How long do I have to do this before it becomes a tradition? I think the definition of a tradition is something everyone does but doesn’t really know why, other than ‘it’s tradition’. So, maybe a few more years yet.
First up, stats!
2012 saw 15 submissions of 7 new stories. Only one of them has found a home. That’s down on the last two years. I’m okay with that.
Why? Read on…
So, what have I learned?
1) Write active
Don’t say what your characters are doing. Say how it feels. Character’s falling down a muddy bank and into a river? Well, they’re not going to know what’s going on until they stop falling and pull themselves back into the fresh air. What are they experiencing? The world tumbling around them? Shoulders hurting as they tumble, legs being bent in weird directions? Even if they’re just walking down the road. What are they noticing? How does the air taste?
This ties into the whole passive voice thing. I actually think I’ve got some kind of grip on that now. Verbs should not be the subject of your sentence! The subject of the sentence should be the thing holding the reader’s interest. The reason they’re reading the story. It should be the character, or the artefact, or the wibbly portal that’s opening up over Yorkshire.
But what’s really interesting is that Jeff Goldblum is running. Huh? ‘Running from what?’ Oh, nothing special. Just, you know, a boring old… thing.
2) I have a problem with homophones and look-alike words
I’ve never been diagnosed with dyslexia, or any other kind of disorder like that. However, after over a dozen readings I still missed a point where I’d written ‘diaphragm’ instead of ‘diagram’. I just read over it. Every single time.
And the difference between ‘steel’ and ‘steal’ just won’t stick in my head. I mean, I can see they’re two different words but when they’re in a story, they might as well be the same.
And for stealing steel! … Steeling steal? Ah, crap.
And then there’s the times I miss out words and don’t notice. No matter how many times I read it, the gap doesn’t present itself to me. Or the superfluous words, they don’t register either. And then they I did something. See that? If that was in the middle of a story, it wouldn’t register.
There are programs out there designed to help with these problems. Things like Read and Write, and Ginger. However, none of the ones I’ve found work with Ubuntu. No, not even through WINE. However, I have started to use Orca Screen Reader. It, erm, reads out what’s on the screen. And it’s really helped with those missing words and those look-alikes. Stared vs. starred is one I can never get. But Orca gets it for me.
It’s quite possible that this selective blindness accounts, at least in some part, for my less than stellar publishing record. It’s also possible that I’m just crap.
3) Getting published is less important than getting people.
This is that ‘why’ I was talking about earlier.
This isn’t about networking. This is about having other people to share the world with.
Take movies and TV shows, for example. I’ve realised I’m an horrific voyeur. I enjoy someone else enjoying something on TV as much–maybe more–than I enjoy what we’re watching.
And I need to have that in my life. I need to have something other than the whims of the slush reader to dictate my happiness. And I need to share my happiness with people who want to share it.
This is the sort of thing you’re supposed to learn sometime around puberty. It’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to learn how to do before you leave school. Who says you’re supposed to? You know. People. By the time you leave university you’re supposed be a fully-rounded human being, who can make friends by themselves, who can take pleasure in other people’s company, who doesn’t see other people as a drain on their time that could be better spent elsewhere. I feel as if I’m a good twenty years behind where I should be, socially. Why did it take me until I’m 32 to realise this?
Of course, all that is a lie. All this ‘supposed to’ malarky. Whenever that train of thought leaves the tracks, I force myself to take a breath and be thankful it didn’t take me until I was 33. Or 40. Or eighty. Because damn, on that score, I’m lucky.
Anyway, back to people and writing. I’m not going to stop writing any more than I’m going to stop breathing. I’m just going to take some time away from it and give it to… well, other people. And if I think a story is great and no one wants to publish it, I’ll publish it. It won’t get me any closer to Interzone or Asimov’s but it’ll be doing more than if it just sat on my hard drive.
So, where are these ‘people’ going to come from? Well, two places.
Gah! People! They’re all over me! Get ‘em off! Getemoff– Wait, this actually feels quite good… Ho! Hold it! You going to crawl in there, you need to buy me a drink first…
The first is the big, scary, unpleasant world. I joined Reddit a few weeks ago. I made my first post without sitting on the sidelines for months as I learned the rules. Couldn’t have done that a few years ago. And I’ve started archery. Hobbies are good, right? Especially hobbies that’ll come in useful after society collapses.
The second is the people already in my life. People like Allegra, and Jo, and my family. No more discounting! No more telling myself that the people who care enough about me to make time in their lives for me don’t count because, seriously, what kind of idiot would make time for me?
All I need now is some of that new-fangled confidence stuff I’ve heard people talk about.
And yes, this is an important lesson about writing. A very important one. If I’m part of the world around me, if I can let other people into my world, then I’ll be able to create far more enticing and rich imaginary worlds and far more nuanced and believable characters. If the thought of someone valuing me doesn’t make me run screaming from whatever room I’m in, then when opportunities come along I’ll be able to grab them with both hands and if I crash and burn then, hey, not the end of the world. Where’s the next one coming from?
So. That was 2012. What does 2013 hold? Come on, motherfucker, let’s see what you’ve got.
(Now, if you’ll excuse me, this sudden outburst of floatation has run out and I need to find a corner to whimper in…)
Jurassic Park picture from here. Guinness ad from here. Man covered in bees from here.