Sometimes you shoot for an omelet and end up with a scramble

For a while now I’ve been planning some more “focused” entries to this blog, but this here life has been such a mad dash lately, so my entries end up being a mix of whatever comes to mind.

First there was the Writers Weekend story which I had to submit by June 15, and finished a day early. Then I came down with a nasty cold which ruined this past weekend.

More recently I’ve been back to finishing up my Writers of the Future story, a big long zoomy space story thing. I’m very happy and relieved to finally be done with that. I’ve certainly written longer stuff, but I haven’t actually finished (as in, polished all the way to a submittable final draft) a longer story than that since I started writing again last year. This thing wound up at 9,600 words and I’m quite proud of it. It introduces a new character and a new angle of exploration, plus a cool new artifact/tech device I’m anxious to explore in other stories. And I now think of it as “the WOTF story,” while I always referred to it in my head, as I was planning it, as “the Analog story.”

Now, I rarely write a story with a specific market in mind. I’m usually driven by an idea or an image, something I want to see happen, or a character I want to follow in a certain situation. Then I have to build up story and conflict and plot around that starting point, and only when I’m mostly finished do I start thinking things like “What’s this all about, then? Where will I send it?”

This time I made a conscious effort to write something less character-focused, more about plot, action and conflict. Plus I wanted technology and space travel to be prominent parts, because I really wanted to finally write a story I could see sending to Analog SF magazine. All these touchy-feely “literary SF” stories of mine, with people feeling ways about stuff, certainly have their technological components, and some of them even meet Analog editor Stanley Schmidt’s dictum that the “proper Analog story” shouldn’t function with the technology removed from it. But I wanted to write something that didn’t just sneak into eligibility as an Analog story, but was clearly, definitely about cool tech ideas, off-Earth locations, futuristic travel concepts, and a lot of focus on how human beings will one day travel from here to places very far away.

Now having finished the story, it’s occurred to me that I’m missing out on a potentially useful market for my stories by not submitting to Writers of the Future. I don’t normally enter contests, but I’m assured by all kinds of people who really do seem to know what they’re talking about that so long as you’re eligible for the WOTF contest (they only take stories from unpublished writers), you ought to enter. The prize money is good, and actually winning the thing, if you can pull it off, ends up being a nice platform to get people aware of you in a hurry. So, “the Analog story” ends up going to Writers of the Future first, and I’ll keep on entering this contest (it’s quarterly, with a mega-roundup contest for quarterly winners once per year) so long as I remain eligible.

Now I’m back to starting a few new stories I’ve had cooking, as well as revisiting some problematic or even “broken” stories I started previously and put on the shelf. I have two that are pretty close to being finished, so if I can wrap those up these next two weeks I may be in a position of actually finishing and submitting four new stories (counting the two just finished) in a period of a month. That would certainly be my greatest period of productivity, and would indicate that the extra hard work I’ve been putting in has been worthwhile.

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