Schrodinger’s Story

January 12, 2013


I enjoy every aspect of creating a new story, but one.

I like the brainstorm part, where an idea settles in, usually over the course of multiple days, before I ever type the first word.

The first draft is especially cool. Often the story runs amok and I discover things about the characters and the world of the story that I never originally intended. This is where, when I’m lucky, I write my best lines.

Revisions are cool, too. I go over the feedback from my crit partners and beta readers to nip and tuck at the story and give it the best possible face lift. Sometimes merely the act of letting the story sit for a few days and approaching it with a fresh eye will allow me to identify weak spots in the writing and fix them.

I enjoy sending the stories out on submission, and the thrill of making it past the slush readers and of an occasional sale. Rejections are OK, too. They’re part of the game.

Editorial revisions and copy-edits are fun; a competent editor will always make the story better and make me look smarter in the process.

And, of course, there’s nothing like the feeling you get when a story is published and I get to share something I created with thousands (hundreds? tens?) of readers out there.

There’s only one part of the process I really hate: the time spent waiting on feedback after the story has been polished enough to show to friends and critique partners, but before they get the chance to respond.

At this stage I call them “Schrodinger stories” because I don’t yet know if the story is alive or stillborn. It’s very difficult for any writer to evaluate the quality of their own work. Some of the pieces I think turned out brilliant get their heads bashed in during this round of feedback. There are clear problems, gaping holes in the plot, or trouble conveying what I want to convey to the reader.  Such stories may need lots more work, or even to end up in the “Come back to this one day later. Much later” pile.  On the other hand, there are stories I don’t have as much confidence in that sometimes come back with better reviews than I expected. Arguably my two strongest flash fiction stories published to date are “Spidersong” and “Nuclear Family” — both were written in one sitting, and both were stories I felt somewhat skeptical about upon finishing them.

The smart thing to do would be to move on to the next project, but I find it difficult to do so until I finalize the current work-in-progress and get it out on submission. So I usually find other things to do — editing, critiquing, and writing blog posts, to while away the time.

Can you guess what stage my latest story is in, presently? 🙂


My New Submission Cover Letter

August 25, 2012

Nothing could possibly go wrong.


Awesome Rejections

March 30, 2012

One of the most important skills to being a writer is the ability to deal with rejection. Understanding that  an editor choosing to pass on your work is not personal, and that you will receive a lot more rejection slips than acceptance letters.

Every publication deals with rejections differently. The most common are form rejections. You get a very generalized note that looks something like this:

Dear Author,

Thank you for sending us “Story Title Here.” Unfortunately have have decided not to publish it. Please feel free to submit more of your work to us in the future.

The Editors.

Or some variation of above. It’s short, impersonal and to the point–but it gets the job done.  Some markets will offer small bits of personalized feedback in order to offer encouragement or–better yet–let the writer know about some specific flaw in their story that contributed to its rejection.

But who says rejections have to be boring? There’s a way to inject humor, originality and outright strangeness into the mix!

Consider the famous Rolling Stones rejection sent by Hunter S. Thompson in 1971 (warning: do not click on this link if you’re easily offended by profanity). Had I been on the receiving end of this I would be framing that thing up on my wall. I should probably do that anyway, and look at it any time I get a rejection of my own. I think it’d make me feel better.

Then there’s this poetic rejection, riffing off W.C. Williams:

This is just to say we have taken some plums

we found in our mailbox.

You were hoping it would be

yours. Forgive us,

others seemed


or colder

more bold

or whatever.

Again, this is a “make your day a little brighter” kind of bit, at least when you’re seeing it for the first time.

But my favorite form rejection (and the one that prompted me to write this blog post) is one not being used by any magazine or anthology. It is a hypothetical rejection letter written by a friend and fellow New York SF writer Anatoly Belilovsky.  If I’m ever in position of some editorial authority, I hope to make use of the following, at least once:

Your stories soar like birds,

I wish I could acquire ’em,

but I seek only words

fit for an aquarium.



“A Thousand Cuts” accepted at One Buck Horror

January 27, 2012


I’m pleased to announce that One Buck Horror will be publishing my short story “A Thousand Cuts.”

This story was originally submitted to a Cafe Doom horror writing contest. The top prize for this contest was publication at One Buck Horror. Although “A Thousand Cuts” comfortably made it into the top 10 (based on anonymous popular vote by the entrants) among 50 or so entries, it was not ultimately selected as a finalist by OBH editor Christopher Hawkins.

But then, a really cool thing happened. Mr. Hawkins was kind enough to offer feedback to any of the top 10 finishers who asked for it. I contacted him and, upon reading the story again, Mr. Hawkins offered some suggestions and invited me to resubmit an updated version to OBH.

I was happy to comply. I spent a few days working on the rewrites and ended up with a slightly longer story that followed the same general plot, but was different in tone and feel. I then submitted this new version of the story, and waited.

Six weeks later Mr. Hawkins got back to me, letting me know that he did not like the rewrite as much as the original. He felt that the longer version lost the dreamlike quality of the original. However, he was willing to make some edits and send them to me, so I could try again.

For those of you who don’t submit stories I must explain that this is a rare thing. Most of the time editors are going to either accept or reject a submission. They rarely have the time to work on the story that’s *almost* there, and a second rewrite request is exceedingly rare. Needless to say, I was thrilled to work with him on the changes.

Turned out, the changes he wanted were smaller and more subtle than I was shooting for in my original rewrite. However, they did smooth out and further improve the story! Over the course of a couple of days we had a version we were both happy with. I’m proud to announce the upcoming publication with special thanks to Christopher Hawkins. who believed in the story enough and had the patience to work with me to make this happen.