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04 April 2009 @ 10:22 am
Taking out the aliens, and other writing news  
No word count in this writing post, because the last couple of weeks has been spent on tasks other than creating new words of prose.

One of the biggies was that I edited my story "Teaching the Pig," which was critiqued some time ago, and submitted it. This story was generally well-received by my crit group, but I felt it was still lacking something and the critiques were pulling it in all different directions. I finally decided that what it really needed was to take the aliens out and make it a solidly Earth-based story. (The aliens were offstage anyway, and removing them only cut about 200 words, but if the main character is backed by an Earth-based organization rather than benevolent aliens it makes his motivations a bit more suspect.) I didn't really want to cut the aliens, as the "alien-imposed benevolent dictatorship" angle was the original starting point for the story, but in the end I decided that they were a distraction from the fundamental story of protagonist vs. antagonist and they had to go.

Looking over the critiques this story received, I'm realizing how my own critiques have changed over the years. Many of these crits are focused on small logic or worldbuilding issues, exactly the sort of thing I would have picked at myself ten or even five years ago. But now my focus has broadened... I'm much more prepared to excuse technical errors, even physics errors which would have once thrown me out of the story, as long as the story works. I'd like to think that I'm now "seeing the big picture" rather than "getting soft in my old age."

The other thing I spent a chunk of time on was writing a pitch for a short story. (This is not normally done for short stories, but this is a special case.) I'm extremely pleased and excited to have this opportunity, and also rather frightened by the thought of participating in such a significant and long-running project. I don't know if this particular idea will be accepted; the editor likes it but there are some changes that need to be made. I also plan on pitching a few more ideas and I have reasonable hope that one or more of them will eventually be accepted, but I don't yet know which one(s). Sorry to be so vague, but I'll provide more details when they're nailed down (might be a couple of months), and when I do it'll be a very squee-worthy announcement.

I've been sticking to my goal of writing at least 500 words per day (including notes/outlines, or at least one hour of editing) since the beginning of the year. This has generated four new short stories, of which two are already in submission, one critiqued and awaiting edit, and one currently in critique. I've also gotten off my duff and resubmitted some rejected stories, and submitted some reprints to audio markets. The end result is that my number of outstanding submissions has more than doubled since the beginning of the year, which should lead to more short story sales this year than last.

One of the audio submissions has already resulted in not only a sale, but a publication. "Babel Probe" appeared on the Drabblecast podcast this week and the response on the Drabblecast message board has been phenomenal ("Kick ass piece of short fiction," "my favorite fiction podcast episode ever," "I've heard the bulk of the episodes from most of the other story podcasts ... hands down the best production of the best story," "That was freaking awesome. No, seriously. I am considering pulling my subscriptions from a few podcasts that I listen to because I think the short audio fiction thing just peaked. It can only get worse"). All praise is due to the producer of The Drabblecast, Norm Sherman, who performs the story with voices, music, and sound effects that are absolutely perfect. It gave me chills, seriously. Go listen, and put some money in his tip jar.

I've also been writing my talk at the Library of Congress ("How The Future Predicts Science Fiction," noon on April 9, free and open to the public), which I really should be working on right now.

Additional writing-related stuff:

  • I received galley proofs and a cover flat for my story "Aggro Radius" in Gamer Fantastic (it comes out in July).
  • I was invited to participate in a Science Fiction Panel on Thursday, Apr 16 from 6 to 8 at the Mt. Hood Community College Library, part of National Library Week.
  • I won free books in a drawing at SF Signal.

Okay, back to work!

 
 
 
A monstrous ramblingbibliofile on April 4th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
But now my focus has broadened... I'm much more prepared to excuse technical errors, even physics errors which would have once thrown me out of the story, as long as the story works.

Hey, you're learning! Always a plus. Seeing/hearing more is much preferred to seeing less, or even the same after a few years. Because it's always one thing to know what problems may be there and another thing to see them easily or even automatically.
joycemochajoycemocha on April 5th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
I'm realizing how my own critiques have changed over the years... But now my focus has broadened... I'm much more prepared to excuse technical errors, even physics errors which would have once thrown me out of the story, as long as the story works. I'd like to think that I'm now "seeing the big picture" rather than "getting soft in my old age."

That's where I'm at these days. Unless I'm specifically asked to do the small, nit-picky stuff, I look more for what does and doesn't work for the story. I find that I'm doing that with my remedial writing students, especially since I'm trying to get them to think above the mechanical stuff. Nit-picking just kills the fluency of a reluctant writer, and it's really, really hard to teach the bigger stuff like organization, sequencing and coherency if they won't write because they're obsessing about spelling and punctuation. It's a lot easier to go back in and copy edit (with the student) an organized, thoughtful piece of writing that runs on for a full page but may be a single sentence with no paragraphing. I'm finding that kids learn more about creating good sentences working in this manner.

I could go on. Let's just say that if I were to pursue a doctorate in education, I think it would be in writing instruction.

I think looking at the big stuff actually also respects a writer's voice more than the small niggly stuff does. Taking the online workshop has been useful in this area because it's helping me understand why I tend to get frustrated with critique groups.

Maybe I'll do a post on writing, teaching writing, and what five years of working with reluctant writers has taught me.
bibliocubbibliocub on April 5th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Just downloaded "Babel Probe" to my iPod and will listen to it on the flight to D.C. today. Looking forward to it!
David D. Levinedavidlevine on April 5th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
See you there! We're leaving Tuesday.