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If you're looking for well written anthropomorphic short stories you've come to the right place.

I’d Like to Hear From You



I’ve pulled all of my stories from Amazon in order to get them looked at by a professional editor. I’ll have them back up this year. In the meantime I’m writing again and now I’d like to get your input. For those of you who have read ‘Changes’ you know a plague swept the world. In order to avoid decimation of human kind a small group of people underwent some rather dramatic changes. I’m not going to spoil the story for you by giving it away.

The sequel takes place nearly four hundred years after the event. Assume if you will a group of humans that survived in a bunker meant to protect politicians from a nuclear war. In a facility meant to hold twenty-five thousand people for ten years a small group of humans from the armed services have survived. Like most facilities built for survival by politicians and the military, no expense was spared and everything was hardened. Here’s where I need your help.

Assume four hundred years have passed and there are some four hundred survivors where population is strictly controlled. There’s a fusion reactor so electricity is not an issue. However, after nearly four hundred years the reactor is on its last legs. Food is also not an issue. Since the facility was built to house twenty-five thousand people there were plenty of provisions. Again though, all of the canned goods are long past being edible and are being used for fertilizer in hydroponic gardens. There are many vegetables like tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc., but no fruit since there were no trees when they went into lock down. Clothing is not an issue. Military uniforms were in storage from the beginning but items like paper, desks, chairs were never thought to be necessary for more than ten years. Ammunition and rifles are plentiful, as are vehicles, but there is no fuel after four hundred years. Electronics are the rarest of all. Electronic components have been scavenged from equipment there during lock down but the years have not been kind to components. There were thousands of cameras outside the facility during the initial event but most have quit working a hundred years ago. Only a very few remain operational and many of those that still have an image have been overgrown by vines or the view blocked by trees. Marriage is strictly controlled and birth even moreso. Forced abortion is required for those exceeding birth limits. Death requires the disposal of the body into grinders where the material is used for hydroponic growth medium.

If you were in this facility what do you see as a major problem? I’d love to hear your ideas. Exiting to the outside is impossible because the virus that targeted people might still be viable, even after all this time. If you’d like to offer your thoughts please comment.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - March 23, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Categories: anthro   Tags:

Editors

Wow, it’s been a year since my last post. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve been in a funk. Since the editor I had been using passed away I’ve actually lost some interest in writing. It might not make a great deal of sense to you, but please allow me to explain.

Imagine a baseball player with some natural talent. He can move with supreme agility, catch, throw and hit. In the local ball clubs he’s the best. Everyone praises him on his skill. This player has ambitions to make it to the big league. He wants to play for the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the Cardinals. It really doesn’t matter to him what team he plays for as long as he’s in the major leagues.

Sound familiar? The above analogy can be used for almost any professional endeavor. Perhaps a doctor wants to work at the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins. Perhaps a physicist wants to work for CERN or Brookhaven. Writers may want to write for a specific publishing house like Random House or Tor. Most writers I know though don’t have a specific house in mind, all they want is to be published, and that brings me to today’s post.

Like the baseball player, most writers have received encouragement. It might have been from family, friends, teachers or critique circles. The writer might even have published articles in a local newspaper and received acclaim for them. However, like the baseball player the writer also harbors a gnawing doubt and sometimes crippling uncertainty that they are good enough. If they possess those fears, and many of us do, they’re probably correct. Who knows you better than you? To those writers experiencing these destructive fears the question becomes; what are you going to do about them?

I know for a fact, by myself, I do not have the talent to write a bestseller. Please read that carefully. I did not say I do not have the talent to write a best seller. I honestly believe I could. However, I am also just as certain I cannot do it on my own. I’m not that good. I need help. I need another pair of eyes to critically look at my work and point out where I’ve screwed up. The baseball player in the analogy above might have abundant raw skills but raw skill will never make it in the majors. They operate at a whole new level. While you might be lightning fast in your movements, unless you can anticipate where to be at the right time, you’ll never make it to a sharply hit ball in time. It’ll sail right by making you look like you’re flat footed.

Writing is much the same. You might have a great idea for a story. You might have great believable characters, a wonderful hero and an absolutely hateful antagonist. If you simply put your story out there though, most likely, like the raw talent ball player, you’ll be looked at as a hack. Perhaps your sentence structure is awkwark. Maybe you use the same word too many times or placed too close together. Is your punctuation correct? Spelling? proper use of words? Like the ball player caught flat-footed a writer can look very similar without help.

The baseball player can get help. A good coach is invaluable. Instead of playing his normal position oat shortstop with runners on first and second he’s been told to play slightly deeper and towards third base with a right handed batter. He’s positioned for a sharply hit ball. Instead of it burning past him he’s in position to catch it or knock it down, throw to third or back to second for a potential double play.

A good editor is as valuable to a writer as a good coach is to a baseball player. A good editor can look for things like inconsistent timing, shallow characters, overuse of words, plot holes, and so much more. Just like to coach telling the shortstop how best to play the position under specific circumstances a good editor can make similar suggestions to a writer.

I know this for a fact. This is the reason I’ve been reluctant to write when my previous editor passed away. Oh, I’ve been looking for the past year. I’ve tried several but there are so many charlatans out there. I’ve spent time and money on several and all were far less than satisfactory. I never gave up but finding an editor that works for you takes both time and money. It’s taken me a year. I believe I have finally found an editor I can work with and, like a good coach, she has the knowledge to help position me where I belong on the field. We’ll see.

In the past month I’ve developed a renewed confidence in my ability. Yes, I can write but, like most writers, I also need help. I believe I have that now. I’ve sent several stories to my new editor, stories that I have gone over numerous times. I was mortally embarrassed when I received the editing on those stories. I won’t go into detail but my belief that I shouldn’t try to publish on my own was thoroughly validated. *laughs*

I’m back to writing. At least four hours a day with ass firmly planted in a chair. Whether I’m writing new, making corrections or outlining, I’m writing again. It feels good.

If you’re a writer get a ‘coach.’ A good coach. Spend the time and the money to find one that works for you. No matter how good you are, or think you are, a good editor will make you better. That’s what this game is all about; being the best you can be.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - February 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

Categories: anthro   Tags:

Goodbye to a Friend

Sometimes you meet someone who turns into an immediate friend. Those of us fortunate enough know these friends through a lifetime. Others, only a brief time. Today, I’m sad to say I have to count myself in the latter group.

Months ago I was searching for an editor. Okay, searching is the wrong word, and as a writer, I like to use words correctly. I was flailing around trying to find someone who could look over my dreck, not get ill while they read it, and offer me some constructive points on how I could improve what I had written. After a few false starts I discovered Karlyn Thayer.

I immediately endeared myself to her by spelling her first name wrong in an e-mail. She corrected me, in no uncertain terms, and I knew I had found a friend. I was absolutely sure I had a friend when, one of the stories I sent her for editing, contained the anthro character of a dragon. She let me know she really did not like dragons. Okay, okay, some people don’t, that’s understandable. We chuckled over that, through e-mail, and she helped me improve my story greatly.

Since I frequently write anthro stories, many of my characters possess animal characteristics. I sent Karlyn another story to edit, this one with a wolf as the main character. I was brainstorming a suggestion she sent me and told her it was a great idea and was thinking seriously about it. She responded with:

God forbid you should have to think! // I like the idea of a story for each calendar page, although (I hate to tell you) I dislike wolves even more than I dislike dragons. // Looking forward to your next story!
LAUGHS!!!! Okay, so I’m off to a great start! Over the months she helped me improve, and I believe my writing has improved greatly under her tutelage. We laughed about some things I wrote, she schooled me in fine points and, as harsh as some of her comments seem out of context, her e-mails were always supportive, always encouraging and always helpful.
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Karlyn passed away yesterday after a short battle with MRSA. It’s a drug resistant bacterium which attacks blood, tissue, everything. Karlyn, like all those seeming to die well before their time, burned with an intense bright light. She knew her work, obviously loved it, and didn’t bother blowing smoke up someone’s ass in order to make them feel good. Her goal was to produce better writers. While she never said so in so many words, I firmly believe that, if someone didn’t like what she said or how she said it, they could go pound sand. She never came across that way but she never bent her principles in order to make someone feel better. At least that’s how she acted with me and I suspect everyone else in her life.
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Karlyn, I feel privileged to have known you and I can assure you, you will be missed.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - December 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

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Write Crap

There’s a saying most writers are familiar with attributed to Ernest Hemmingway. He is quoted as saying, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Okay, he should know, and I mean no disrespect when I write that. Someone who has written such classics as “The Old Man and the Sea,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “A Farewell to Arms” obviously knows how to write. He also must know what it takes to write and write well.

Do you recall how you learned anything? From something like riding a bicycle to driving a car. Did you just hop on and do it? Probably not. Unless that was you who backed into my AMC Matador one day in the Restaurant parking lot in Weedsport, NY. Most of us learn from someone who has done it, and usually done it competently. We will not be good at first. If you remember back to when you first learned to ride a bike you were probably a bit wobbly, unsteady. You improved over time. You probably even had an accident or two before you gained confidence and climbed onto the seat and took off without even thinking of what you were doing. If you ever learned how to drive a manual transmission car your first starts and stops were probably less than smooth. Let’s not even talk about stopping at a red light on a hill and some jerk pulls up close behind you. Eventually you took it all in stride and didn’t give it any thought.

Why should writing be any different? The answer, of course, is it isn’t. You’re first attempts, as Hemmingway alludes to, will be crap. Even when you know how to write the first draft will still be crap. I hear from too many people writing and saying they would like to write. Of course they’re lying to themselves. What they’re really saying is, “I would love to write well. The first time. The first draft” I suppose some people can. I’m not one of them. You probably aren’t either. Hemmingway didn’t believe he was either or he would never had made that famous statement. So the people writing to me and conveying their wish to write are saying they want to do something even one of the most talented writers could not do. Sound unrealistic? Yeah, to me too.

So what should they be saying? Well, that’s hard to say. I usually respond to them by saying, simply, “Then write.” Of course they come back with the reasons they cannot write. Busy with life and family, busy with the job, they aren’t talented enough, and many, many other reasons. Those reasons are all valid of course. Who am I to say they aren’t? However, if those reasons stop someone from writing then that simply indicates to me that the person doesn’t really want to write. Writing takes effort, it takes passion and it takes sacrifice. If you are not willing to bleed for your art then you’re not interested in being a writer.

Take Stephen King for example. He threw his first success, “Carrie” into the trash and his wife fished it out and convinced him to finish it. Obviously he thought it was crap. He has said of “Carrie,” “…my considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser.” Another highly successful writer acknowledging that early work can be considered crap. However, like Hemmingway, Stephen King did not let that stop him. He went on. Before he was famous he lived in a trailer, couldn’t pay his bills and even had his phone removed because he could no longer pay for it. He sacrificed in order to write. He taught in order to make a living and still wrote. He lost confidence in his writing ability and still wrote. He bled for his art. He wanted to write, and he did.

So, my advice to everyone out there who wants to write? Write crap. I’ll make it even simpler. Write. Sit down and write. Turn off the radio. Turn off the TV. Put on some background music if it sets the mood but don’t let it distract you. Then write. Then write some more. Then write even more. Write crap. Just like riding that old bike or driving that jalopy you owned as a kid, you’ll know when you’re improving. You’ll get turned down. It’ll hurt. It’ll smart. You’ll probably bleed. That’s Okay. Keep writing. Unless you’re writing you’ll never be a writer. Unless you first write crap, you’ll never be a writer.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - December 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

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Guest post: Why write anthro stories?

Today we introduce a guest post from Renee Carter Hall, an author whose works can be found on the Anthro Stories, Music, and Art page. Renee’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Black Static, the anthology Bewere the Night, and several episodes of the Anthro Dreams podcast. Her first novel, By Sword and Star, was published earlier this year.

Greetings! I’m being a bit lazy with my first post here, but by way of introduction, I thought I’d share a bit of insight for readers who may not be familiar with the anthro/furry genre. Like many writers, I’ve been writing stories since I was able to write (and perhaps earlier, if you count dictation to older siblings), and just about all of those early stories featured animal characters like the ones I loved reading about. By the time I started writing for publication in my late teens and early twenties, I had of course branched out in terms of subject matter, but I was still writing an awful lot of talking animals. As a matter of fact, my first story accepted for publication featured a princess falling in love with a talking dragon who was much more interesting than the guy sent to rescue her.

I first became aware of the furry fandom about twelve years ago, and in its circles I found others who never grew out of reading and writing about animals with voices — and minds — of their own. Sometimes these creatures walk on two legs and wear clothes; sometimes they stay on four but still have languages and legends.

I also found a new group of small publishers who feature these kinds of novels and stories. One of those presses, Anthropomorphic Dreams Publishing, has an excellent anthology series called Different Worlds, Different Skins whose stories focus on one of my favorite aspects of anthro characters: their interaction with humans and human society. I was asked to write the foreword for the second volume, and I wanted to repost it here to give Anthro Tales readers a better idea of why those of us who write anthro characers do what we do.

Comments and questions welcome, of course. :)

 

On Anthropomorphic Characters

(foreword to volume II of Different Worlds, Different Skins,

edited by Will Sanborn and published by Anthropomorphic Dreams Publishing)

by Renee Carter Hall

 

Why use anthropomorphic characters? The question comes up frequently in discussions about furry fiction and why those of us who write it make the choices we do. Why not just write about humans? Or if you have to use nonhuman characters, why not make them aliens? What’s the difference? Why do they have to be animals?

The answers to those questions vary widely depending on the author and on the individual story. I believe, though, that there is something unique and potentially very powerful about stories involving anthro animal characters. Simply put, animals are the aliens with whom we share our world. We have changed and grown alongside them. We have hunted them, made pets of them, revered them, and driven them to extinction, and along the way, they have been part of our culture, from ancient legends to modern sports mascots. Because of this shared journey, making a character a fox, a tiger, or a dog carries different connotations than making them a creature from another world or making them something that, on the surface, appears more human. And when we bring human and furry characters into the same setting, we’re able to draw on that legacy of symbolism to tell a variety of stories. Some use the human/furry motif for social commentary on issues of race, gender, religion, orientation, or class. Others explore questions of our responsibility toward what we cause or create. And often, woven in with these is the question of where the line between human and animal is drawn, or whether it exists at all.

In explaining the impulse behind furry fiction (and indeed, behind the furry fandom in general) we tend to invoke that long heritage of using animal characters in human religion, legend, and storytelling. I’m sure this can come off sounding somewhat pretentious and self-aggrandizing to outside readers — put a fox in jeans, and suddenly furry writers are on the same level as Aesop or Orwell or the ancient Egyptians. In the end, though, we’re simply following in a tradition grounded in human nature. Anyone who has ever been to a zoo, watched backyard wildlife, or shared their home with a pet has, at some time, looked into those other-eyes and wondered what was happening behind them. As scientists continue research into animal behavior, intelligence, and even emotions, that line between human and animal grows less and less distinct, and we continually find ourselves challenged by both the fears and hopes of what that blurred distinction means for animals and for ourselves. Furry fiction can explore those fears and hopes in a specific, direct way that simply isn’t possible with stories about aliens, vampires, faeries, and other fantastic creatures.

We who write these stories give animals voices and culture because we see ourselves reflected in them and can’t help wondering what they might see in us. Animals, as Henry Beston wrote, are “gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the Earth.”

In the stories that follow, you will meet ambassadors from those other nations. Whether the experience is inspiring, humorous, poignant, or disturbing, we invite you to see yourself through their eyes.

 

Different Worlds, Different Skins Volume II on Amazon

 

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Posted by Renee Carter Hall - October 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

Categories: anthro, Uncategorized   Tags:

I Voted!

This is going to be a little different from what you’re used to reading here. When I started this blog , I wanted it to be a place where people could come to read about new stories, writing tips, my struggles as a new author, my love of other author’s works, and more.

Today however, I’m taking a detour because that’s life, and those of us who write use those unexpected twists and turns in our stories. Sometimes things hit us from outside we simply have to deal with, no matter how deep in the woods we live. Today I’m going to address the upcoming election. Some of you who know me will be surprised because, as passionately as I believe in this election you’ll not be able to tell how I lean from the words I place here. That’s not important and my personal political leanings have no place in this blog.

Instead, today, I want you to prepare. I want you to prepare to vote. The election, perhaps the most important election of our lifetimes, is less than sixty days away. It’s important that we all participate this year. That’s what I’m going to encourage in this post. However, I’m taking it farther and I hope you all, whatever your political leanings are, will join with me in this.

Whatever you think of pledges I am going to make one here and now. I pledge to vote this year. I want you to make the same pledge. Being a writer I understand the power of social media. Most people I know have a Facebook or Twitter account. I use them to publicize new releases of stories, to help other authors, or share ideas with other authors. Today I am going to use social media for a far more important purpose and I hope you will too. I am pledging that those I know, who do not signify they have voted on November 6th, 2012 will be removed from any contact list I maintain on those venues. Additionally, I am vowing to drop all contact with all companies that have not indicated they have encouraged their employees to vote.

I sincerely hope everyone will join me in this effort, today, right now. Make sure you can vote. The laws here in Tennessee have changed so it’s wise to make sure you are both registered and carry the correct ID. Other states have changed their laws too. Whatever you think of these laws is irrelevant. They are the laws in place and you should both make sure you can follow those laws and cast your vote.

Today I will use the social media to make people who know me aware of my pledge. I am going to duplicate this post on my author site. I encourage every single author I know to do the same. Encourage your readers to do the same. Spread this pledge far and wide. People on my author blog have read my rants concerning people who read an author’s hard work then fail to leave a review. As brutal I have been about the laziness shown by people who do that, this is far more important.

Please, spread this. Take the logo on this page, use it, alter it or improve it, then send it far and wide. Make the same pledge and let’s make this election an election where most Americans participate! It’s that important.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - September 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

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Let’s Have Some Fun!

I just finished a short story concerning a young dragon. In this story, every dragon must successfully complete ten trials in order to be recognized as an adult. The trials are given to a dragon only once every hundred years, on the anniversary of their emergence from the egg. The first test, the easiest, is called the Gifting. In order to successfully complete this test a dragon must receive a gift and return one to the giver.

While there are ten tests for every dragon, and every dragon has to take them in order, there’s an additional component of the test called the challenge which also must be fulfilled along with the test. The challenge is different for every dragon and is individualized specifically for the dragon taking the test. This story is about a young dragon named Tarla’s first test, the Gifting. No, I’ll give no spoilers.

In this story I mention five tests a dragon must take on the path to be recognized as an adult: the Gifting, Honoring, Collecting, Service, Sacrifice. There are a total of ten tests. Now, to be honest, I had no intention of writing any more stories following the Gifting. Until, that is, my editor, Karlyn Thayer, suggested it would be a very interesting collection of ten stories, following the life of a young dragon through all ten tests. I think I now hate my editor. *grins*

I really, really like her idea. However, being the person I am I thought I’d invite others to suggest test names and a very brief description of the test. I will judge the tests suggested and select the five I like the best. When I write the stories I will link to this post and give the the person suggesting the test credit for the name and the concept in the forward. If they have a website I’ll provide a link to that as well. No other credit or compensation, other than a free ebook when the collection is complete, will be given. I suppose I have to say that for legal purposes.

If you have an idea please suggest it below. You can suggest any number of ideas along with a brief summary of what your test is. I thought this would be fun for everyone and get the juices flowing. Remember, this is for dragons, not people so a test called, “The Drive” requiring the dragon to take a Sunday drive in the family car is right out!

Have fun! I’m loking forward to the suggestions!

 

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Posted by Gene Wolf - September 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm

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How’s Your Ego?

Today I want to talk to you about editors. If you have not used an editor before, you should. I am absolutely convinced these people are worth their weight in gold to a writer. What does an editor do? In short, they take your perfect work and make it better. Yes, I’ll explain.

I had never used an editor before a few month ago. It’s not because I have an ego as big as the universe, I don’t. It’s simply because I didn’t understand the importance of an editor. When I think of an editor I think of someone like Perry White in the old Superman serials. He sits behind a big desk and tells reporters just what stories they should be working on. Same word, different role. For writers, an editor is an indispensable partner. A good editor will make your good work sing. A good editor will make your good work flow and connect with a reader in ways you never imagined.

I talk to many writers. I was fortunate to meet an excellent writer, Jennifer Owenby, through Twitter. Think what you will about social media, and I have been on both sides of that fence, it can serve a useful purpose. Jennifer was kind enough to introduce me to the editor she uses for her creative works. Her name is Karlyn Thayer, and Karlyn has convinced me that having an editor is one of the best moves a writer can make.

You have to understand I almost did not use Karlyn. I had selected another editor before I met Ms. Thayer and this other editor was taking literally months to finish working through the story I had sent. I did send a story to this editor in order to get a very close estimate of what it would cost me to have it gone through. Understand, I had no experience with editors before this. The quote to work through this story seemed reasonable so we agreed on a price. I consider myself very fortunate the work by this first editor took so very long. While I received updates about every two weeks it seemed, after a while, the work was going to drag on so I wanted to get another story looked at, and I sent that story to Ms. Thayer.

Karlyn works through writing in 10K segments. She is thorough, exacting and pulls no punches. I know my works are much improved after what she points out what she suggests should be improved. She has a unique way of working through writing from short stories to novels. She understands that many writers are not as financially well off as J. K. Rowling or Stephen King. Her price structure allows a writer to proceed at their own pace. I find this convenient because as I send sections of stories, and get them back in a timely fashion, I can apply her suggestions to the next section, decreasing her work, and mine.

Now, if you’re like me, you stories are like your children. They’re obviously perfect and anyone who cannot see that is an idiot. We all have egos. Editors truly don’t care. Notice I did not say editors are uncaring! That’s obviously not true. They would love to see every one of their clients become highly successful. I’m convinced of that. No, editors do not care about your ego. They care about finding the things in your work that make it awkward, that make the reader stick, that make the flow stop. They dredge through your work, deepening the channel so a reader can sail smoothly, and enjoyably, from the beginning of the journey to the end.

You can take their advice, or not. I’m convinced a writer who does not at least seriously consider every single suggestion made by an editor is an idiot. They are only interested in putting words to paper, and not writing a story which will be an enjoyable read.

I’ve talked with Karlyn about needing an editor in the future. She’s said that, as you mature as a writer, as you learn the craft, and make it a part of you, you will not need an editor. At this point in my career I’m going to disagree with her on this one point. I can’t ever see me writing anything and not having a professional give it a look. Maybe it will require very minor tweaking. OK, that’s fine. But that one small tweek might just make the difference between a reader recommending the story to a group of friends and not doing so.

As for the first editor, I did finally get my story back. I also received a final bill far in excess of twice the amount we had agreed upon. I’m the kind of person who does not like to raise a fuss so I paid it. Needless to say I will never, ever, use that ‘editor’ again and certainly will not be recommending their services.

If you have not used an editor before you should give one a try. Just be careful and look for recommendations from writers on the one you decide to work with. I know you’ll find the experience well worth it!

 

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Posted by Gene Wolf - August 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

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Fear of Failure?

We all know what this is like. You work for months, maybe years on building your worlds, making sure your characters are engaging and the best you can make them. You bundle up your manuscript or zip it for attachment in an e-mail and send it off. It’s like sending off a message in a bottle and sometimes you think your chance of being published is just as likely as the message ever being found, much less read by someone. Eventually the day comes when you receive a letter, or e-mail, knowing it has the response to your submission. You stare at the envelope or the e-mail breathless, before opening it, fingers trembling, heart beating rapidly. How long do you stare before opening it? A minute? Ten? Even when you open the e-mail or the letter you’ve already succeeded. Even if the response is a rejection you’re a success. I’ll explain but, being a writer myself, I have to tell a story before I do.

Years ago, back in the mid to late 80′s I worked for a very large university in Syracuse, NY. They were going through a period of declining enrollment and it was causing great concern to the management of the university. Being the forge ahead kind of guy I am I spent a couple months, of my own time, designing a computer program that would run on any Windows PC (99% of them back then) which was a replica of the undergraduate admission application. This application would open automatically at the cover page  when the diskette was inserted into the computer and allow a student to fill in the application at the computer. It looked very close to the actual paper form and contained all of the same questions the actual form did. My idea was to allow the student to fill in the form in a high school counselor’s office, print it, write a check for the application fee and mail it to the university. It would be like every other application at that point. The concept was to make it easy and simple to apply to the university and prove to aspiring students we were at the forefront of technology. A little gee whiz factor if you will.

I set up a meeting with the admissions and registrar folks, about 15 people in all, and demonstrated this technology. I showed the form projected on a large screen and I actually let people try filling in the form. Needless to say I could do things with programming to prevent mistakes from being made like the selection of conflicting majors, requiring some fields to be filled out, things that are quite common today. I also explained that, with just a little more work we could even allow students to electronically, over phone lines, transmit the application to the university, scan it with another program and reject those that obviously don’t meet university standards but allow a human to review ever single application before acceptance or rejection was finalized. My concept was to put this in every single high school in the nation. It should increase applications dramatically, reversing the declining enrollment. It was easy for the prospective students, the university, and it was a potential solution to the problem. Everyone wins, right?

When I was done one lady raised her hand and asked, “What if this is successful?”

You can paint your own dumb expression that appeared on my face here. I asked this lady what she meant. “What if this is successful? What if thousands of students apply?”

Repeat the dumb look on my face. I explained that I thought that was what the university was trying to do. If more students apply than the university can accept in a year qualifications can be tightened. More applications mean more application fees which would easily pay for the cost of creating the disks and mailing to high schools, etc. Obviously I did not understand. Their concern was the amount of work that would have to be done reading over the applications. They were afraid this program would be successful. They never implemented it while I was employed there and continued to struggle with declining enrollment. They never even beta tested this concept at a few high schools to see if it was a workable idea.

While this sounds contradictory, they were afraid that if this highly prestigious university attempted something and it didn’t work, or worked too well, they would be embarrassed to be the first school to try something like this, and fail, so they never even tried.

As writers I believe we struggle with the same type of conflict. Of course we say we want success when, in reality what most mean is they want the fame and money that comes with being successful but, like that prestigious university, they fear being embarrassed if they are rejected. How many writers have you read about spending time on a manuscript but never submitting it? Perhaps you have one or more yourself and have never done anything with it. Just like that university I worked for so long ago. You could be sitting on a goldmine or a dud. How will you ever know unless you submit your work?

Here’s the takeaway from this post. If you have a manuscript you believe is good, send it off. Even after opening the letter or email and reading you have been rejected you are far more successful than a major university because at least you have tried!

 

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Posted by Gene Wolf - July 6, 2012 at 5:52 am

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Paying Your Dues

We’ve all heard it at one time or another in our lives. You know the old cliché, “You have to pay your dues to get ahead.” Admit it, you’ve heard it at least once in your life and probably several times. Sayings like that are popular becuase, largely, they’re true. When you start out in a career you typically start at the bottom. That means you do all the shit jobs no one else wants to do. The new person gets those really distasteful jobs completely due to the fact they’re new. It’s called paying your dues. For writers it’s a little different. It’s not that we don’t have to pay our dues, we do, but we do it differently.

You will read that some people say in order to get to be a good writer you have to write 1,000,000 words. OK, I’ll agree with that to an extent but someone who is not a good writer will simply produce a large pile of trash. Oh, I agree a writer has to write, and write, and write some more, but simply writing one million words will not make a poor writer better. No, there’s more to it than that.

This week I commented on my first one star rating for my collection of short stories, “Changes” on Amazon. This was my first attempt at a collection of short stories and my first attempt at indie publishing. I’ll admit it, the one star review stung. However I’m a realist and I know that no matter how well I write I will never please everyone. When J.K. Rowling receives one star reviews, and she does, I feel like I’m in good company.

Those kinds of reviews are part of paying dues. If you’re a writer you’ll get them. That’s not the only way you’ll pay your does though, not by a long shot. You need to be able to take criticism and make changes when it’s pointed out to you, by people who KNOW, weaknesses they’ve come across. Yes, they are your characters, your plot lines, your arc, your endings but they are also the readers. If you’re not writing for the reader who are you writing for? Yes, yes, I have also heard you should write for yourself. Nonsense. That would be like calling yourself a singer and singing in the shower. While you may like the sound, to anyone else your singing may still sound like crap and you have no right calling yourself a singer. If the shower is the only place you sing and the only one who ever hears your voice is you, your not a singer. If you write for yourself and you’re the only one who reads your stories you’re also not a writer. If someone tells you the story is weak, you have to LISTEN. Note I did not say your have to agree, but you have to listen. You also have to consider they may be right. Listen to what they’re saying and give it due consideration. You don’t have to act one it. You may get crappy reviews every once in awhile and you might be able to chalk it up to someone having a bad day. On the other hand if you get the same response from many people you might just want to consider modifications. Pay your dues.

When you started your career, what was one of the first things you did? You probably apprenticed with someone to learn what you were supposed to do. Whether it was a new lawyer, doctor, IT person (I’m very familiar with this one) or anything else, you had to learn the ropes (another cliché). The same holds true in writing. No, you probably don’t have the luxury of following an author around, see how they structure their day, talk with their agent to see just what they like. While it might be helpful it may be completely useless to you. For example, getting up like I do at 4am isn’t for most people! However, there is another way to learn what a good author does; read! Read the works of an author you like. Read the stories you have an interest in. Study how they put thoughts together, how they lead a reader down a trail. Learn what they do to make the reader keep turning the page. STUDY! It’s just another way of paying your dues. And it helps!

Think of singing in the shower again. I’d be the last one to say someone singing in the shower is a horrible singer. If you were to take voice lessons, practive using your voice for the instrument it truly is, and actually learn how to sing, your singing in the shower could very well be great. If you read all kinds of works, read how you should structure stories, learn punctuation (one of my weaknesses), and actually study HOW writing works, then I absolutely guarantee you the one million words you write will be far better at the end than they were at the beginning.

Writing, and almost everything else, starts with paying your dues.

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Posted by Gene Wolf - June 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

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