Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

The End of Year Post

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It’s fashionable to do these, so here it is: a listing of the important things I did (and didn’t do) this year.

On the whole, this has to have been both the best and worst year I’ve had, professionally. On the “worst” end of the spectrum, I found myself having difficulty remaining focused on projects. On the short fiction front, I finished a decent draft of one novelette, and started a second story which I never finished, but no short fiction got submitted this year. In fact, my inventory is currently sitting at zero. I never subbed the finished story because I ended up deciding to roll it over into a novel. On the novel-writing front, I think I did pretty well. I managed to cut 50k from the latest version of the novel and start the agent hunt. I also wrote a new novel, which I still don’t have a title for, but that took most of the year to write. I’ve taken this last month off to just do nothing and let the creative batteries recharge after making that final push to finish the novel during NaNoWriMo. Funny how I feel like I didn’t get much done this year.

On the “best” end of the spectrum, I landed an agent this year and we’ve blazed a significant trail through the in-boxes of many an editor in New York. No novel sale yet, but I did make a reprint sale this year, to Escape Pod. And my last short story appeared in Space and Time in January or February. While there isn’t much stuff listed in the “best” category, this does feel like a year in which I accomplished the most significant stuff of my career so far, mainly making that leap to being represented and making a push into the novel market. I’m finally one significant step closer to doing what I really want to do, and that’s being a novelist.

On that note, I’ve made a decision about what I want to do with writing from here on out. I want to focus on novel-writing; if a short story comes to me, then of course I’ll write it, but I’m not going to push myself to write short fiction anymore. Novel-length is my most comfortable length and that’s where I want to focus my efforts. I may eventually come back to writing short fiction, but for now, I want to follow my muse, and it’s got at least one other novel idea I’d like to try out.

As for resolutions, I don’t like to make those. Then there’s nothing to feel bad about when I miss the mark. I do have plans for the first couple of months of the year, involving getting the latest novel into shape and ready to submit, but beyond that, I want to let the muse show me the way when I get there.

The Good, the Bad and the Barbaric

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Some criticisms regarding my decision to keep human sacrifice in my One World universe has come up, but rather than sit and pout in the corner, I think it’s a good opportunity to reexamine my choices and why I made them (and whether or not it was the right choice to make them). I’m not going to quote anyone, but several readers have been bothered by the fact that in this alternate world human sacrifice is still going on next to space travel and genetic engineering and artificial intelligences. I think it’s a valid concern worthy of discussion and contemplation, particularly since it makes this future civilization appear “barbaric” to some readers. And the last thing I want to do is paint a minority population with broad generalizations or make them seem backwards. If I’m unwittingly being racist, I want to change that.

Warning! Spoilers for other published stories in the One World series.

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The Lives Our Stories Lead

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I’ve been following a fascinating discussion of my story “Night Bird Soaring” over at the Escape Pod forums, which has gotten me thinking a lot about some of the editorial choices I made with this story and about how stories take on a life of their own after publication.

The ending is a point of argument among the commenters who think it brings the story around into the realm of fantasy, and early in this discussion, I was really kind of kicking myself for a decision I made during the final edit with my editor at GUD; it had been suggested that I cut two lines at the end because she thought what I meant was clear enough without it (I’m not going to say what these two lines were, for reasons I’ll go into a little later.). I hedged on it a bit before finally deciding “Well, if she thinks it’s clear, then it must be,” and so chopped the lines and didn’t think about it anymore.

Until Rich Horton’s review came out in Locus a couple months later, and I realized he’d read the ending in a way I completely didn’t intend it to read. I was kind of grinding my teeth about it, but not many others mentioned the same issue with the ending, and then the award nominations/recommendations started rolling in. Obviously the ending as it was reading wasn’t killing the story, so why worry?

Fast forward to earlier this week and immediately commenters started expressing dissatisfaction with the “fantasy-feel” of the ending. Not at all surprising to me when I saw it, but still I was a bit angry at myself for that editorial decision I made 4 years ago. I had considered reinserting the original cut lines when I submitted to Escape Pod, so the ending would read the way I’d intended, but I couldn’t get past the whole idea that I would be altering it significantly. I’ve never been fond of alternate endings on movies or reissues of books with all the material that was cut in the original edition put back in. It’s kind of like insisting on determining your kid’s life path after they’ve reached adulthood. I thought about posting to the thread to tell everyone “well, this is what I’d originally intended, but such and such got cut, blah, blah.”

But then the conversation started getting really interesting as folks started picking apart what the whole fantasy angle at the end might mean in the largest context of the story’s universe, and I suddenly realized: Who gives a shit what I’d intended? I was told long ago when I first started writing that no one cares what I intended, only what the story tells them, and I’m not going to be there to hold the reader’s hand while they read and explain everything to them. This was in context to clear writing and plotline, but I think it applies in a broader sense too. Once you publish a story, it aught to stand on its own, and whatever you intended doesn’t matter anymore; all that matters is the story as the reader will understand it. It’s no longer your baby to mold and direct and it now has it’s own life and will make its own way.

And quite honestly, I don’t feel so angry at myself anymore about that choice I made 4 years ago (and yes, it was my choice to cut the lines. There was no pressure from my editor). My story is living a fascinating life thanks to that choice, undoubtedly more fascinating than the one I’d intended for it, and I think it’s rather cool. Whatever I’d intended, it just doesn’t matter anymore.