Tag Archives: Short Story

Rejection

It’s been a while between posts. After a great September, I had a tough October (from a writing point of view) and I’m only starting to get over it.

The nadir was after a week of three rejections, Sisters In Crime tweeted that they had selected their finalists for the Scarlet Stiletto competition. They promised they would call winners shortly.

In a quirky joke from the universe, I got three calls that week from telemarketers based in Victoria. Each time I answered with my heart in my throat thinking ‘it’s happened at last’ -only to have someone try and sell me solar panels or insurance.

I never got ‘the call’ and after two agonising weeks of not getting it, they announced the shortlist. My name was not on it, no matter how many times I read it. I felt empty.

I prepped for this story unlike any other before. I read years of previous winners before writing a word. Then I plotted, wrote and tightened, making sure every word had a purpose and moved the story forward. I finished it two months before it was due, then let it sit for a month before my final edit. I was confident it was prize-worthy

There are over 10 prizes, and one of those is for cross-genre fiction. I’m a spec fic writer and I had a crime story that was equally dependent on the spec fic element and the crime. I didn’t think I would necessarily get a shot at first or second prize, but I thought my story was a great candidate for the cross-genre or best movie idea prizes.

It got nothing.

So, I’m slowly working through that disappointment. After trying so hard and getting nowhere, it made me question my own ability. I know that’s something all writers go through – which is why I wrote this post today, just in case someone else going through this reads it while wondering if they should give up. Please don’t.

I am in the process of picking myself up and dusting myself off. I will send the story to a spec fic market and hopefully get it published. The experience hurt, but I’ll move on. That’s a big part of what being a writer is about. And I can’t lose sight of the fact that at the very least, I got a story out of this of which I’m really proud.

And in all sincerity, congratulations to those who did make the cut for the shortlist. Except the people in the running for best cross-genre story – kidding! Mostly. 😉

Lessons Learned from Time Off

My time off from work is fast approaching its end, so I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned while at home. I know that the events of 2020 have tainted my experiences somewhat, but I believe I can identify where that impact was. Especially when it came to productivity.

The main thing I realised, without doubt, is that I’d like this to be my normal life and not the exception. I loved being home and being able to set my own timelines, including when I write. But that was hardly a surprise.

The following things are true for me and my experience:

Editing is much easier to force. When I’m feeling like I don’t want to be at the computer, I can usually force myself to edit, regardless of my mood or how tired I am. The same cannot be said for writing new words. Editing is something I feel I could do equally as well when I’m working when I’m restricted to night time and weekend work only.

If I hit a block in a story, it’s because I’m not asking myself the right questions. When you frame the question as ‘what happens next’ it can be overwhelming. I discovered it is far more productive to frame it as ‘what if the car crashed?’ or ‘why didn’t she look in the bag?’ Those are questions I can answer and are far more likely to lead to the next bit of the story.

Walking is nearly as key to writing a new story as writing. If I sit at the computer and pose questions to myself, I’ll often draw a blank or be distracted by the internet. If I’m out walking, I find it easier to focus on possible answers. Most days I’ll came back from a walk ready to get on with the story.

New ideas are far more abundant when I’m not working. I have been amazed at how many new short stories I’ve written while I’ve been home. If I include the unfinished shorts, I’d be at about two dozen stories in six months. In the whole of last year I wrote only two short stories and came up with another two ideas. This is the saddest bit about going back to work.

Rejection doesn’t get easier. I have a lot of stories out at the moment, and every rejection still hurts. I thought with a lot more it wouldn’t feel so bad, but they still sting the same. The difference is that while I’ve been home, because I had so many out there, I still had hope that the next response would be positive (and some have been). Last year I was shopping around one short story, so it was a much bigger deal when that got the thumbs down.

Oh well. I guess I now know exactly what I’m looking forward to in retirement. Weekends will have to sustain me for a few more years yet.

June Progress

I haven’t written much more of any of the three novels I was considering. I tried, I really did, but it was like wading through a vat of honey. I just wasn’t getting anywhere. So, I logged into Duotrope and had a look at some of the upcoming anthology calls for submissions, just to see what was out there.

As usual, I opened this month with my Furious Fiction entry – which I keep entering out of pig-headed belligerence rather than any belief that I might get placed. Then I had a crack at some brand-new short stories, borne of the calls for submissions I found. For the first time in a long time, I have felt like a writer.

Writing new words, with no expectations, and not very long pieces, has been great. When your novel is giving you grief at 40,000 words, it really does weigh you down. When a 4,000 word story gives you trouble, it’s no big deal because it only takes a couple of days to write anyway. Also, there is a good chance you’d have thought of the trouble before you even started it, so short story storylines tend to be less problematic (for me).

I do have to complete a re-write on a novel that I will be doing soon so I can make the most of a possible opportunity. But for the next week I’m going to stick with these short stories to get the writing muscle working again and then hopefully I can transfer that productivity onto the novel.

Publication!

Antipodean SF is celebrating its 250th issue, which represents 21 years of publishing. This is an amazing achievement in the small press world, and is a great testament to the passion of Ion ‘Nuke’ Newcombe for speculative fiction from the Antipodes.

My very first publication was in Antipodean SF, and I remember being so excited when I got that first ever acceptance. My story required a lot more editorial work than my work these days, and I will never forget how grateful I was for Ion taking the time to work with me on this.

The story I have in this edition of the ‘zine, Ti Amo, was one of several robot stories inspired by watching too many SBS documentaries late last year. I lamented the end of relationships when I considered a future where you could custom-order a partner with the personality, appearance and disposition you wanted.

Then I remembered that people are far from perfect and rarely know what we really want. Ti Amo is my glimpse into that future.

I hope you enjoy it, but I must warn you that it is a little bit saucy – so perhaps MA 15+ readers only.

Acceptance!

The table of contents has been released, so I can finally let you know that my story ‘Bleed’ will be published in the upcoming edition of Midnight Echo magazine (the magazine of the Australasian Horror Writers Association). I am so excited by this because I desperately wanted to be in edition #13.

Bleed has a special place for me, because it is one of the few allegories I’ve written. It was inspired by a previous workplace where my boss sent an email at about 4pm on Sunday afternoon to get my team’s opinion on something unimportant. By the time I got into work at 7:30am on Monday everyone else had responded. I realised this was the way people lived now, and I didn’t like it. I believe that my time is my time, but then again, my time is also writing time, so maybe I’m more protective of it than most?

The whole team has been made redundant now, so the crazy hours and rapid response did little to save any of us. I’ll have to send them all a copy when the story comes out.

Another bit of exciting news, which I stumbled across by chance, is that my story ‘Glide’ published by Dimension 6 issue #10, was given an honourable mention in Ellen Datlow’s best horror stories of 2017. I’m actually chuffed that she’d read it, let alone give it an honourable mention.

So, this week has been a good week. I’ve had a few quiet pinch-myself moments which have been absolutely wonderful.