Finding the Angle in Short Fiction

Screenshot 2016-02-28 11.27.38

I’ve been making a concerted effort to write more—and better—short fiction and send it out to markets. This is partly because I want to be a better writer and because I would love to see my name on the covers of magazines I adore reading. I can’t subscribe to every magazine but I do read LightspeedUncanny and BCS religiously (thank you Kickstarter credits, regularly updated websites of free fiction goodness and Weightless Books).

I’ve spent the last couple of days devouring an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of my friend Kim’s Mosaics: Volume 1 and it’s a beautiful tome, not just physically but compositionally. That’s what struck me, the positioning of the stories, poems and essays was particularly well done and I’ve not yet found one entry in the anthology I don’t like whereas I normally find anthologies are very much like albums; you love a couple of songs and the rest are kinda meh. That book has a soul which is a very hard thing to do and is seldom ever seen in magazines, no matter how well they’re curated.

I suppose a lot of that is down to the fact the anthology was curated with chosen pieces rather than a compendium of on-spec stories (which is how the anthologies I write for normally seem to be done). It makes for a nice change but it also got me thinking about my short stories, the ones I’m sending out to magazines, those are all on-spec (meaning I’m writing and sending them out without being asked for them). This makes it much harder as you’re basically writing stories in the hope that one of the slush editors/the EiC are going to like them enough to buy them.

But these on-spec stories, they’re also me; my ideas and composition. I have four stories out right now, with one more to follow after my crit group later today. Each story has focused on different ideas, styles and tenses. One is urban fantasy, another sci fi with notes of magical realism and fantasy, the third is historical, alternate fiction and the fourth an origin story. The latest story is epic fantasy with a secondary world based on ancient China which is just about ready to go out into the world for a round of rejectomancy. The last is a second person sci fi story about an author whose stint in a mental hospital activates psychic abilities which allow her see other worlds and dimensions, eventually evolving to a point where she is almost able to alter reality.

Each story is stand-alone and unique, part of the act of selling stuff is knowing which markets to try and that, in my opinion, is the problem or, at least, the challenge of submitting to market. You’re basically sending stuff out with no idea how it will be received, though if you’re lucky then you get rejections (called personals) with a note on what the editor liked or didn’t which can help guide future submissions, albeit to other markets.

Of course then you have that great question: to re-edit or not re-edit. A single editor doesn’t speak for the whole collective and one change might turn another editor off a story entirely. Being a slush editor for is one of those things which should help, except I did it for two issues and never had one of the stories I sent up go anywhere. Plus, with new magazines, it’s much harder to find a soul than with once that have been going for years. It’s almost like a brand and those, regardless of whether it’s a person or a magazine, take time to form. But, boy, is it fun to watch.

Every time I get a personal, I want to re-edit. This is my character flaw: I’m impatient and I latch onto what people say as if it’s gospel. It’s also why I’m in a crit group, surrounded by people whose opinions I trust, especially when it comes to my attempts at short fiction. Like journalism, it’s all about the angle except it’s this amorphous thing which changes depending on the editor.

I started a file last night, a folder on my browser called ‘Short Stories I Love’, mostly composed of entries from Lightspeed and Uncanny of short fiction which has really moved me. It delights me when I see the authors of my favourite stories with new ones in magazines I wait for with baited breath each month. I’d love to be able to to subscribe to every magazine but I can’t so I rely on the biweekly updates where fiction unlocks for free on publishers’ sites. Doing this, it’s helped me with my own writing but has also helped me, with my short attention span, to find a medium I really do love to read.

And if I read it, one day, I’ll sell just the right story.

Until then I’m going to play the probability game.

Please follow and like us:
error

Lightspeed and Uncanny Magazine Announce People with Disabilities Destroy SF!

Screenshot 2016-02-19 17.14.49

This makes me squee so hard, I just gave myself heartburn.

Ow.

(X) Destroy SF/Fantasy/Horror is one of my favourite Kickstarter projects to back. I’ve done so for every issue and was quietly wondering, nay hoping, that Disabilities might be on the upcoming list. I missed the submission for Queer, I’m a white writer so PoC was out, and being disabled, well it’s my very definition (thanks blindness, bipolar, brain damage etc). I’m practically champing at the bit at the very idea that, next year, there will be an open submission period that I can answer with a story.

It excites me.

Surprisingly, I don’t write many stories about disabled characters (though I do have some) and I’m in the middle of reworking “The Mystic of Room 316” which deals directly with mental illness and is set in an Atridian mental institution (though it’s a very stand-alone Ashteraiverse story). Ditto “108 Hours” which follows a war veteran with PTSD who hid from the draft in a war and is now stuck in a decimated city post-war with aliens with a little girl called Grace.

I’m so pleased that Uncanny, one of my favourite magazines, will be taking over the mantle. I love them and the magazine is on my Short Story Bingo Card as somewhere I’d love to see my name on the cover. The chance, oh it’s an enchanting thing, ripe with possibility and the promise of being able to try. I know the call isn’t until next year but I know it’s coming, it’s on my radar, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

Please follow and like us:
error