HOW TO FAIL AS A WRITER

1. GIVE UP IN DESPAIR, AND STOP WRITING. FOREVER. PERMANENTLY.

2. Or, keep writing but:

  • Stop trying to improve. Focus on racking up publication credits, or sales, or reprints, rather than whether this story is noticeably better than the last one.
  • Refuse to listen when your writing is criticized, regardless of the quality or thoroughness of the critique or review. Only listen to your fans, the people who tell you how great you are, and suspect — quietly, to yourself, or loud and indignantly to your loved ones — that your critics just didn’t “understand” what you were “going for”.
  • Stop sending your writing out for feedback (either to alpha/beta readers before you consider it done, or publishers afterward).
  • Stop trying new things, whether it’s different genres, different styles, different markets, or different character types.
  • Complain, constantly, that your work isn’t selling enough. Post on social media that people you know, your friends and family, “clearly” don’t love you enough because they’re not forcing your work on enough people. Publicly dismiss or insult markets or editors who rejected your writing, regardless of why. Insist that your kind of writing — novels, short stories, genre, stories with a certain kind of characters, whatever — must not be marketable anymore, since you’re not profiting enough from it.
  • Tell yourself you’re a failure, every day, regardless of what anyone else says about your work. Use  your certainty that you’ll never be any good as an excuse to take out your sad/bad/angry feelings on the people who care about you most.
  • Ignore your editors, rebel angrily against them, argue with every suggestion, or decide that okay fine, this one change you’ll make and then never submit to their market again.
  • Be desperately impatient. Demand respect, sales, an answer to every email you send a prospective editor… if you think you need it, expect to get it immediately.
  • Stop reading other people’s work. Stop reading anything. Stop learning.
  • Stop living your life. Only write, and forego family, love, school, hobbies, friends, experiences — the sort of thing one generally writes about.

If you’re not doing any of the above, then don’t worry. Keep writing. Keep growing. Keep submitting. You’ll be just fine.

#SFWAPro

 

 

Where to Start When You Want to Start Reading My Work (Fiction)

If you’re new to me as a writer (hi there!) or you’ve read a story here or there and you’d like to read more in the same vein, this sorted list might help you choose what to read next…

If you like fiction with female main characters:

If you like fiction about love, sex, and relationships set in SFF worlds:

If you like HPL-inspired/Mythos fiction:

If you like horror:

If you like fiction about robots:

If you like fiction about zombies:

  • “Mitch’s Girl” Edge Publishing’s Rigor Amortis anthology. October 1, 2010. (TW: zombie sex!)
  • “Dear Mom, This is Serious” Livingdead Press’s Emails of the Dead anthology. September 2010.

If you like mad science:

If you like noir:

  • A Different LeagueMondays are Murder web series, Akashic Books. August 26, 2013.

If you like darkly humorous or otherwise happily-ending stories:

If you want to be sad when you’re finished:

If you like stories with fighting, hunting, or soldiers:

If you like stories about books and maps:

If you like flash fiction of any stripe:

If you like Twitter Fiction:

If you like poetry:

And, if you want to read a bunch of these stories all together, please check out my first collection, Women and Other Constructs (published June 2013). Get it from me (print, epub or mobi), or from Amazon (print or Kindle).

Note: This list is presented with the most recent sales/publications first. When the story name is hyperlinked, click to read it for free online; if the title of the publication is linked, you can buy it online as well.

#SFWAPro

Added: new section of “Better Writing Through Brevity” workshop, Feb 2015

My current session of this workshop is going so well that I’ve added another one for early 2015. We’ll read, write, critique, and edit short fiction of various lengths, including 140 characters, 1 sentence, 150 words, six sentences, under 500 words, under 1000. Previous students of this class have sold their final pieces to semi- and pro-rate SFF markets (in fact, I’ve just heard from one that she sold another piece — started in our workshop — this week!)

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by December 31, 2014: Sign up here

I will close registration for this workshop when we reach 25 students, to limit the group to a manageable size. If there are still spaces left on December 31, the price will go up to $75. And, yes, you can purchase a registration for a friend.

Please note: All workshops take place in my private online forum, so you can post questions, comments, and writing excerpts without worrying who will see it. Plus, since we have deadlines of a certain day, not a set class hour, you can be anywhere in the world and still participate! With everything online, you won’t miss a thing, no matter what time zone you’re in or what challenges you’re working around.

Wondering how this workshop will improve your novel? Read this.

How does the class work?

A week before the class begins, students will get an email instructing them how to log into the private online forum. Only people in the class will have access to the workshop space. (This means anything posted there is considered “unpublished” and if you like it when it’s polished, you still have the option to submit it for publication.) Anyone who logs in during that pre-class week will be able to start reading the samples in advance.

Each week, the class will be given a short lecture, required and suggested reading, and an assignment (or two). You’ll log into the forum to read the lecture and any of the sample fiction for the week that you haven’t yet seen, post questions or comments, and your completed assignment. Your fellow students will have an opportunity to critique your assignments, and you’re encouraged to comment on theirs as well. Just like any other workshop, the group environment gives you a range of feedback and ideas. I will be checking in each day to answer questions, and also give feedback on every submitted assignment.

If you are pressed for time, you could probably do the class in under 2 hours per week, with a more time devoted to your final project. However, you get out of it what you put in, and it benefits everyone to spend around 4 hours a week on the class, or more if they prefer. When we did this last year, the students who turned everything in on time, critiqued others’ work, and did all of the suggested reading, ended up with final pieces that they were able to submit to paying markets.

Schedule:

All required reading and suggested reading is posted to the forum in advance, so you can read ahead. Workshop participants are given access to the class space a week before we begin.

Week One: Micro Fiction (140 character fiction, 100/150 word fiction) – explores writing into a small space, and also writing more than you need and then cutting down.

Week Two: Micro Fiction (long sentence story, six sentence story) – explores pacing, flow, and plotting.

Mid-session check in: I send an email to each participant individually, checking in and giving feedback on your work to date.

Week Three: Flash Fiction (500 word story) – posted in the forum for all participants to read and critique.

Week Four: Flash Fiction Final (1000 word story) – emailed to me for a private critique once the workshop is complete.

#SFWA

Workshop schedule for the next 6 months, with Early Bird discounts if you sign up now

We’re half-way through our first week in my flash fiction workshop, and it’s going so well. I’m spending a lot of time on lessons, suggestions, and critiques, but it’s worth it to see reactions like these from my students:

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Don’t you wish you were taking it with us?

By request, I’ve updated my workshop schedule for the next six months. I’ll be offering three courses:

January 2015

“Editing 101″ – Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking. The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style,16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors. The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction. We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services. (Read more here.)

$75 for 4 weeks if you enroll by 11/30/2014: Sign up here (limited class size — already 1/3 full)

March 2015

“Plotting the Short Story” – By request! We’ll cover how to fit a whole story into different lengths: flash (1000 and under), mid-length short story (about 4000 words), and longer short stories (up to 6500 words). What do you put in and what do you leave off the page? Fundamentals of storytelling, prepping (including outlining, character arcs, and plot twists) and editing (including how to recognize the different moments of your story so you can move them around) are also covered.

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by December 31, 2014: Sign up here (already 1/5 full)

April 2015

“Nuts and Bolts of Submitting” – market directories and submission trackers, finding the RIGHT market, reading submission guidelines, meeting submission guidelines, when to query, how to write bios and cover letters, how to read rejections, and figuring out when to resubmit, revise, or trunk your work.

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by January 31, 2015: Sign up here

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It’s true! Writing very short fiction can improve your novel.

I’ve had great success teaching flash fiction, and my students have gone on to be more widely published, and better writers. But I often hear from people who say something like:

“Oh, that sounds cool, but I don’t write short stories. I mostly write novels.”

Fear not, friend. Flash fiction is for you, too.

Writers Digest suggests learning to write flash because “no matter what you write, stringent word limits can challenge and sharpen your skills in ways that can improve even your long-form work.” Writing great flash requires the same skills as writing a great novel: descriptions that show instead of tell, concise language, poetic (compact yet evocative) style, and clear vision.

Microfiction (work that begins, ends, and feels complete under 1000 words) isn’t a fragment of a story. It’s not a scene without an anchor in the rest of the tale. It is its own moment. That kind of writing focuses on using the best words to speak clearly to your reader, giving them the impression of something larger than that space allows, so they don’t walk away unsatisfied. You want to give enough information so that the rest of the story, the history and potential future, are hinted at, but the reader doesn’t need to see them spelled out in order to have enjoyed what they read. If you can do that with a handful of words, you can do that with a hundred thousand. Even better – you can take away all the bits you don’t need before they get in the way of the words you want, confusing or even boring your reader.

Writing and reading short fiction show you successful ways to tell a story with the excess stripped away. I’ll help you learn the two major approaches to handling the challenging word count: how to write into the space that you have, and how to edit down to your limitations. Applying the lessons from my workshop to your novel will help you cut the fluff from your pages, turning your epic into a lean, thrilling, can’t-put-it-down adventure for your readers. Who doesn’t want that?

Keep an eye out for my next flash fiction workshop! I’ll post my teaching schedule here.

#SFWAPro