rejections slips or acceptances, I’ve grown used to looking for these things in my Gmail inbox. In fact, I have a special bright red color for the editors to whom I’ve submitted and interacted with in the past so that when they send me something, it really stands out.

Of course, for people as obsessive as writers can be, there is one drawback to these electronic systems: we find ourselves constantly checking the system to see if the status of of our submission has changed.

A brief writing update

I think I’m getting back on track in terms of my writing schedule (thanks again to Brad Torgersen’s inspiring post). For the second day in a row I was up before 5am and spent my two hours on two writing-related tasks.

First, I organized the scenes in “Rescue” in the order I think they should go, based on the work I’d done paring down the novel section to a novelette. At this point, the novelette is just a set of scene index cards in Scrivener. However, the novel section is now fully annotated with what should get cut, what should get emphasized, what should stay in and what should go out. Furthermore, I decided this morning to simplify the plot somewhat by taking out a subplot that, while interesting, is probably too much to handle in a novelette. All of that took an hour and so I didn’t start the actual writing. However: we have a free-writing session at the Arlington Writers Group tonight and if the weather permits, and I can get to the meeting, I’ll start the writing this evening.

Second, I took feedback I got from an editor on a story he turned down–very good, detailed feedback–and made some minor changes to address those issues and then got the story sent out to another market. I’m still hopeful.

Overnight I received my third rejection of 2011, but I also made my second submission this morning. Pretty good for the month of January.

That ate up the rest of my time this morning, and I trudged wearily out into the slush (a different kind of slush) to head into the day job.

This week’s submissions and rejections

It was so cold yesterday that I didn’t go out to check the mail. That’s pretty remarkable for a writer who lives for the mail. I checked it this morning and found a rejection slip for a story I submitted about two months ago. It was a personal note, detailing why the editor didn’t take it and I found it to be very helpful. In fact, it was the kind of rejection note that every beginning wishes he or she would get from editors, but still a rejection. I seem to have at least reached the stage where rejections, when they come, are almost always personal and helpful. It was my second rejection of 2011.

I did make my first submission in 2011 today and I feel pretty good about that one.

Writers live for the mail

Kelly finds it amusing that the first thing I do upon arriving home from work is rush off to the mailbox to check for any mail.  I’ve tried to explain to her that writers live for the mail, but I’m not quite sure she gets it.

Granted, there aren’t a whole lot of science fiction and fantasy markets these days that don’t take electronic submissions.  But so what?  We live for mail regardless of its delivery mechanism.  At this very moment, I have 3 stories out for submission.  One of those stories is at ANALOG (and has been for 51 days–writers count things, too!) and my biggest reason for racing to the mailbox each day is in the hope that there is NOT a small, self-addressed stamped envelope there indicating a rejection.

(Think of applying to colleges here, and the stress and anxiety sweated out over the mail.  Would you get a “big” envelope, indicating an acceptance?  Or a small one, indicating rejection?)

Each day that I don’t get something from ANALOG increases my hope that the story I have sent has made it farther and farther up the editorial scale.  Writers say that they want fast responses from editors, but what they really want are fast acceptances.  There is a thrill to not knowing as time stretches on.  A kind of quantum state of acceptance kicks in where a manuscript exists in both accepted and rejected states simultaneously until the wave function collapses and an SASE shows up in the mailbox–or an acceptance shows up in the inbox.

Writers also read all kinds of things into these submissions.  Perhaps the longer my story is over at ANALOG means it really is rising up out of the slush, into the hands of assistant editors and maybe even Stan Himself.  Or perhaps, everyone is on summer vacation and manuscripts aren’t being read.  Or maybe–horrors!–the thing has been lost in the mails!  Such things have been known to happen.

There is not quite the same thrill with markets that take electronic submissions, and I’m not sure why that is.  Some of these markets even go so far as to tell you where in the queue your story sits, and some of them respond so quickly that you don’t even have time to built up to the requisite peak of anticipation.  Nevertheless, in all these cases, I am checking my submission spreadsheet several times a week to see how long various manuscripts have been out, daydreaming each time that one or more will come back with an acceptance–or, dare I dream it!–a cluster of them.

And when we do find that SASE in the mail, we don’t tear it open instantly.  We weigh it carefully in our hand, hefting it to determine if it is merely a form letter rejection, or perhaps something more, something editorial comment.  It is, alas, always light, but that doesn’t deter me.  Short story contracts are usually short and it would be easy to squeeze one into the envelope.  And of course, there is always the last resort: that the market has decided to accept manuscripts the way that John Campbell accepted them: with a bare check.  Could a check be in that SASE, we wonder?

Of course, eventually we tear it open to some amount of disappointment, but if we are serious about our writing careers, then this low point doesn’t last long.  For within a few minutes we have it in another envelope (or virtual one) and on its way to the next market on the list and before the day is out, we are once again seized by that lottery-daydream possibility that our story has already sold, and we are just waiting to get the official word.

I tried to explain all of this to Kelly, but she just thinks I’m some kind of obsessive nut.  Exactly, I toldher, what writer isn’t?

Back to school

Well, I made it through the day yesterday without feeling overly tired.  I was up at 4 AM and we headed off to bed at 9 PM (after watching Tivo’d episodes of Big Love and Battlestar Galactica).  I didn’t sleep great last night, but my body is still adjusting to the new schedule.  Busy day in the office.  I was in meeting from 11 AM until 4 PM, and as usual, I was the one doing much of the talking.  It was nice to get home from the office and not have to feel bad about not going to the gym–I’d already gone!

We enrolled in a series of "new baby" classes last night.  There’s a 4-day course on childbirth preparation, another course on baby care, and another is a tour of the hospital. These courses take place in the evenings and don’t start until April.  So when the spring arrives, it’s back to school for us.

Apex Magazine is having a special issue and I have a story that fits the theme of the issue well.  Last night I submitted the story to Apex for the special issue.  I also got some additional feedback on "Homecoming" and plan to spend the rest of the week working the various suggestions I’ve received into the story.  I’d like to get it into the mail as soon as possible, but I’d like to make sure it works well before I do.

Still no word on “If By Reason of Strength…”

Tomorrow will be 50 days since sending the story to ANALOG.  Aside from it being a nice round number, it’s more than 20 days longer than any submission I have ever sent there (the longest previous submission I got back in 29 day; that was back in 2003; the most recent submission I got back in 28 days and that was in 2007).  I can think of three possibilities:

1. The story has made it past the slush pile and is being considered.
2. The holidays created a backlog and it’s simply taking longer than usual.
3. The story was lost in the mail.

The optimist in me is hoping for #1, of course.  I think it’s a good story.  Regardless, no news is good news when it comes to these kinds of things.  I remain hopeful. 

Happy Birthday ANALOG/ASTOUNDING (and a related dream)

If I am not mistaken, today is ANALOG/ASTOUNDING’s 79th birthday.  For those who don’t know, ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION is the longest continuously running science fiction magazine around.  It started up in 1930 (when my Grandpa was 10 years old!) and is still going strong today.  (In the 1960s, the name was changed to ANALOG).  It is usually considered to be the "major" science fiction magazine market.

On a related note, I have a story that’s been out at ANALOG for 31 days now (that’s longer than any story I’ve ever submitted there, but I attribute that to the holidays).  Last night, I had a dream that I received a "rejection slip" from Stanley Schmidt, editor of ANALOG for 30 years now.  What was strange about it was that it was a long, handwritten note (several pages) with questions about the story scrawled in between references to various articles on the science contained within the story.  There was not a word saying that the story was accepted or rejected.  This is interesting because mabfan, in a radio interview, described getting a similar letter from Stan and not knowing whether this meant Stan wanted a rewrite or not.  To me, it’s just a sign that the submitted story is in my mind.  One other thing about the dream:  in his note, Stan asked "What happened to Norman?" (Norman is the protagonist in the story)–implying that the ending was not clear.  This is contrary to the actual story where it is very clear (to me) what happens to Norman.

Heading off to go shopping now.  Hoping to get some writing in later today. 

The manuscript is in the mail!

Finally!  My workshop manuscript is in the mail and on its way to ANALOG.

This is the first new story I’ve sent out in a long time.  (The last story, "The Golden Watch" was actually a complete reworking of an older story.)  This one, however, called "If By Reason of Strength…" is brand new, written and conceived as part of the writers workshop I participated in over the summer.  That workshop helped in many ways.  It helped me focus on crucial elements of story-telling like scene and dialog.  It also introduced me to some top-notch writers like will_couvillier  and alaneer .  I’d recommend it to anyone trying to improve their craft.

Part of my reason for even taking the workshop was to help develop a routine for writing.  Having more confidence about one’s writing makes it easier to sit down and write, but I’m the kind of person who still requires and overall plan.  For the duration, I’ve given up on the idea of writing a novel.  I didn’t even attempt NaNoWriMo this year.  My focus is on perfecting, to the best of my abilities, short science fiction.  To that end, I’m attempting to stick to a plan where I produce a story a month.  There is no end-time frame for this.  I’ll just go with it and see how I do.  One story a month.  Doesn’t sound too hard, right?  Twelve a year would be far better than I’ve ever done before.

But even so, that plan is not detailed enough for me.  I need at least a short term roadmap.  So here it is, the roadmap for the two stories I will be producing for December and January:

December 2008: "Origins" (working title), no idea yet on the length.
January 2009: "Funeral Day", probably less than 7,500 words.

Upon completing a story, I’ll try and tack a new one onto the end of the list so that I can always see two months ahead.  Furthermore, I’m going to try and approach these stories the way I did in the workshop, starting with a general description of the story, followed by the writing of some scenes that capture elements like setting and dialog.  And then finish it off as a completed story.

In fact, for the December story, I’m going to try something completely new:  I’m going to keep private blog entries about my thought process behind the developing story:  why did I write the scene that way, why did I decide to rewrite?  How can I fix this?  Should the story be accepted, I’ll make those posts public as an example of "how I did it".  Should the story make the rounds and not find a home, well, I’ll make those private posts public as an example of, "how I tried to do it".

I don’t know about you, but setting goals like these for yourself, explicitly stating them in front of the world makes it easier for me to focus on what I am trying to do.  We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, I just love the feeling of having a manuscript out in the mail.  You writers out there know what I’m talking about…


Monday wrap-up

I think Kelly and I are both recovering from our weekend. We both felt tired throughout the day. I took a lunchtime name that lasted nearly an hour!

Headed home at 4 PM and did a bunch of critiques for the writing workshop. Kelly called around 5:20 and I headed to pick her up. We went to pick up her car. Kelly decided to get enough fixed to make the car run for a few more months (through the wedding). We stopped at Harris Teeters and get some groceries, and then went to the dealership. Kelly got her car and we headed home.

We made a chef salad for dinner (with hard-boiled eggs, and turkey in mine for added protein). Around 8 PM, we headed to the club house gym. Kelly did cardio and I did a light arms and shoulders workout; didn’t want to over-do it getting back into things. I did manage 100 crunches. I had only one can of soda today and everything else was water.

Back from the gym and we settled down to watch the last two episodes of Dexter, season 2.

Lots of mail today. Sure enough, the insurance company things I’m still renting the house in Riverdale; they sent me a bill for that policy, even though I sent in a cancelation form. I’ll have to call them tomorrow to take care of this.

I got the SFWA Bulletin and my story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” was listed in the Nebula recommendations for Best Novelette (1 recommendation). It is no longer eligible, but it was cool to see it listed there among the many other novelettes (far better than mine).

About to hit 44 days on “The Golden Watch” at Strange Horizons and still no word. I’m still taking this as “no news is good news.”

Baseball and writing

Kelly couldn’t go to the Orioles game today because she had other stuff she had to work on, so I left her at my house around 11 AM and headed up to Camden Yards. The Orioles have lost something like 8 of their last 9 home games and the team was offering a special today. If they won, each ticket-holder could get an equivalent ticket to another Orioles game for free. So there was incentive to root for the O’s over the Texas Rangers.

I was most disappointed by the fact that our usher, Bill, who has been usher for our section for at least as long as I have had my season tickets (5 years now) moved to another section. It wasn’t clear whether this was permanent or not, but I hope not. The section is not the same without him.

The game was a slow one, but ultimately a close one as the Orioles lost 11-10, but hit 2 home runs in the bottom of the 9th in an effort at a comeback.

I stopped at Boston Market on the way home to grab some dinner.

I submitted my story, “The Golden Watch” to Strange Horizons, and got the auto-response from them so I know that it was submitted successfully. I had planned to do more work on another story last night but ended up watching episodes of M*A*S*H instead.

The new story is done!

This evening I completed the finishing touches of my new story “The Golden Watch”. I put the final manuscript together (using Scrivener’s “compile draft” feature, which is wonderful) and then sent the manuscript off to Edmund Schubert at InterGalactic Medicine Show. I think it’s a good story. Hopefully they will like it too!

Coincidentally, it’s two years to the day that I submitted “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer”, back on January 10, 2006. Maybe January 10 will turn out to be a lucky day for me!

Now, at long last, I can get back to work on the novel, Graveyard Shift.