Submissions


The Writing Bit
So, on one level at least, this is being a fun and productive year.  Previously, the highest number of submissions I’ve sent out concurrently is one.  But as of yesterday, I now have four of my stories pending review, approval or rejection.  One of those is a competition entry, and since the deadline forced it to go out when it did, I’m hardly inclined to count it.  However, the other three are simply stories that I’ve sent out to magazines within the last few weeks.

manuscript

One of them is even on actual paper!

It’s been a lot of fun getting them out.  It’s rather less fun when they come back, but having received feedback on one of those few has been extremely encouraging and only makes me want to send out more, in the hopes that even if I don’t get published, perhaps I’ll get some more professional opinions of my work and advice about where I may be going wrong.

But then, there’s the other level — the suspiciously novel-shaped one.  I’ve been enjoying short-story writing so much that my current novel draft has suffered at its hands.  I don’t like the idea of letting it simply fade away, so over the last couple of days, I’ve stoked its fires again.  Hopefully it’ll settle in soon, because at the moment, the words really aren’t coming.

I might have better luck with this advanced typing technique.

I might have better luck with this advanced typing technique.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to find a way around this for the time being, working out aspects of the story that aren’t exactly writing — not if you mean adding-words-to-the-manuscript, at least — but it’s important for the story, at the very least to help add depth to it.

The Non-Writing Bit
Aside from writing, I’ve been wasting some of my time on TV and movies lately.  I just finished watching the last series of Fringe, which I mostly enjoyed, and — hoping for some alternative sci-fi to fill the hole, and not feeling in the mood to turn to the final season of Eureka just yet — I turned today to the much-vaunted wonders of Doctor Who.  I like to come to series late, so that if I like them a lot, there’s plenty to watch.  (The exception to this so far is Game of Thrones; but even so, I wait for the series to be finished before watching it, as I hate having to wait a week between episodes for shows I like.  I’d rather wait and watch them all together at once.)

Unfortunately, I forgot what "BBC budget" meant.

Unfortunately, I forgot what “BBC budget” meant.

The word I’m looking for here probably isn’t “disappointed,” as it’s not like Doctor Who ever had a reputation for stellar effects, but I had hoped for more than a badly-animated wheelie-bin.  “Bemused” definitely fits the bill.  I’m prepared to watch another one of these, because I operate on the sound principle of “the pilot episode is probably terrible”, and I did like the old Doctor Who when I was a child.  But honestly, this first episode of Ecclestone’s stint as the Doctor seemed pretty bad to me.  It started so slowly it was annoying, stumbled into a weird transition, and throughout suffered from seemingly poor production values and inexplicably awful sound quality.

I can’t help but think that, without a budget to really make it work, making living plastic into the enemy was a bad idea.  It seemed like they may have attempted to deliberately channel some of the old-fashioned cheese of Doctor Who into the enemies, especially since they somehow magically acquired the ability to shoot, which I can’t imagine any writer tried to justify for even half a second.  But in doing so, they threw away a lot of the idea’s potential, and wasted what seemed like it could have been a much more interesting idea than it ended up becoming.

However, even assuming they had to run with it, and assuming that the script allows for the plastic in question to consist of about a hundred shop dummies and one inexplicable trash-can with the ability to transport the people it chomps half way across London without explanation, it would surely have benefitted more from some creativity and less dependency on the same crappy, low-budget CGI that plagues Sci-Fi channel movies.  I’m sure it can’t be that hard to make some actual stretchy rubber that sticks to the actor instead of relying on crappy effects, for example.  I can live with bad effects, but it annoys me when people resort to CGI when more creative approaches would be both better and, in all probability, actually cheaper.

But I can live with that.  I’ve watched shows with cruddy effects and enjoyed them (Neverwhere being a wonderful example of a great story with great acting that, therefore, overcame the burden of its low budget).   But there’s a further thorn here.  I almost always watch TV with my wife — I have only so much time to watch shows, and so it’s nice to spend that time with her.  This has allowed me to successfully introduce her to a number of good shows, including some quite geeky and nerdy fare.  In return, she’s introduced me to some great shows and movies of her own, ranging from some older American shows to a number of great Korean productions, not to mention a much wider range of horror.

Unfortunately, my wife’s tolerance for crappy and cheesy has limits, and they’re much lower than mine.  She’d have loved the story of Neverwhere, I’m sure of that, but she couldn’t get past the low-budget quality of the show.  And while I’ll sit through things she won’t — which works fine if I have a lot of spare time and can watch things by myself — I rarely have enough spare time to just kick back and watch something by myself for an hour, so if she’s not inclined to watch it, then its boots will soon be taken by another show.  And if it wasn’t for me, I’m pretty sure she’d already have given up on it.  She’s about ninety-nine percent of the way there.

But it’s the pilot, and I’m inclined to be forgiving.  It may have spent far too much of the beginning on “girl goes shopping” and stumbled around a bit with scene-setting, but some of that is presumably because, after so many years off air, it really had to ACT like a pilot episode of sorts, filling in the gaps for people who wouldn’t have seen any of the previous ones.  And it’s in that single fact that I’m placing all my hopes.

I really, really hope the next episode is better than the first one; because if it isn’t, it may take me a very long time to make it as far as episode three.

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…that went swiftly.

From four days ago, writing that short story, I ended up today making very minor tweaks and submitting it.  That makes both the fastest process from start to submission that I’ve ever gone through, and also the first time I’ve ever had more than one story out at the same time, and it was great fun, as the first draft ended up surprisingly good.

I believe Stephen King said something once about protecting the first draft.  That’s part of what I tried to do here.

I also have a third that I now need to work on before sending out, though there’ll be no first-draft preservation going on there.  It’s much longer than this story, around triple the length, and needs a little TLC before it’ll be ready to send out.  But it’s next on my radar.

I recently received another rejection — three, now, for the same story — but this time, instead of a form rejection email or letter I actually got feedback from the magazine, which was a wonderful thing!  Not only did I agree with the criticism — and just as importantly, I think, the criticism is something I can remedy with only a little work and rethinking — but it also included some praise for elements of the story I tried hard to get right, and it was clear from the feedback that the responder read through the entire story.  That was a particularly pleasant thought, as until this point I had visions of people looking at the first page or two and dismissing the whole story out of hand before getting any further in.

It’s one of two rejections I’ve received from magazines or publishers with comments; once for the forgotten novel whose lead character’s name adorns this blog, and once for this short story.  And on both occasions, the comments have been encouraging.  So although it’s a rejection, it’s really put me in a good mood this morning.

I’ve discovered recently that I’m more accomplished if I write early in the day. If I write in the morning, I don’t just get more writing done, I get more of everything done. It sets my day up well, and everything moves on in great fashion. I used to have a habit of leaving my writing until later, to think I could only write after I’d done everything else. But learning to treat it as more of a responsibility is having an impact on everything else too.

I love writing — it makes me feel good, and it also makes me feel productive. So when I do it earlier in the day, it helps to set me up in the right frame of mind to get things done.

This guy maybe started a little TOO early.

This guy maybe started a little too early.

So this morning, I’ve been working on an old short story I half finished before, provisionally titled The Journeymen. This version is a completely fresh rewrite, inspired by the fact that I thought of a new first line for it in the shower yesterday. It’s a light-hearted, occasionally comic sci-fi tale now, but in its previous incarnation it was much more serious. This version is closer to what I think I’d originally envisaged. I like it more, and I’m enjoying working on it again.

But for later in the day, I also have lined up some editing; I have several stories just sitting and waiting to be finished and printed for submission, and I keep putting it off. I looked through my notes, and discovered to my surprise that I haven’t submitted anything since mid-2009; as with so many things, the habit isn’t there yet. I need to give myself a nudge to get back into the habit of actually submitting what I write, or it’ll just sit here on my computer, never read by anyone other than me (or, occasionally, my wife).

It always seems like that should be the easy part…but somehow, it never is.