Sunday, April 30, 2006

How to Sound Like a Lunatic

Yesterday I emailed the tourist office in Orkney to say that I was writing a short story with a heroine who was working at an archaeological site on Orkney, and please could they tell me what sort of soil she'd be digging through. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they read that one! If nothing else, it should give them a good laugh on a Monday morning.

Or does anybody reading this happen to know about Orkney? I think I've dug myself into a hole here.

But maybe that's appropriate for a story about archaeology.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Been there, done that

New writers agonise about rejections. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I average about one sale per ten submissions, so I try not to get too hopeful about any one story. I send them out, and they get rejected I tell myself that’s 10% of a sale and I send them out again somewhere else. I keep doing that until either they sell or I run out of possible markets. Plus I usually have at least five stories out at any one time (at the moment it’s nine), so when one story comes back I have plenty of others to feel optimistic about.

That’s the theory. Most of the time it’s the reality too. But lately I had one particular story I was hopeful about. I thought it was one of the best stories I’ve ever written, and perfect for this market that I’ve been trying to gatecrash for twelve years. And last week they rejected it. And I got another rejection the same day.

Been there before, done that, got a wardrobe full of T shirts. As per usual, I blasphemed, took a deep breath, and started thinking of alternative markets.

I already have a story at alternative market #1. So after some head-scratching I came up with alternative market #2. Now I haven’t bought that magazine for some time, and magazines do change format. Maybe they used to print 1,000-word stories but now they want 1,200 or 700 words. Chat went from buying 800-word stories to using several tiny stories of exactly 60 words. (And they bought one of mine. See ) So I bought a copy of alternative market #2 and looked at the story.

The story’s heroine was the same age as mine. Great. Her basic problem was similar to mine. Even better. Most magazines like stories with heroines that the readers can identify with, you see. So they tend to be superficially similar.

The story’s heroine dealt with the problem in a similar way.


Although the endings are completely different, and I think my story’s better (well I would, wouldn’t I?) there is now no chance that alternative market #2 will buy my story. It’s just too similar to the one they just published.

Oh well. Been there before, done that. Blaspheme, take a deep breath, and start thinking of somewhere else. Better yet, go and write something else. It's the best way to improves, after all.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


The first draft of the novel "Frankenstein" was written by Mary Shelley during a holiday in Switzerland, as a dare. Consequently my email group of writing friends (the Critter Litter) ocassionally have what we call a Shelley - a date to produce a story on a certain theme by a tight deadline. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be done. The point is that the worst thing you write beats the best thing you never got around to writing, and you can always polish it later.

We held a Shelley recently, and the theme was slugs. It's not what I would have chosen, but I signed up anyway because it's high time I got back to work and I hope it would give me the required kick up the rear.

It worked. I wrote a very strange story which I finished a day late and I really enjoyed writing it. I think one reason was that I didn't think I'd have a hope of publishing it, so all the pressure was off. And reading it over, it needs polishing, but I think I can sell it after all.


Where did the last week go?

Last week I asked a collegue if she was looking forward to the Easter Holidays.

She said, "It's not a holiday. It's just a change of activity."

How right she was. We only get Holy Week off school, and it zipped past somewhat faster than a headless chicken. But I got 5 submissions sent off, set up a web site for my friend Norma
and cleared up some of the domestic chaos that's been annoying me for a month or more.

Is a change as good as a rest?

Of course not, but it certainly beats the same old, same old.