by Mike Shea on 15 December 2004
I love the internet. I hate the internet, too, but times like these, I love it. Every so often, as we jump from resource to resource, digging through flash movies and bloated graphics, we come to something really useful, something really amazing. Today I found a site called Critters.org. I read a bit about writer's workshops with mixed reviews. Sometimes they work great and sometimes you want to lie in a bathtub with your wrists slit.
Yesterday I received my first official rejection from Strange Horizons for my short story, "Shock". Now I know it's not the greatest tale ever spun, but it's not bad. I didn't expect it to get accepted. I expected a very short form-reply telling me it didn't fit their needs or their genre. Instead I got "I'm afraid this story felt very contrived." I had to grab my Webster's to even know what that meant. What exactly were they afraid of? What defines "contrived"? Anyway, it obviously pissed me off, not because of the rejection but because of a lack of any real detail. A form letter would have been better.
I have the basics of writing down. I know all of the stupid little rules. I carry my Strunk and White like a security blanket (I have it on me right now) and I take all of those rules in my Writing Tips PDF to heart. I need more, however. I need to improve the stories themselves. That's where a site like Critters can come in. Critters requires you to send in one critique per week to get your story up in their que. When it's your turn, you will get a bunch of critiques of your own story. The whole thing is free.
What I love about Critters is the vast wealth of information there. They have a letter by Stephen King's agent about Electronic Copyright. They have a site with the average response times of F/SF magazine submissions. They have a resource page with enough articles to keep me busy for weeks.
There are other great writing websites out there too. I am a big fan of Robert J. Sawyer's website which contains over a million words in reviews, articles, and columns.
I'd love to get a couple of stories published in real publications. I'd love to meet the requirements to join the Science Fiction Writers of America. But part of me also wants to just publish my short stories here on the web and be done with them. I don't want money. I don't want to hang onto my copyright for the next 100 years. I just want people to read my crap and escape from their mundane lives for a little while. Perhaps, once I get a story critiqued where I like it, I'll just publish it here and offer hardcopy anthologies through lulu.com for about $10 a copy. The market for short story writers really sucks right now compared to the good old days of crappy pulp mags in the 20s and 30s. Maybe self-publishing is the way to go. The only real reason I want to get published in mags like F/SF and Weird Tales is validation that my stuff is good enough to buy and sell. Who knows.
Well, later I'm going to send Shock to Sci Fiction, the fiction-side of Scifi.com, and see if they think its contrived.
So here's a little resource guide for those of you who want to follow my footsteps into the dark forests of obscurity:
Good Books on Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction
Stephen King's On Writing Strunk and White's Elements of Style Cory Doctorow's Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Science Fiction Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
Excellent Sci-fi Writing Resources on the Web
Robert J. Sawyer's website Critters.org Resources Elements of Style online George Orwell's Politics and the English Language James Patrick Kelly's website: stories, advise, and free mp3s of Kelly's stories. Science Fiction Writers of America
Scifi / Fantasy Magazine Submission Guidelines
Robert Sawyer's Manuscript sample Strange Horizons Asimov Fantasy and Science Fiction Analog Sci Fiction Interzone Chizine Absolute Magnitude, Dreams of Decadence, Fantastic Stories, and Weird Tales Realms of FantasyAuthor's Blogs
William Gibson Neil Gaiman Bruce Sterling
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