Category: Swamp


Earlier in the month I received some exciting news.  Swamp Gas, my post apocalyptic flash fic, was accepted for publication!

It did not come without a truckload of effort and patience, and I’m happy to see that it will pay off.

I wrote the beginning to Swamp Gas for fun, following a prompt in one of the writers’ groups I used to frequent.  It grew into a longer, more complicated story despite the length of the polished submitted piece.  Though at less than a thousand words, I felt confident that it had its appeal as flash fiction and set out to find a magazine that agreed with me.

This experience only reinforces the idea that writing, like all art, is subjective.  I received my fair share of rejections.  Most of them were forms.  My one personalized rejection claimed that the story lacked a meaningful conclusion.  I disagreed, but in the end neither of us were truly wrong.

I once compared the submission process to dating.  It’s a comparison that bears repeating here.  The trick is not to submit the perfect piece to one magazine, but find the right fit for your (edited and polished until you are satisfied) story.

Now to work on the next story.  I expect another mountain of rejections from the next batch of slush readers.  I’ll share more details closer to publication.

Door #3.

The other day I received a response from the previously mentioned magazine.  They thanked me for the submission, but would not be accepting the story.  It’s disappointing, certainly not the last time I’ll be seeing that answer.  I’m now moving on to the next magazine on my list.

Here I discovered (and promptly kicked myself for) the mistake that likely contributed to my previous rejections: formatting!  I knew on some level that having proper formatting for a manuscript is crucial, and then never thought to apply that knowledge.  I don’t know how I let that lapse in judgment go on for so long, but I did.  Now I intend to fix it.

I found William Shunn’s guide on proper manuscript formatting while combing through submission guidelines. It’s very extensive and pointed out quite a few things I’d neglected to fix.  I also felt like I was back in high school when fixing my formatting, as the guidelines are very similar to the MLA style we used.

Now that things are looking up at work I’m trying to get my head back into writing and submitting.  By the time I submit this post, I’ll also have submitted “Swamp Gas” to a third potential publisher.

Obligatory "Sorry I’m invisible" post!

It seems that all of my updates lately are catch-up posts.  Despite my best attempts I still haven’t been able to find that sweet spot of balance between work and writing.  But at least my reading resolution is going along nicely!  I plan to wrap up book #10 tomorrow.

This was much easier, in a sense, when I was unemployed.  I could have all the time and energy in the world to keep up with my hobbies.  But after a while that creeping sense of not contributing anything found me.  Oddly enough, I’m happier if I’m working hard.  But now that this job doesn’t seem to be working out as much, I’m starting up the job hunt again.  As for an explanation, I plan on writing a post about the importance of management priorities and employee morale on The Bitter Baker.  (Really!)

I’m also in the process of submitting some stories.  Swamp Gas didn’t make the cut in Writer’s Digest’s short shorts contest, so I’ve submitted it to magazine #1.  Should I get a positive response, I will drop names!

Six Sentence Sunday #3

I’ve decided to try signing up for SSS this week instead of just posting something.  The following excerpt is from Swamp Gas.  Next week, I’ll go back to posting from Jasper City.

This takes place in the swamps near a war-torn US city.  The protagonist Stelle encounters an injured man during a distress cal:

“Stelle moaned through the gas mask, holstering her weapon.  She knelt down and examined the man’s body.  His skin was several shades of red, and blistered.  What Stelle took to be cold chills were actually violent muscle twitches, indicating serious nerve damage.  It was only a matter of time before the chemicals he inhaled killed him.  

Stelle quickly opened her pack and produced a second gas mask.”

Editing: Seeing the Light!

Yesterday, I finished up and polished the short-short story I’ve been tweaking on and off for a few years now.  It’s amazing.  I’d compare this feeling to what I had when I finally finished a rough novel draft.  I can now breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next step, as well as work on edits to my novel.

There are a few things I learned about the editing process along the way:

*Don’t expect perfection.  Writing, like any other form of art, is subjective.  You can work on the same piece for decades, rewrite, scrub it clean of fluff, add description, and set the entire scenery on fire.  No matter what you do to it, there will always be a reader or critiquer to find a flaw in your work.  Now, this isn’t a bad thing.  Maybe they didn’t like how you worded a particular scene, but you disagree and feel it’s necessary.  Maybe they don’t relate to the characters as well.  Maybe they just hate your genre.  But for every person who finds fault with your writing, there will be others who love it.  At some point you need to take a step and decide whether the flaw you’re trying to fix is really a flaw or just an indication that the reader just isn’t a good fit for your writing.

*Don’t expect to get it right the first time.  Take another look at my first sentence.  Not taking into account the time it spent on the backburner, I’d estimate I spent a month or two working on this piece.  The story is less than 1000 words.  My novel is not even close to second draft status, and my first novel is also far from polished.  Editing will take time.

*Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Looking through my rough draft I noticed many spelling and grammar errors.  There were even more plot inconsistencies, POV changes and other miscellaneous things that were just plain wrong.  It’s the worst part of the writing process, because you wonder to yourself what the hell you were smoking while you were writing it.  But that’s the nature of the draft.

It doesn’t mean you should aim to fix everything in one go.  I’ve tried to do that.  I tried reading through quickly, jotting down notes in a “to fix” list that took up pages, before I became disgusted with myself and put the book down.  Don’t do that to yourself.

I read a tip somewhere, and unfortunately the source escapes me, but it compared editing to looking at your story through a camera lens.  The first time around, look at your story from a “zoomed-out” view and focus on the thornier issues of grammar, excess fluff, and things that make it generally unreadable from a technical aspect.  That’s your second draft.  Next, take a look at those POV changes and figure out who should be saying what in what scene.  Finally, tackle the plot holes and inconsistencies.  My order may be off, but take care of one issue at a time and you’ll find your plate much lighter.  The process takes longer this way, but see the previous point.

I hope this is of use to you.  I’m going to take this advice to heart and use it to finish up Poplar when the Jasper series isn’t calling my name.