Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stupid Heros, Stupid Heroines

Having a clever, intelligent partner can be so annoying.

Sometimes, like with this novel, when I'm writing without a proposal/outline I get stuck. Usually, what is required is dinner out with my above mentioned sweetie and a couple of glasses of wine. I find that talking my plot out loud can really point out its flaws. It's like the advice a lot of novice writers get about reading their dialogue out loud to "hear" how it sounds on the page. When I start going through my, "And then she, and then she...." I can sometimes notice the gaps in my thinking. Especially when I get to the part last night where I said, "And, only I don't know how to get them out of this one! What would you do?"

Of course, like every ego-sensitive writer, *I* would like to be the one pointing to the flaws, but, whatever. Even when I'm cranky about hearing it, I trust my partner's plot sense. (She reads a LOT more than I do.) Unfortunately, last night's discussion is going to put me back about twenty pages. I hate that.

Still right is right. It's got to be fixed.

Part of it has to do with the fact that I know that, as a reader myself, I absolutely hate it when things don't make sense simply because an author wasn't willing to tell a truth that's inconvenient to her plot. You know what I'm talking about. The heroine is being chased by the cops, but somehow, when she gets back to her apartment, they're not there waiting there for her. She has time to take a nap, read a book, and talk to six people before there's a knock on the door. Okay, so that's exactly what _I_ just wrote, and so you can see the problem. It's just not true to life. At the very least, my heroine has to be cautious when heading home or the whole thing just starts to look a little too convenient or she seems a little too stupid, you know?

Stupid heros/heroines are the number one reason I get turned off as a reader. (Of course, that's provided I picked up the book in the first place.) I really like to be able to understand-–if not directly relate to--the choices the main character makes. Preferable is the heroine who is cleverer than I am. I like reading stuff that makes me say, "Oh, THAT was smart! I'll have to remember that the next time I'm being chased across a desert by a wombat!" Which is probably why when I stray from SF/F, I tend to read mysteries. People who can solve murder mysteries are usually much smarter than I am.

So, if I disappear for a few days it's because I'm in a revision quagmire.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

File This &%#! Under Information I Never Wanted to Know

Bull sharks (carcharhinus leucus) can live in FRESH WATER, including rivers such as the Mississippi, and have been found as far north as Illinois!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Submission 101: Do You Really Have to Read Asimov's to Sell?


If you want to publish SF/F/H/whatever you should read the magazines to which you want to sell.

In fact, instead of reading my blog, I think you should take a few minutes and check out Strange Horizons an online science fiction/fantasy magazine.

Of course, no one has the time to read every single issue of every genre magazine they might want to submit a story to. This is where having a writer's group is really helpful. My writers' group has sort of informally divided the work. Certain members read certain print magazines and report on them. A goodly portion of our workshop time we spend gossiping.. er, networking about the various markets – rumors we've heard about who's taking what, what kinds of stories they seem to prefer, who's overstocked, and notes on rejections (i.e. "we seriously considered your work, but, alas, we have three elf cowboy stories in the queue right now.")

If you don't have a writers group, there are places to catch up on this kind of information. Ralan's Webstravaganza and Speculation's Rumor Mill.

But, if you're reading the magazine, you can sometimes spot trends on your own. For a while it seemed you could sell anything involving a cat to Gardner Dozois. This is helpful if you have a cat story handy, not so much if you think that by writing a story about cats you will instantly sell.

Plus, there's the whole karma thing. My feeling has always been if you want science fiction short story markets to pay money to publish you, you need to make sure they stay in business by paying money to read the stories they paid other authors for. Plus, c'mon. Most subscriptions are not only fairly inexpensive, you can also write them off on your taxes.

Karma. Don't mess with it.

Seriously, I had a weird experience once that convinced me that reading short stories actually helped me understand them. Before I'd published my first novel, or really had a pro sale of any kind, I sat down one Thanksgiving weekend when I was stuck up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota visiting the in-laws and read an entire short story collection. Cover to cover. A week or so after that, I wrote a short story that would later become my first professional sale (seven cents a word, no less! Still the best, I think, I've ever been paid). I'm convinced it was a kind like when people go off to language camp to be completely immersed in a particular language in order to break through into fluency.

So go read stuff.

More Mason Humor

What do you call a cranky bee?

....a GRUMBLEbee.