I really have never addressed this topic. It is funny that I have not talked about it since I quite simply love to curse. There is little else that makes certain type of point than a well placed “fuck” or a perfectly timed “bullshit.” And in the work I do, I am certainly well adjusted to hearing swear words, including some very nasty ones directed at me personally.
So when it came to swearing in writing, I never really gave in much thought. I like to write stories with believable characters, and we live in a world where people curse. But when it comes to telling a story, cursing can be off putting to some readers, and there has to be a balance. There are many things to consider when you type that first swear in your fiction. Let’s take a look at some:
Who is this book intended for? It might be most obvious to eliminate, or at the least tone down, cursing in a Young Adult novel. You will likely have none in Middle Grade. And I am certain your children’s book will be swear free. But it is more then just the category of your novel. Are you writing to diehard Sci-Fi readers? Grandmas? Church goers? Parents of young kids? Military readers? and on and on. Each of these needs a consideration as well. If this group of readers will be easily offended by the content of your novel, including swearing, you either need to change your audience or remove the words.
Is it Fitting?
Does the curse words fit the story, the world, and the context it is used in? If you are writing a book about an alien world who have never met humans, I highly doubt they would use the word “shit” in any way. If you are writing about a character that is getting shot at, I can almost be certain they will swear. If you are writing a military or police novel, they swear. Do they all swear? No. But I’ve been around enough of both to know that when things get ugly, a swear might slip out. You have to find out if the swear belongs in the world, the environment, and the type of story you are telling.
I touched on this a bit above. If you are writing about the military, there may be curse words. But if your Main Character is a very mild mannered person who was drafted into the army, s/he might not be prone to swearing. If you are writing about a priest who is trying to help a teenager get out of a bad situation, he is unlikely to swear. But then again, he might slip in a minor curse word if the teenager has just pushed the priest too far. Or the priest feels that is the only way to get through to the kid. Think about each of your characters. As you are developing your character, did you ever think of them as the type to swear a lot? If not, then it might be best to leave them out. Consider the character’s background. Growing up rich with a lot of servants and proper etiquette might yield a different swear result than the inner-city bully.
To some the word “fuck” is vulgar in itself. I am sure if that is the case they stopped reading my blog a long time ago. But to others, the way it is used determines the level of vulgarity. There is a big difference between yelling out “fuck” in an adrenaline rush situation and saying you will “fuck” someone. The vulgarity of the use of a swear ties in to the character, the suitability of the use, and your target audience. I swear a lot, but there are certain words, when used a certain way, that even I take offense to. In the end if you are going for shock value, it should be removed. Shocking your audience in a vulgar way, will likely knock them right out of your story. Sometimes to the point they won’t keep reading.
Is the word distracting/excessive?
When you read the text, is the word distracting to the action? Do you, or your beta readers, seem to notice the word more than the actions of the overall scene? If so, it probably doesn’t belong. Have your characters done nothing but curse the entire novel? If so, you may be taking away from the character and that will only hurt the story. The most obvious test is if you notice. The second test will come from beta readers.
Excessive is hard to define. You can’t say that a certain number of curse words is the limit in any novel. You have to test it with a sample audience, the beta readers. See what they say. See what your editor says. Consider all of it to decide if it works for your novel. In Dissolution of Peace, we have a military setting, with aggressive and stressed out characters, in a world on the brink of war. I can tell you that there is cursing in the novel. My friend asked me if the novel would be appropriate for a 14 and 9 year old. Before I could message him back and say, “Probably not.” He told me that he searched the novel. The word “Fuck” came up fifteen times and “shit” twenty plus times. When I first saw that, I was surprised. I hadn’t thought it was so much. And that really does seem like a lot. But not one beta readers, or my editor, made a single comment on the cursing. The fact that neither myself or my beta readers noticed proves the fact that it is not excessive.
Of course, others might consider it very excessive. That goes back to audience. So far, in both editorial reviews and customer reviews, there has been no mention of the cursing. So far, it seems, that no one considers it excessive. As I go back and read the novel, the curse words fit the situations they are used in. You almost don’t notice them.
To curse or not to curse. The debate.
Curse words are a big debate in the writing community. I’ve not noticed forum discussion on the topic that did not have strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Many have argued that if the right way to use a curse word is to leave it unnoticed, than what it the point of using it anyway? I often argue that sometimes not using a curse word can be more distracting. I read a detective novel, very well written, but I just couldn’t see this detective yelling out “dang!” when he got shot at. To me that was deliberate censorship and it stood out far more than a “shit” or a “damn it” would have. If the author was against cursing, simply leaving it off might have been better.
And that sort of sums up the use of curse words in a novel. They will never make or break a story. I’ve seen excellent novels based in various settings that both use and didn’t use curse words. But even in those that used the curse words, it wasn’t the curse words you remembered. You remembered the story. Curse words are like many other character and story accents. If used correctly, no one will remember them but they will love your characters and story.
Swears are a lot like sex scenes. In many cases the story will work just fine without either. So the choice is entirely up to the author. But when used correctly, swears are no big deal either. Only the writer can decide if they belong or not.
Yesterday I did my first KDP Free Promotion. For those that don’t know, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has an option to sign up for KDP Select. This is a 90 day period where you allow Amazon (and by default Kindle) to be the only electronic form of your book sold. Some people balk at the exclusiveness this implies. But there are some pluses. You get to be part of the Kindle Prime Lending Library. This means that people can borrow your book for free and in return you get a part of the collective “pot” of money. I’ve not had any borrows yet. Some authors have told me that you get more borrows for higher priced books, since prime users can only borrow one book per month. I don’t know about that.
The other thing you get to do is pick five days per 90 day period to make your book free. You don’t have to do that. You don’t even have to pick the days when you publish your book. You can go back and set up your days when you want. You can do all five together or pick and choose a few days spread out. The choice is entirely up to you.
As you probably saw in yesterday’s post, I made Dissolution of Peace free in honor of Veterans day in the United States. It was free on all Amazon sites globally. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to see how well this KDP Free Promotions thing would work. Second, I have a special place in my heart for those that serve in the armed forces. It may even be why I enjoy writing military fiction. So I decided to honor those people in a way that was important to me.
The real question is, do promotions like this work?
Success is truly something only you can decide. But, I will show you what it did for me in just the one day since the promotion. You can decide from there if it could be successful for you.
I would also like to point out that I did not market my free book on anything other then this blog, my Twitter, and Facebook. I didn’t announce it on one the the many free eBook blogs. I just spread the word myself.
Getting Books in the Hands of Readers
The point in writing a book is to have it read. I’ve stressed that making money is not my goal in writing. My goal is to get readers and maybe get a few fans who want to read anything I write. So did the promotion get my book in the hands of readers. With out a doubt it is a huge success in that fashion.
In Amazon US, I had about 19 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released. Nineteen times more readers in one day then in the four weeks since my book was released.
In Amazon UK, I had 88 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released. The UK was phenomenal in this free promotion. I’ll get to more on that soon.
In Amazon Germany, I had 7 times more downloads yesterday then in the four weeks since it was released.
I even had my first download in Italy.
In comparison to other promotions I have done, this was by far the most successful. My own eBook giveaways resulted in only around 10 free eBooks being given away. This includes those sent to reviewers. But if I wanted to get more readers, this was certainly a great way to do it. They may not read it right away, I am sure there are people who just won’t pass up free, but there a whole lot more people with copies of my book now. This means there are a lot more people in the pool to write reviews, tell their friends, and look for future titles I release.
Creating Awareness of my Book
This is a really hard thing to do. Getting your book noticed by potential buyers is very hard for any author, especially the indie author. You are fighting an up hill battle with major authors, major publishers, and the rest of the indie market. It is not easy to be noticed.
One way to get noticed is on Amazon’s Best Seller Lists. The thing that always frustrated me about many “help” sites that talk about these best seller lists don’t let you know the secrets to getting on the lists. The truth is the secret is simply getting sales. But Amazon does one great thing here. The Best Seller Lists of the Top 100 eBooks sold is listed right next to the Top 100 Free eBooks. Number 5 in sales is right next to number 5 in free.
This means that when someone is looking for the best sellers on science fiction ebooks, they are also seeing the best sellers in free science fiction ebooks. You still have to get the downloads to get on the list, but you can get a lot of benefit once you get on the list. If nothing more than getting the cover of your book seen by more eyes.
I mentioned how great the UK was in this free promotion. The first time I checked my Amazon UK page yesterday was at 10:16 in the morning. My book had only been free for ten hours, which is a fair amount of time, especially considering the time difference. But at that point I was #48 on the Top 100 Free Science Fiction eBooks. And by the end of the promotion I was #19. In that time I had been on the same page as H. P. Lovecraft, Jules Vern, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and more. I was even next to George R.R. Martin at one point. That is some good company to hang out with, even on a virtual level.
In the US, it was a slower start. This, in part, has to do with two factors. First, the US site has a much larger pool of shoppers. They include India, and many other places that don’t have their own sites. But, KDP free events also start at 12:01 am Pacific time. Right when most of the US is still asleep. But by 12:45 pm, twelve hours into the the promotion, I was on the top 100 list at number 61. And by the time it was over, I had made it to 28. So while the UK really came through on the Best Seller’s list, the US still put me along side the great names of Science Fiction past and present.
I would say that overall that is a successful way of gaining exposure to my book. I don’t know how many people browse the Top Sellers list. But I do know that I often look for books online this way. So overall even if I didn’t get downloads, people saw my book cover. And book covers are the brand image of books. Like all brands, the more the image is seen the more it becomes known and in some cases trusted.
You might be wondering where my book ranked at in the over all ranking for Free eBooks. In the US it was #779 and in the UK it was #425. Not bad considering how many thousands, probably millions, of books are on Amazon.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth advertising is probably some of the best. People often choose books based on the recommendations of friends and family. While I doubt anyone recommended my book the same day they downloaded it. I got far more downloads then I have Facebook, Twitter, and Blog followers. This means people had to hear about it from other people. So people were at least mentioning my book. I also noticed that many people were downloading my book in the US before it broke on to the top 100 list. So they had to find it some other way.
But this huge pool of new readers who downloaded my book will contribute to the word of mouth advertising that will continue to increase traffic to my book. And will hopefully increase my sales volume.
I don’t know if this will increase my reviews. Before the promotion I had two Amazon reviews, and one Amazon UK review. But, the increased reader pool also means an increased reviewer pool. So that has to cause a higher chance of being reviewed. But only time will tell on this.
Again, only time will tell on this. But my point has never been to get money. Some people see the free book giveaway as nothing but lost revenue. But to date, nothing has got Dissolution of Peace in the hands of more readers than the Amazon free promotion. I’ve never thought of writing as a way to make money. For me it is has been about readers, and maybe making enough money to cover the costs associated with publishing it. Would I complain if my book starts flying off the shelves? Of course not. That is the goal of most writers, but not for the sake of money but for the sake of the volume of readers.
From what I have heard from others, the sales will increase but that takes time.
I can’t really see it any other way. KDP has hit a home run with the idea of allowing authors five days to make the book free. And if you use those days through out your 90 day period as a promotional tool, you can really gather a lot of new readers. And many readers who might not have otherwise picked up your book. I’ll likely do another two or three of these free promotional things in the next few months. I see nothing but success here. And if I enjoyed this much success with limited announcement outlets, imagine if I branched out from my circle of followers.
Of course, many people are turned off be the exclusiveness of KDP Select. They feel like they are excluding a market of readers that use other eReaders. Personally I have had little request for ePub format. But, 90 days is a relatively short time. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to renew it. Personally I think it is worth a try.
As of this morning Amazon.com has officially begun selling Dissolution of Peace! It is one week early, but I am over joyed to see all this hard work finally amount to something.
I hope people enjoy the book and spread the word about it. I’m still offering signed paperbacks for only $5.99 for the next week. You can get that from the BUY BOOKS tab at the top of my blog.
Here are the Amazon.com Links:
Don’t forget to add it to your shelves on Goodreads!
Here is the trailer again, just to get you a psyched up as I am.
Book Release Announcement
I am pleased to announce that I finally have a release date for Daddy is Tired, the children’s book my son and I wrote over a year ago. On June 28th, Daddy is Tired will be officially released for sale on Amazon.com. But, I got good news for you all. You can order now on Createspace and get a special discount (see below). Everything the book makes goes directly to Cinco and I really hope to encourage him to continue his pursuits of writing and the arts. So take a moment to share the links below and share this wonderful book. It is a great, fun early reader that I feel parents and children can relate to. Now, a little about the book:
Daddy is Tired
Authored by Richard “Cinco” Flores V, Illustrated by Lorikitty, Authored with Richard Flores IV
Full Color on White paper
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Readers / Beginner
Daddy is Tired is a children’s picture book about a dad who wants to rest while his son would rather play. Dad hopes for a little nap, but his son just wants to play.
This book was written by Cinco, at five years old, in one of his own quiet time sessions. Of course his dad didn’t get to rest either, he had to help.
Use discount code: 78VZNJ65 to get 10% off. This code will only be good until the book is released officially on June 28th, 2012. Feel free to share the link (https://www.createspace.com/3671972) and discount code with everyone you know.
Click here for the Amazon Listing.
In other news, I have been hard at work getting the Print Edition of Plasma Frequency Magazine Issue 1 ready for it’s release. I am working on advertising spots now, and there are still a few spots available for this issue. We have been hard at work on the layout. And, once the print edition is final, we will begin work on the Kindle Edition. One great thing in the subscriptions are coming in all over the world. We have subscribers in the US, Singapore, the UK, Denmark, Canada, and elsewhere. So I am excited about the release of Issue 1. Here is the cover art by Tais Teng and it is inspired by “Frequencies” by Michael Hodges.
Of course, we are hard at work on reading for Issue 2 now. And this has left me little time for much else. I suppose the if I wish to get more of my own writing done, I will need to seek more volunteers to help me with the reading, artwork, layout, and advertising. All of which take a lot of work.
I still don’t have cover art to show you for Dissolution of Peace. But, I suspect it will be released in Late August. I plan to have an official release date in the July updates.
My novel in progress has ground to a halt. Mostly because of all my other life commitment. The Magazine, my volunteer activities, and my job keep me pretty busy most of the time.
No new short story acceptances to report either.
So that is the June Updates. See next week for my next blog post, not sure what Topic I will choose though.
I can’t believe we’re already six days into March. A lot has happened since my last updates and as a result my regular scheduled blogs had been disrupted. I hope to start posting every week again, but instead of Sundays it will be on Tuesdays. So keep an eye out for regular blogs posts again, hopefully I can keep up the advice blogs.
Let’s start with some personal updates. I spent President’s Day weekend moving. I didn’t move far, just back to my hometown of Vacaville, but the move still took three days. My advice… DON’T USE BUDGET. I reserved a truck with Budget Truck rentals, and AFTER I confirmed the reservation they decided to tack on a $200 deposit. Had the online reservation tool mentioned that prior to confirmation I would have canceled. So, I called Budget and told them I wanted to cancel. They charged me $50 to do that. I can’t possibly believe that the 10 minutes from the time I pressed confirm to the time I canceled, inconvenienced them that much.
Well, that took away half my moving truck budget and made it impossible for me to rent from anywhere else. So I had to move my whole three bedroom house with my minivan. That made the move tiring, exhausting, and LONG. But we got everything moved but we are still working on unpacking.
I finished that move on a Monday and started my new job on the Wednesday after I had been out of work for just under a year. I know many other people have been out of work even longer so I feel blessed and fortunate to have found work. That being said, it is still hard to get back into the rhythm of working full time after so many days off. I hope to get a schedule figured out soon so that I can fit in my scheduled writing and gym time. But it feels good to have a reliable income again.
On the writing front, I haven’t got much done. My January short story is still in it’s infancy. I think it is just short and it needs to be developed more. I didn’t get one done in February, but I may start in on another novel based on the Characters and world of “Dream Job” (you can read it here in the first issue of Cygnus Journal).
The two short stories I have out are still making their rounds. “Miles from the Future” recently received another rejection. However it was a rare personal rejection explaining that it made it all the way to final stages, but was apparently just nudged out by other works. I am debating on where to send it next. I have a very promising story called “Compassionate Death” that is currently still circling with some Pro Markets. I haven’t got much feedback on it from editors, but my trial readers really seemed to enjoy it. I think it could still be some time before either one is published, but I look forward to when I can share them with you.
My son’s Children’s Book, Daddy is Tired, has hit yet another road block in its journey to publication. The illustrator has developed a medical issue that has impacted her drawing arm. While it is not anything major (as in life threatening) it is very painful. I hope she can get the treatment she needs and gets well soon. There is one plus side. I did get this sample image to share with you all:
My recently completed first draft for my untitled novel, is still resting. I plan to get to the first rounds of edits this month, schedule permitting. I am excited to get that one out to you guys as well. I know it is a bit premature but I already wonder about cover art for that one. I also hope the sample readers like it. It will be a ton of work, and I do intend to use professional help for the final draft. But that is still a long while away. If I can think of a good title, I will certainly share it with you guys.
On this blog, I plan to work on another help piece for authors on the subject of properly critiquing other writer’s works. I have found that helping others with their works has helped my writing improve more than any other method. In any case, I am not sure if that post will be out next week or the week after.
But, I will have something to share with you next week. So, until then, happy writing. As always you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
A lot has gone on since I wrote my January Updates in the first part of January. There are new announcements and progress reports to share. Let’s get started, shall we.
On February 5th, I finished the first draft of my still untitled novel. It game is at just over 67,000 words and only took forty seven days start to finish. As I mentioned before, I didn’t write everyday. Life gets in the way sometimes. So, it took 21 days of writing. I am pleased to be finished, but now the real work starts. There are many other steps ahead and I will probably start the self editing in March.
I did write a January short story. I put it out for critiques and the overwhelming response is that it seems unfinished. I originally wrote it with a quick little idea, thinking a flash piece. But it seems it needs some expanding. The problem is, I am not sure where I will go from here. We will see.
Daddy is Tired, the children’s picture book, is still waiting on the illustrator. So, unfortunately there is no cover art to show you yet. I also don’t think a March release will happen either. The lead time from the publisher is lengthy. So, perhaps April. The illustrator has told me she will be staying up late tomorrow and hopes to finish then. Official release dates will be announced as soon as I have them.
I’ve done a lot of reading since I finished Shining in Crimson by Robert S. Wilson. I read Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card and The NanoTech Murders by Lee Gimenez (review here). Right now I am reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I know it is amazing that I have not read this book yet, not sure why I never got to it but I am reading it now. Once I finish that, I will have to head back to the book store.
I’m planning a move any day now. I plan to move back to Vacaville, my hometown here in California. I’m living just up the road in a neighboring city right now. We moved here for cheaper rent, but we miss home (even with it being so close) and we hope to move before March 1st. But, that may not be possible. It all depends on if we hear back from the applications we have put in.
Well, that’s the updates for February. We’ll have to touch base on these again in March. Hopefully then I will have release dates and other fun stuff to share.
I haven’t mentioned this much, maybe a few posts here and there, but I love video games. Like many people in my generation, I have grown up with the video game industry. As it has grown so have I. I started with Mario on the NES, and this week I began playing Battlefield 3 for my PC. That is a lot of growth in a short amount of time.
Just like writing, I don’t have as much time for games as I used to. In life, you have to make time for the things you love to do. So I make time for the games when I can. And, of course, when a new game I love comes out (such as Battlefield 3) I tend to spend a lot of time with it. And, while getting my butt kicked last night, I thought a lot about my uncontested favorite video games: Tomb Raider. It got me thinking about a different aspect of video game evolution. So this morning, I figured I better get this blog out now before I started in on the Battlefield.
Its easy to notice the evolution of graphics, controls, consoles, or even the sheer size of the games. But, story telling has almost become a requirement in the video game world. Take a look at the original Mario Bros., a game that is still great today, but really tells a limited story. Scroll Right and save the princess. The story has since grown, so that even the newest Mario games have a far more detailed story.
But stories have gotten even more important in the over all game play. Characters’ stories are often crafted and even the slightest of changes are contested by the fans. Katie Fleming, the Queen of Tomb Raider Fandom, recently hosted a Youtube video debate on the changes to Lara Croft’s character bio. I mention this because it demonstrates the affect of story telling on today’s games. This was a very passionate debate by loving fans to Lara and the Tomb Raider franchise. There is true love there for the character and her story.
People can now get even more immersed in the game world by an entertaining story, a creative world to be explored, characters you care about, and a protagonist you love to hate. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it? The same recipe for a good story has now become the recipe for a good game. Games have become more about being playable stories then just a game. I have spent many nights up late playing one more “level” just to find out what happens next in the story. Just as I have done so many times with the pages of a book.
I think the evolution of gaming in the direction of story telling started early. Almost all games had a story of some sort. But, it has become so important now that even games like Battlefield 3, that are primarily played for their massive multi-player interaction, have ensured they have a story to go with their game. Picking up a gun and shooting other players has no longer become good enough for most of the gamers.
With the development of another Tomb Raider in the works, story telling comes to the forefront again. Almost all the buzz about this game has been about the story: The reinventing of Lara (again) for our playing enjoyment. I have not heard much talk of graphics, moves, or controls. The talk has been about Lara’s new look, the story of Lara’s past, and the world she will be stuck in. The same things I talk about (and look for) in a good book.
In fact, video game characters have made the move into other story telling medium as well. Of course you have movies like Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, and Prince of Persia. Tomb Raider had a great run of Comic Books. Some have even made their way into novels. In fact, if the right people are reading this I should note that I would love to write a Tomb Raider Novel (HINT HINT SHAMELESS PLUG).
As a writer you may have considered writing a novel, a comic book, or even a movie. But the world of video games offers another chance for story telling. And, video gamers can be the most fun and challenging group to write for. We love our games, their characters, their worlds, and the story they have to tell.
Now if you will excuse me, I am needed on the Battlefield.
So you want to be a published author? Well, me too. Many writers do. There are many ways to get published. There are short works, there are novels, and of course there is the “traditional” way and the “self-published” way. I am going to talk mostly about the Traditional Publishing Method, with a focus on short stories.
A Quick Mention to Self Publishing:
I am not downplaying self publishing, but I don’t have experience in it. You certainly don’t have to deal with the rejection of an editor if you self publish. It is relatively easy to get the story published in self publishing, but hard part comes in reaching an audience. You likely don’t have an audience, and getting people to read your stuff is harder then you think. Don’t think you avoid rejection either. You have to get rejected by the audience and that can often be a lot worse then an editor. At least an Editor rejection is between you and them, the public often posts it’s rejection on the web for the world to see. Ouch!
Traditional publishing is the opposite. Hard to get published, but most publications have an established readership.
The Cycle of Getting Published
Some of you may have recently seen my post on Twitter:
“Write, submit, get rejected, submit again. Rinse and Repeat.”
This is a pretty accurate cycle to expect when trying to get published in the vast market of short fiction available to Speculative Fiction writers. I might modify it now to add “edit” after write. Its a vicious cycle and it can be a damn discouraging one. However, when you get that first acceptance letter, it can be really rewarding. You just have to get past the discouragement and press on. Hopefully this can act as a guide to getting past that discouragement and get you to the acceptance letter.
Step 1: Write
It seems obvious that if you want to get published you need to write. But you can’t sit around on one short story and wait for it to publish. You need to write and you need to write a lot if you ever plan to get published. When you are done with one, move on to writing something else. Keep writing. Write in blogs (you can start by leaving a comment on this one), write in writers groups, but above all write in your Works in Progress (WIP).
Your WIP is your ticket to getting published. I don’t know of any author who’s blog was seen and they were offered a publishing contract. It is your WIP that you have to get out to the editors. Find the time to write and do it.
You will improve with each completed story. You will improve with each submission. You will improve. Every author has only been improved over their years of writing.
Step 2: Edit
This is where we separate the hobbyists from aspiring artists. Editing is where most writers give up, put the WIP aside, and never touch it again. Editing is where most people give up on their dream of being published. There are two reason for this:
First, is perception. They either look at their work and see it as garbage, worthless, and unfitting. They are harsh to themselves and they get discouraged and they shelf it. Or, they look at their WIP and see it as gold, the best thing ever written by man kind. They don’t change a thing.
Second, they get stuck in the editing cycle. They never stop editing.
Lets go back up to the first. Perception. You really need a combination of both these perceptions. You must be your toughest critic and your biggest fan at the same time. It is the toughest thing to do. You have to know what works and what doesn’t. Truthfully the writer is the only person who knows what’s best for their story.
But your own perceptions can easily get in the way. You need that second opinion. This is where your writers groups come in handy. Share your work with others. Take a look at their opinion. Don’t be discouraged by a “bad” critique. They will make suggestions and point out things you may not have seen. Then you decide what works for your story and make the changes needed. Remember you don’t have to accept every suggestion. But even suggestions that don’t work are more valuable then you think.
The editing cycle is dangerous. I know many writers on their eighth or ninth draft of a work in progress. To tell you the truth, they will continue to edit from now to infinity. They will not stop editing, as a result they will never move on to the next step to get published. You have to know when is enough.
It may be different for each of you. But I strongly urge you to set a limit. For me it is four drafts and done. I write it (draft 1). I edit it (draft 2). I get other writers to critique it and I make changes (draft 3). I give it to my Grammar Cop and make changes (Draft 4). Then I go to Step 3.
This is not a hard and fast rule. If there is a major change made in Draft 3, I may resubmit it to my writers group for critiques again. However, the point is, I know when is enough. You won’t please every reader, you probably won’t even please yourself. It will never be “perfect”. When I read my manuscripts for my published works, I still find things I would change now. Because I have learned a lot more since I completed those. It is part of your growth as an artist.
Move on, its best.
Step 3: Submit
Submit your story to a publisher. Since I am focusing on Short Works that means a magazine, ezines or anthologies. There are so many of them it is difficult to know where to start. My tip is to aim high. Start with a professional market. A market that pays six cents a word or more. They pay more, tend to have more subscribers, and what is the worse they can say?
I always start with SFWA approved markets. It is my quest to join them someday. After that I go to other pro markets. Then Semi-pro, then others.
A little research goes along way too. I use Duotrope. A free submission tracker program that has tons of markets listed. If they don’t have them all they are pretty damn close. They track everything from response times to acceptance rates and everything in between. They can give you a lot of information about a market.
After pay rate, you should take a look at response times. Most markets will not accept stories that are awaiting a decision from other publications. So if you send it to a market that takes five months to reply, your story will be tied up for at least that long. So keep that in mind when you send out a piece. It takes time to hear back. Fast markets take 10 days, slower ones can take up to a year to reply.
Next, look at acceptance rate. Some markets are very challenging and have less the 1% acceptance rate. Others, have acceptance rates in the 80-90% ranges. In my opinion, the latter is worse. I avoid markets that seemingly accept everyone. It doesn’t make it a very strong credit in your portfolio. Often they have small readership because the quality of story is low. Remember Editors act as a filter to filter out what is either poorly written and, more commonly, what doesn’t work for their readers. With out a good filter, the quality and identity of the publication goes down.
Last, you may consider electronic or print publication. Ezines are taking things by storm. But, some people just really like seeing their name in print. For me this is not really a factor. Ezines are a creditable publishing venture now. However, it may matter to you.
NEVER SUBMIT TO A MARKET THAT CHARGES YOU A READERS FEE! All money should flow in the direction of the Author. You should never have to pay someone to consider your works for publication.
It will happen. You will get a rejection letter. It is more likely to be a form letter. You will likely never know why the editor rejected it. And you will be disappointed no matter how much you prepare yourself for it. It is just part of getting published.
I hate this part. We all do. I make it a game in some ways. I have all my rejection letters.
The form letters are the worse. There is no way to tell what the reason they have for rejecting it. Most likely it is a simply matter of the opinion of the editor and his/her own taste. It rarely has anything to do with the author’s ability to write. There people who simply can’t write, but think they can. But mostly editors reject stories based on their own subjective opinions.
Personal Rejections are nice, for being rejections. I have only got one. There you might get some glimpse into what the editor was thinking. In mine, the editor didn’t like the ending. While is was simply one line, it let me know one key thing… the editor got to the ending. They liked my writing enough to read to the end. So you might get a glimpse to the editors thoughts with a personal rejection.
Rewrite requests are even better, and rarer. There is much debate on if a rewrite request is really a rejection. To me it is. You can rewrite it send it back in and you are still not guaranteed to get published. If you get one of these, you have to make the choice to do the rewrites and submit again to the same market, or simply move on. It really depends on you and what the editor wants you to change. I have not received any rewrite requests.
Step 5: Submit Again
I get the rejection letter, and I submit to a new market. Always in the same day, sometimes in the same hour. Don’t dwell on the rejection. Submit again. I don’t even look at the manuscript again. Some authors do. However, going back to the edit step, may well trap you in the edit cycle. The one I personal rejection I mentioned about about the editor not liking the ending. I didn’t change a thing, submitted it to another market and they bought it. Point is, that changing for one editor’s opinion may not be wise.
Dwelling on the rejection is the part where many authors, who got past the edit step, fail. They get that first rejection, begin to think they are not good enough (or at least the story is not), and weeks go by and the story never goes back out. One editor’s opinion ruined their entire writing career. Writers have to know that getting rejected is part of the publishing world, and they need to push forward.
I suggest you just move on and submit again right away. Trying to analyze the form letter, or dwelling on the rejection, will never get you published. The only way to get published is to submit.
Step 6: Rinse and Repeat
Really you should do Step 6 right after you submit the first time. Rinse yourself of that story you just finished, and start at Step 1 with a new idea. But, I put it as Step 6 because it is just as important to Rinse yourself of the rejection. Rejection is something humans attempt to avoid. So in short: Get over it and move on.
Get to work on Step 1 again and get yourself published.
Once people found out I was a writer, and more so now that I have this blog, the most common questions I get is this:
“Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”
My answer is always the same. Getting the ideas is the easy part. Taking that thought and making it into a story is the hard part.
I think the common misconception about writers is that we get the idea for a whole story in our heads in a flash of brilliance and inspiration. It has been my experience that is not how things really work. I have yet to have a sudden epiphany and instantly a whole story come to my mind. It is usually one line that come to mind, or even just a fleeting thought. Odds are you have had one too.
For example, you may have wondered “What if the sky was green?” or “What if I could visit Venus?” That’s all it takes for me to get started. I start thinking about it. How would life be different under a green sky, could it change our skin color? Could it change the way things look around here? I play with the idea in my head until I am either ready to write about it, or I throw it out.
That’s right, not all my ideas became stories, I’ve had to throw a few out. Throw them out is not really accurate. I keep a book of my random thoughts and ideas. Since I think of them a lot at night, and have a nasty habit of forgetting by morning, I write them down. Some have turned into stories, others are still sitting there. Some of them joined with other ideas in the notebook and their love child became a story.
So when do I think of all these great ideas. All the time. At night when I am about to fall asleep. Some come from dreams I have had. I have to write those down in my notebook fast since I forget my dreams easily. At the gym on the treadmill, I mull many a story idea over there. What else am I to do walking all that time and getting no where?
Ideas come all the time. Its the ones that stick in my head that become stories. The ones I can’t seem to stop thinking about. They grow in my head, until I am dying to write them down. I have to constantly ask myself, “So What?” The sky is green, so what? So, I can visit Venus, now what? As I keep asking myself what is next, the story just form in my mind.
However, that is hardly the end of it. The next challenge is getting the idea on paper. Developing the right way to say things; to paint a picture with my words.
What do I like to do to help me catch my muse, to keep coming up with those ideas and playing with them in my head? Music is always a good way for me to clear my mind. I mentioned above, the gym always works for me. Sometimes a long drive also helps. Some authors find reading helps them. I tend to get wrapped up in the story I am reading, and while reading is very inspirational, it doesn’t allow me the chance to play with my own ideas. But, I know it works for many.
So, while getting the ideas is easy, using them is hard. That is what really takes time. Good luck with yours, you just may have the next big idea just waiting to be developed.
Well that is not entirely true, I used to blog when I was running for Vacaville City Council in 2010. But that was a different kind of blog. It was a kissing babies and bragging about my community involvement. Of course, I love the City of Vacaville and still remain active in my community both as a Volunteer and in my shopping local pledge.
This blog is my entrance into blogging about those items that come to my mind. People think the hardest part of being a writer is thinking of new story ideas. I contest that. Thinking of the ideas is the easiest part. Almost anyone can do that. Taking that idea, turning it into a story, crafting the world in which it takes place, and then getting that all down on paper that is hard. Getting it in front of an audience of readers, well that is even harder.
This blog allows me to do three things. Write, write and write again. Writing is a craft and like any craft it needs practice. The best way to continue to improve myself is to keep writing. That is what I intend to do.
Now, if you would help getting it in front of an audience, I would appreciate it. First, subscribe to my blog by clicking the link to the left. You can also follow me on twitter and Facebook with those links to the left as well. Second, recommend my blog to everyone you know. Sure most of them will just get annoyed at you for sending them something they don’t care about, but a few of them might follow my blog, my Facebook page or even my Twitter feed. In the end, I don’t think I am asking for a lot.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts and blogs. There will be sarcasm, things I find funny (but you likely won’t), and of course the topic of writing.