As I’ve mentioned, I’m editing an anthology called The Weird Wild West (coming from eSpec Books in the fall of this year!) and in the course of reading the stories, I’ve learned and relearned many lessons about what makes a great story great. One of the problems I’ve noticed in some stories is with the characters themselves. Not their personalities, but just how very many of them decide to make an appearance.
Have you ever seen those viral news stories about teenagers who post the details of their upcoming birthday parties on Twitter or Facebook? They only mean the information for their friends, but strangers for miles around decide to show up to the party too, leaving the house in a shambles and the local jail full of weeping kids waiting for their parents to come get them. A short story with too many characters can feel just as […]
Continue reading Inviting A Crowd to the Party
As you’ve probably heard by now, I (along with Emily Leverett and Margaret McGraw) am editing The Weird Wild West, an anthology of speculative fiction from a frontier point-of-view. Lately we’ve been reading all the submissions and choosing the best ones for inclusion in the book. It’s been a real learning experience for me, and I’m going to spend the next few Mondays talking about things I’ve learned (and in many cases, relearned) from doing this job. Today we’re going to start with starting.
Many years ago, I submitted a short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. At the time, it was a highly-regarded publication which paid actual money for accepted work, and I wanted in. I crafted a story I thought would fit perfectly with what she usually published, slapped the stamp on my SASE (those were the day!) and sent it off. A few weeks later, my […]
Continue reading Where’s The Starting Line?
Shortly after graduating from college, I moved into my first apartment. I purchased curtains and kitchen utensils, and started learning how to budget for utility bills and such. And I adopted a puppy. She was a beautiful black English Setter/Golden Retriever mix, very loving and sweet and not even much of a chewer-on-shoes. I was determined to come up with the perfect name, something that would communicate her beauty and calm nature. In the meantime, I called her Baby, because I had to call her something, right?
Eleven years later, when she died, I was still calling her Baby.
Titles are easy for some people, but not for me. Even when I think I have a great title, I worry that it’s not hitting just the right note. The title works similarly to the first line in hooking a reader. It’s even more crucial in some ways, especially once your […]
Continue reading Naming Your Baby
I danced in a show on Saturday night. All by myself, to a song that I love (Come With Me Now, by Kongos) and I had an absolutely wonderful time. Afterward, people were telling me that I did a great job, and that they enjoyed my performance. A man I’d never seen before in my life made a point of telling me how much fun my performance had been. I smiled and thanked all of them – who doesn’t love hearing that their art was successful? The complication is that inside I was telling myself they were just being nice. Because like so many of us, I can’t believe that anything I do is really any good.
There’s an actual syndrome – impostor syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. I don’t know that I suffer from an actual syndrome, but I know that […]
Continue reading You’re Just Being Nice
I spent the last few days reading submissions for our upcoming anthology, The Weird Wild West. I’m nowhere near finished, of course – we had a marvelous response to our call, so there are a lot of stories to work through. This is a new experience for me, editing. I’ve edited my own work, of course, but choosing stories for an anthology that will have my name on it – this is an entirely different activity. I’ve asked Emily (who has more experience at this sort of thing) a ton of questions. We don’t want anything but the best in this book, and we expect the submissions to be the absolute best the writers could possibly achieve.
I want to repeat something you regular readers of Magical Words have heard all of us say at least a thousand times. Editors are looking for a reason to say “No, thank you.” […]
Continue reading Getting It Right The First Time
I want to share some great news – Magical Words friends Edmund Schubert (Best Editor, Short Form) and Gray Rinehart (Best Novelette) have both received nominations for the Hugo Awards, and we’re so pleased for them! Congratulations, guys!
I thought a lot about discussing the Hugo situation today, and at first I decided not to. Mostly because I’m not a “name”, which means that my opinion won’t travel far, and also because I really don’t want to be pounced on should certain people find out that I have an opinion that doesn’t coincide with their own. But I gave it a lot of thought, and seeing that I have friends on the ballot, I’m wading in.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed on what’s going on, a couple of years ago, a small group of writers declared that another small group of writers were members of a […]
Continue reading The Hugo Problem
So today I want to talk to you about deadlines. A deadline is the date an editor or publisher sets as the last possible moment an assignment is due in their hands. The deadline is usually decided based on the publication schedule, and there’s not often a lot of wiggle room. Writers who meet their deadlines (or turn in their work early) are an editor’s dream.
At the moment, I’m more of the nightmare variety.
I owe a certain editor (who is handsome and charming and delightful and the life of any party and gosh what else can I think of to flatter him with right this second) a story for an upcoming anthology. At this very second, I’m not the last person to turn in a story, and as soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to work on finalizing my story so I can keep that […]
Continue reading Deadlines