October 18, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “612 See, 612 Do” (Perihelion July 2014) Guy Stewart #24

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

Once again, I attempted to do something literary based on an idea I’d seen in a paper issue of POPULAR SCIENCE that ended up here as well: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/g824/5-high-tech-space-junk-solutions/?slide=2

 Dinking around with the “problems” presented in the extremely brief piece, I hit on the idea of replacing electronic components with simplified organic components, that is, a monkey brain. It solved several problems at the same time, and as this story had almost nothing to do with character development – and everything to do with the niftiness of an idea (making it a “pure ANALOG”-type story) I wrote it in a few hours.

Even the title popped out of the narrative unbidden and obvious.

HOWEVER, despite the fact that the idea and title were there, I wrote it with a “typical” ANALOG “happy ending” – quite literally, the little monkey-brained satellite witnessed a sunrise and the dawning of  a new day.

That remained until I started revisions.

The story was short – at right around 1500 words, it almost qualified as a piece of flash fiction. There wasn’t room to develop the character – and having never written a monkey as a main character, there wasn’t much I could imagine it doing. That attitude remained until I reread the story and realized that if the satellite could change its attitude (hahahaha), I could change mine.

While very little changed from the first draft (which was in pen on unlined paper!), giving the satellite the tiniest bit of personality altered the entire outcome of the story.

I’d gone from idea to polished story in five days and sent it off. Like most of my stories, I got rejected right away. Unlike ANY other story I’d ever written, I was rejected personally from Tor.com, ASIMOV’S, and CLARKESWORLD with small notes. I wrote it in February of 2013 in a bit over two hours. The fourth time around, I hit pay dirt at PERIHELION and the story appeared in July of 2014. Most of the intervening time took place as it wound its way through the labyrinthine submission process of Tor.com. It also got lost and I had to resubmit.

So what did I do right with this story:

1) I stuck with my strengths – science and fiction.

2) I wrote fast, finished a draft, and then when I really knew the story, went back and added character depth.

3) I submitted it to top markets.

4) I targeted it.

5) I LOVED it.

I wish I could post it here, but it’s disappeared into the aether. Even so, your comments on the above are welcome, wanted, and needed! What thinkst thou?

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