Endgame Imminent!

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No, not that endgame.

New Book Endgame Screenshot

This endgame!

Yep, after three years—and many words—I am finally approaching the current novel’s endgame (and, if you can read the file name at the top of the document, I still don’t even have a working title for it). I have, roughly, this chapter (helpfully titled “CHAPTER IT ALL GOES TO HELL” which follows “CHAPTER THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY” and will likely be followed by “CHAPTER A LESSON IN POOR DECISION MAKING”), the fallout of this chapter, then MC 1 has his eureka! moment, runs off and gets captured by the killer. MC 2 and MC 3 deduct then rush off to save MC 1 from certain death.

Things happen. People may or may not die.

This is then followed by wrap-up/epilogue chapters that may (or may not) sow the seeds of a possible sequel. It…depends. On variables.

Anyway! At this point, the book is clocking in at the nice round number of 150,486 words (which is…a lot). Guesstimating, there’s probably about 20,000 words left to go, give or take a few thousand.

Then…

*ominous thunder rolls*

Revisions.

Anthologies vs. Magazines

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So far, all of my published work has been published through anthologies, and, as I’d just finished my last Stonecoast residency*, it’s come to my attention that the major drawback of anthology publications is that I can’t really use them as writing samples and examples. Typically, you have to buy the anthology in its entirety to read my story (especially since, so far, I’ve been toward the middle of the book, not in the preview pages) and that’s at least a $10 investment in an unknown.

This got me thinking about the pros and cons of anthology publication and magazine publication (both print and digital). Thus: handy-dandy bullet-pointed list, drawn from my limited experience (and, honestly, the ‘versus’ in the title is more for compare/contrast; neither is better than the other, though it amuses me to think of anthologies and magazines duking it out).

ANTHOLOGIES

Pros:

  • They usually have a print option, along with the e-book version, so you have a physical thing to show people if you’re, say, at a con or doing a talk or what have you. It’s a thing people can touch and flip through. It has weight. You can point at it and say, “I am in that.”
  • If you happen to do open mic readings, there’s a certain illusion of legitimacy lent by reading from a physical book. Well, for me, at least.
  • Also, if—like me—you respond well to prompts and challenges and/or find outwardly imposed deadlines something that drives you and your work output, there are many themed anthologies (read, writing prompts) with open calls running at any given time (not all pay, but that’s beside the point).
  • Competition ranges. If the open call period is short, or the anthology is relatively new and/or pays little, you might be competing with hundreds of submissions in total, rather than hundreds of submissions per week (this fluctuates! Some anthologies do have more submissions, though those tend to be ones affiliated with a well-known magazine).
  • Reprints! Some markets stipulate that they’ll accept reprints but only if the story isn’t currently available online for free.

Cons:

  • That issue I mentioned before about having to pay in order to get a glimpse of a writer’s work.
  • Remember that weight-thing? Yeah. It’s literal. When packing for a convention or a conference, the number of copies you can bring is limited by luggage space. It’s either a second pair of pants or extra copies of that anthology.
  • Submission expiration date. Anthologies, particularly themed anthologies over series ones, have a deadline, and once that deadline passes, it’s gone. You’ll have to wait for another zombies-in-space anthology to send that zombie-on-a-space-station-existential-horror story, or start submitting it to magazines (which, consequentially, is where everyone else is submitting their zombies-in-space themed stories, too). Often, anthology themes can be extremely specific, thus making the story harder to place elsewhere.

MAGAZINES

Pros:

  • Rarely themed, though they tend to be genre-specific (eldritch horror or gothic or heroic fantasy or post-apocalyptic dark sci-fi, etc. (check magazine guidelines)). But the umbrella tends to be broad.
  • As such, if you’re a writer who prefers to do your own thing, and has little use for prompts, magazines are far more open to anything within their umbrella that piques their interest.
  • Links! Like, live (mostly) links! If someone wants to get a taste for your work, all they need to do is follow the link on your publication history/credits/clips page, and there you go! Instant gratification.
  • Sometimes, a magazine is both print and digital, or is primarily digital and has end-of-the-year collections that are put out in print. These are usually the higher tier pro markets (occasionally semi-pro, though, and print on demand makes this a more accessible option for magazines). So, best of both worlds? Links and paper?

Cons:

  • High competition, especially for the paying and/or well-known ones. We’re talking submissions in the hundreds a week for some of the big ones.
  • You can’t easily promote an online-only magazine publication at a convention or conference. A person (in my experience) is less likely to go to a website and click through the links when they haven’t had the opportunity to flip through the book first. It’s more work on their part. And requires that they haven’t lost your business card between the con and their computer.
  • Sometimes, magazines go defunct. And that shiny link suddenly and irreparably goes dead. Which is why I highly recommend that publishing authors occasionally click through the links on their bibliography/publications page and if a link is dead, remove it. Keep the cred, obviously, but I personally find it messy to click through links, looking for someone’s work, only to get 404 pages.

Know of any I’ve missed? Leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list.

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* In short, Stonecoast’s program has a ten-day intensive residency in Maine which is something like a combination of classroom and writing retreat. During residency, students attend workshops, seminars, panels, pop-up events, talks, and generally get six credit hours worth of material and hands-on writing experience compressed into ten wonderful, crazy-frantic, challenging days.

No Books for June

Many unexpected things have coincided (of course) all at once, and the end of the month went from being a distant date to being right here. Thus, no mini-book reviews for this month. I’m going to combine June with July and do a Two Months of Books edition at the end of July.

Anyway. Stuff is happening. Very cool stuff. Stuff I…can’t talk about yet. But soon!

A Month of Books: May

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: I absolutely loved Uprooted and I’ve been a Temeraire fan for years, and though I should’ve read this ages ago, I’d been on hold for the e-book of Spinning Silver through my library for months before I finally got my hands on it. It’s a very different read from Uprooted; they’re more like two standalones loosely connected thematically, not book one and book two. The world-building and incorporation of Russian fairy tales and folklore was exquisite, and the approach to the storytelling voice-style fits that almost oral-tradition feel. It also had so many moments where clever characters did clever things and I went, “YES! They’re doing the thing!” The one… well, quibble, I had was the use of six first person viewpoint characters. At first, when it was alternating between Miryem and Wanda, there was such a difference in their voices, it wasn’t difficult to know who was who, but as the novel continued, new PoV characters were introduced, and by the end, there were a total of six. None of these shifts are marked in any way other than a scene or chapter break (so no little helpful character names at the top, like in The Kingdom of Copper). It’s a novel that you need to take your time readingWhile it isn’t long (especially not when held up beside The Priory of the Orange Tree) skimming or reading quickly is a fast track to confusion. Pace yourself. That said, definitely worth the wait.

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris: I attempted this one after I first got it last summer, and it didn’t click with me. Back at it again, and I finally realized why I’d struggled with it the first time: I was reading the book wrong. See, I’d walked in assuming it’d be more like a fantasy political thriller with assassinations and world-changing magic and the constant threat of brewing war. And while there are elements of that here, that isn’t what this book is. It’s a fantasy of manners. This is Pride & Prejudice with a dash of Downtown Abbey in a fantastical alternate history Rome. And, thus, the stakes are very, very different. The first time around, I couldn’t understand why there was so much focus placed on Latona and her relationships with her family, or Sempronius and his scheming and hiding, but this time, understanding what kind of book this was completely shifted my expectations and how I approached it. Like Spinning Silver, it is a more ponderous read.

Weekends Required by Sydney Landon: My coworker has been trying to convert me to this series for ages. She and I sometimes… well, it’s not buddy-reading, more like competitive see-who-can-finish-first buddy-reading for certain romance series, and this is one of her absolute go-to favorites. So I’ve given it a whirl and have found that it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t read much contemporary romance, preferring more speculative in my raunchy fiction, and with this one, I might’ve been too aware of it as a story to sit back and let it take me on an adventure. Storyteller-brain was too preoccupied with analyzing the structure and dialogue and anticipating plot twists, that I didn’t sink in very well into the experience overall and wasn’t emotionally invested (at least, not in the right way). There were also some choices that I, on a personal level (not as a writer, but as a person), disagreed with, and I often disagreed with the handling of said issues. It’s a very quick read, though. In future, I think I’ll stick to my paranormal romances with vampires and werewolves or my fantasy romances with a side-order of swashbuckling adventure.

Not so many books this month. I’m beta-reading a friend’s awesome novel, and I may have binge-watched all four seasons of Lucifer, which kinda ate my reading-time. Which just means…more books next month!

Thesis! Thesis!

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Theeeeeesis. All 208 216 pages of it. I can practically spit and hit my graduation date at this point (July 1st! July 1st!). All I have left to do now is print off multiple copies of this monster on fancy thesis paper and ship the lot off to Maine for binding.

I’ve ordered my flat hat, my shapeless gown with the little tags on the sleeves, my tassel, and my hood (the school colors are a nice deep blue and golden-yellow; the visual artist in me, though, wishes the collar color was something complimentary rather than MFA brown).

I still have my graduation presentation and graduate reading* but that won’t be till the last week of June. It’s a weird feeling, though an uncomfortably familiar one. Well, it’s not nearly as bad as it was following my undergrad graduation. After undergrad, I had nothing in the way of direction. My degree also wasn’t one of those stepping-stone ones that leads to employment, nor was it one that lead directly to higher ed.

This time around, I’m still stuck with that awful question of “now what?” (and the awareness that, with the exception of one brief week last December, I’ve never worked full time) but now I have more plates spinning. I have short stories to send out on their rounds, I have a novel I’m currently querying, I have another that’s about 30,000 words to the end (this sounds like a lot, I realize, but the novel is shaping up to be about 160k-170k and it’s in the homestretch now). Still short on the whole full-time employment thing, but I can work on that. I feel less directionless. Still have no idea how I’m getting to where I’m going, but my current end-goal is a little clearer, and at least I’ve got a pretty good grasp of where to put my foot for the next step.

Well, mostly. 

I realize as I’m approaching the end of this post that I never did say what the thesis is. As Stonecoast is a creative writing program, it’s a collection of creative work produced while I’ve been working toward my degree. I gave myself the challenge of only drawing from work created while enrolled in the program and, though I’d originally applied intending to work on novel-length projects (specially, the unnamed high fantasy one), it’s ended up as a short story collection.**

I mean, I did work on the novel these past two years, but I realized as I was entering my final semester that submitting the novel as my thesis would be impractical (oh, god, the sheer size of it! The current thesis is a solid 60k, the novel is 140k and still growing! Not only would the paper and printing cost a fortune, but the shipping? At that weight? Eek). It would also be unfair: to myself, to my thesis adviser, to my second reader, but also to the novel, seeing that it isn’t done and I know it’s going to change in revisions. I wanted to submit something polished, but also something that could showcase my breadth of skill.

Thus, short(er) fiction.

In retrospect, I now understand why workshops prefer short fiction. There’s a certain kind of experimental freedom you have in a short story collection, whereas a novel does sort of lock you in to a particular narrative style, voice, tone, and so on. With a short story collection, you can do more “showing off.”

EDIT 5/11: Now on the fancy paper! They’ve been wrapped with paper ribbons and put in boxes, and the only thing left is to ship ’em to Maine. Six copies. That was A LOT of printing. And with only one little snafu with the margins on the signature page; I count myself exceedingly lucky. The format is notoriously tricky.

 


*  They’re like the program’s equivalent of defending your thesis, but since it’s a creative writing Master’s, there isn’t a whole lot to defend. In a way, you already do that in the preface explaining your work, your approach, why you did what you did and chose what pieces you chose, and the thematic and structural elements of the work on a whole.
**  Well, three short stories, two novelettes, and one flash, and a large bibliography.