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[writing] Contest fraud

A lot of writers read this blog, so I definitely want to pass the word. There is a fraudulent contest invitation out there, alleging SFWA is paying cash prizes for short fiction by new authors. See here for the gory details.

Remember, folks, if it’s too good to be true, it probably ain’t. Also, SFWA doesn’t sponsor contests for new authors. More to the point, if they somehow did, it would be headlined on their site.

Meanwhile let’s hope SFWA can trace the scamsters through the “submission” address and give a kick in the nadgers.

[writing] Green progriss

Just wrapped all of the reader feedback on Green. I have a couple of dozen notes embedded in the text, and hundreds of minor changes and edits, along with a double handful of major changes and scene cuts. Starting either later today or sometime tomorrow I’ll a final readthrough, dealing with the notes as I go. Then it’s back to casacorona and arcaedia.

Noveling is hard. Don’t let nobody tell you different. One of the things which always amazes me in this process is how difficult the little details are. Plot, character, setting — all that stuff is challenging, but we work through it. Almost all my commentors agreed that two subplots were distracting, and there was quite a bit of overlap on other issues. The thing that varied widely was the typos. Everybody caught a different set.

Mind you this is a manuscript I wrote, revised, then did several close reads of. The proverbial fine toothed comb, as it were. And yet every single reader found all kinds of different little problems at the text level (“thought” for “though”, “at” for “and”, duplicated words, that sort of thing).

This has happened with every manuscript I have ever written, though the effect is magnified by the wordcount and complexity of book-length work. I rather confidently predict it will happen on every manuscript I ever do write. Yet I am always amazed.

I should go into the tyop business. In the meantime, I plan to turn Green in within the week, with any luck.

[writing] Your favorite sentences

the_child and I have talked frequently about “perfect sentences.” A sentence is of course perfect only in context, but within context there can be some real humdingers. Probably my favorite (and it’s actually a phrase, part of a longer sentence) is from Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, “Man is where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” She and I spent a good forty-five minutes one day analyzing that one.

I am also quite fond of Tom Stoppard’s line from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, “We cross our bridges when we come to them, and burn them behind us, with nothing left to show for our progress except the memory of the smell of smoke and the presumption that our eyes once watered.”

Gene Wolfe has an excellent one from Book of the New Sun, “In the end, our one unforgiveable sin is that we can only be who we are.”

All quotes from memory, and therefore likely wobbly.

This afternoon the_child asked me to ask you what your favorite sentences were — who wrote them (including yourself, that’s allowed), where they appeared, and if you like, what they mean, either to the world or to you personally.

[process] Inspiration

This morning my brother wrote me an email saying, in part:

I am starting to feel like there are two classes of inspiration:

1. The inspiration to artistic impulse that gives birth to the nature and intent of the expressive work; and
2. The inspiration to motivation which is required to forge the work itself.

As I said to him, I find this an excellent observation. He wasn’t specifically referring to writing fiction, but he just as well could have been.

I think for most, if not almost all, of us, his first class of inspiration is what drove us to trying our hand at fiction in the first place. Some variation on “I can do better than that|Wouldn’t be cool if I could read this kind of thing|Man, I just had the sweetest idea!” That onset-of-concept falls well within the range of what we consider inspiration.

What I find interesting about my brother’s comment is that his second class of inspiration is more commonly thought of as discipline, or dedication to task. Or, as I have often called it, psychotic persistence. His referring to it as inspiration speaks to an attitude that I have encountered in many working pros, but had to work pretty hard to learn for myself.

The books don’t write themselves, and as much as working novelists joke about cat-waxing and moan about wordcounts, we work. I can remember being 15 and thinking that I had to be inspired to write. Now, I mostly need time to write. The inspiration has been packed into my assumption set.

Sometimes it helps to remember how I got to the point where even apparently tedious work like revisions and marketing still can feel like a joy.

[writing|personal] Miscellaneous updatery

More work on Green tonight. I’m through all of casacorona‘s comments, and starting into feedback from other readers. Also did some copy edits for my reprint in The Lone Star Stories Reader. That story, “The Hangman Isn’t Hanging”, is excerpted from Original Destiny, Manifest Sin.

On the cancer front, I am out and about more. That included lunch with kenscholes, and a doctor’s appointment later. Some good healthcare news from elsewhere in my family, which while not mine to tell here, was intensely relieving.

The fact that I haven’t been complaining lately is probably a good sign. The surgical wound in my abdomen itches and feels weird, but I can bend, sit, even cough, without more than moderate discomfort. The internal sutures still ache when I use my edited colon, but likewise only moderate discomfort. With luck, I’ll make it to the Locus Awards in Seattle at the end of next week. That would be my first big trip.

the_flea_king and Mrs. the_flea_king are in town this weekend, so I will probably see them (again) on Saturday. Likewise garyomaha and elusivem will be here Sunday. Father’s Day luncheon that day as well, followed by the Guerilla Surrealism Circus Featuring Barth Anderson and the Pips, at which I may be a pip.

With luck Green edits will wrap this weekend, and I can go into a final read next weekend.

[process] Contracts

suricattus with a post on literary contracts. Go read it. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Got that? Good.

I accidentally got involved in a mailing list argument a couple of years ago when a fan made a mournful comment about how a certain writer had been screwed by a bad contract. Their point was that if not for the perfidy of the publisher, this writer’s books would still be available for readerly enjoyment.

Being the special kind of idiot that I am, I replied that a writer is always responsible for the contracts they sign. If they don’t understand something in the contract, they should seek reliable advice until they do understand. The point is that we as authors are responsible for our own careers.

(For my troubles, I received a scathing critique of my email .sig, as an example of how I was a fool who didn’t know what I was talking about.)

But we are responsible. Editorial ninjas don’t break into my house, place a pen in my hand and force me to sign a contract. Nothing is non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean the other party is required to negotiate, it simply means that a statement that a contract is non-negotiable is itself a negotiating position. Part of the trick is in knowing what’s reasonable to negotiate, and part of the trick is in knowing what your no-gos are.

In my case, I often have to alter contracts to protect my by-line, since my copyright name is not the same. I have only ever twice signed contracts releasing all my rights to a story, and in both cases it was work for hire short fiction with someone else’s intellectual property. I have asked for things I did not get, and I have occasionally gotten things I did not ask for.

The point is that your contract is yours. No one else understands your interests as well as you do, not your agent, your editor, your publisher, your mom, or your best friend. If you don’t understand your interests as represented in the contract, fix that before you sign.

Now go read suricattus‘ post again. She said all this much more elegantly than I could.

ETA: C.E.P. with an interesting legal comment on literary contracts here.

[writing] Green progress

Yanno, the downside of having an editor who’s a horse person is she keeps you real honest about horsey stuff.

On the other hand, the upside of having an editor who’s a horse person is she keeps you real honest about horsey stuff.

Major progress on Green today at the coffee house. I have several more sets of reader notes to go through (and some more horsey stuff to fix) but with any luck at all I’ll be on final read through before the end of the weekend.

This book, she is almost ready to go.

[personal] Updatery

No work on Green yesterday. Several people close to me were having very hard days, and it kind of spilled over. I’ll be at the Fireside today, so I expect to recapture the lost ground there.

the_child‘s last day of school is coming up Wednesday, which will change the complexion of evenings around Nuevo Rancho Lake. Especially this time of year, when it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm — she tends to stay up later than me.

In other news, seventorches has posted some photos of JayCon VIII to Flickr. So has the_flea_king, here. See also his recent photo sets of his trip to Oregon, including some awesome portraits of Saturday market entertainers and attendees here.

Day Jobbe is cranking up early today, but watch for a link salad soon.

[personal] And I am off

Took a nap after work, which probably means no progress on Green today. I am now wearing pants, which feels very weird after all this time pantless. We’re about to head and pick up the_child from her Do Jump class, then meet my parents at the Chart House for a quiet birthday dinner.

I leave you with this thought. “Ficta” seems to me like a very good word we should be using in criticism and critique, meaning units of fiction. A “fictum” would be the singular, I suppose. As in, “This story has a lot problems, but there is a series of ficta in the closing scenes which are worth rewriting for.”

How would you use “ficta/fictum” in a sentence?