It’s been a little while since I posted on the progress of Swan Lady. Beta has been finished for awhile and I appreciate those who got back to me with their comments.
The next part of the story’s journey is tricky. I need to find it a home. At first glance, this seems like it would be fairly easy, but its not.
I need to find a magazine that publishes stories like Swan Lady. Now, I can’t just find any magazine that publishes fantasy and send it in. Every magazine has its own little niche and it takes a little time to investigate each magazine to find out what that niche is. So far, I’ve checked out three: Asimov’s, Tales of the Talisman, and Apex. Asimov’s seems to only publish established writers. I can’t compete with that crowd because this is my first story. Tales of the Talisman publishes dark fantasy. Apex is literary. Swan Lady is a (bitter) sweet story and wouldn’t fit in either of these. So, the search continues.
Despite the slow going, there is some good news: I’ve written more than one short story and one of them would fit well in Tales of the Talisman. My story, Pool Sharks was written about ten years ago and I recently resurrected it. I have gotten some feedback on it and I am now in the progress of getting it in shape to send in. I’ll let you guys know how that goes. A copy of the story is here.
WIP UPDATE: I don’t know about you guys, but my Christmas and New Year’s holiday is frantic. The kids are home for two weeks. We got lots of family visiting. We travel. All and all, its just a hard time to write. So, I’m giving myself a little break on the Gideon Plan. In the mean time, I’ll read, get some Short Stories queued up, and basically just recharge my batteries so I can go at it again come the New Year.
Funny, I didn’t know stories had a Beta until about two years ago when I was reading other writers talking about their stories going into a Beta. I come from the Video Game industry, where Beta means game is content complete, basically finished, but has a few minor bugs. So, I was like “What? You got bugs in your manuscript?”
So, what is Beta for a story? It’s actually not unlike a video game. The story is finished, but, there may be a few minor things wrong with it—grammar, syntax, missing comma, etc. All content is there. All major things have been taken care of. You are essentially looking over it with a fine tooth comb.
HOWEVER, the problem with me calling it Beta is that. . . well . . . I am calling it Beta. In other words, not a publisher, or rather, someone who would pay me for the completed work. That means, when I send the story out into the cruel world, the publisher may request changes. Some may be major. And what the publisher wants, the publisher gets. Its the golden rule, right? He who has the gold makes the rules? So, the story may go through another Beta depending on publisher feedback, if any.
At this point, I’m looking for Beta Readers: people to look the story over—see if you spot any minor mistakes. I’m not looking for any content changes.
Once I get the feedback, I’ll make the changes and I’ll post again when I send the story along its merry way to a magazine.
If ya want to take a gander at it, you’ll find it here. If you decide to give me feedback, you’ll have my undying gratitude (which lasts until, well, when I die, I guess. Or of course, if I forget, which could be possible).
Here’s the part of the process that may be the hardest for us who write: taking that story we’ve worked so hard on and put it out there so it (and us) are naked to the world. And then, like sadists, we let people beat the crap out of it.
I pride myself for having pretty good rhino hide, but in truth, criticism still stings and when I get it, my game can be off for a few days. That is why even though Swan Lady has been getting feedback this last week, I have held off looking at any of it until today. I had a draft from another story I needed to finish first and if I had started reading those comments, I would have lost some confidence. Today I opened those critiques up.
You get those little butterflies before you read these things. You can’t help but wince as you look at all the e-mails with your story in the title, knowing your story is about to be exposed for the imperfection it is. You’re curious, but you also feel a little weak. You remind yourself–I got to do it if I want to get better.
And you open the first one.
Last time I had something critiqued was almost two years ago. I’m a little out of practice of getting beaten up on. I haven’t had a short story critiqued in about ten years. In truth, I wondered if I could bare it this time around.
The first line of my first critique:
“I loved this story. I hope it gets published somewhere soon.”
Wow. That’s real nice. Great way to start, eh?
For those of you who have followed Metamorphosis of a Story, you know there were a few things I wondered about this tale as it went out for critiques. One was the Irish dialect. None of my readers had an issue with it. That’s a relief. No one commented about showing more back story. Only one person said the mother’s dialogue at the beginning was confusing. So, good.
One thing I wanted was the story to stand on its own whether the reader knew the story was based upon a legend or not. I accomplished this. Only two people recognized the legend and those that didn’t still liked it.
Something that struck me from the comments was that more than half the people said this story was good to go after a few minor changes. Some thought it was ready to go now. I was extremely flattered by these comments. This means Swan Lady will have a short rewrite period before it gets a Beta read and then shopped.
So, what’s next? I sit on the story for the rest of the week and this weekend. I’ll read through the comments a few more times and let them sink into my sub-conscious and then on Monday I’ll sit down and make changes to the story. I’ll then sit on it again for two more days, review my changes, make final edits, and make the final draft. I also need to start looking around where I want to send this thing (I have no clue). My next post will be for a Beta read if anyone is interested.
Its time for this thing to get its ass kicked.
At this point, The Swann Lady is at a first draft stage, which means I’ve done everything I can to it and need people to tell me what they think. I’m posting it here if any of my writer friends wants to critique it, but I’m also sending it to my online critique group, Critters.
Its funny, I haven’t worked on this for two weeks. I thought there would be more to change. I think I edited for about an hour maybe?
So, let me throw a few guesses out there what might be the biggest issues with my readers.
- The mother’s dialogue at the beginning is confusing. Well, the protagonist found it confusing too, so I’m not sure if that’s an issue or not. We’ll see.
- Aunt Aideen’s dialogue is not Irish enough. I’ve covered this point here last week. For this story, I went with no phonetic spellings, just to see if it works. As this is my first foray into Irish dialogue, I’m open to suggestions.
- I need to show the back story in a scene. Well . . . I don’t know. We’ll see.
Now its time to get the rhino hide on. Critiques can sting. I’m usually pretty good about taking it, but it can still suck at times. It’s the only way to get better, though. At the same time, I’m curious as to what people think.
How about you guys? How do you prepare yourself and handle criticism of your stories?
Note: Artwork is called “Children of Lir” by Tyrantx and can be found at tyrantx.deviantart.com
Gee, that was quick. I’m done with my short story. That took a lot less time then I thought it would. I had my bursts all arranged and they were pretty much in a rough draft format. When I began writing, I breezed through it and was done in a little more than 3 hours. I’m calling it “The Swan Lady.” Total words= a little over 4,000.
Next step- I’m gonna sit on it for a couple of weeks, give it another pass, and put it out to my online critiquing group. I’ll also post it on here if anyone wants to beat up on it.
So, what’s next? I still need to do another pass on another short story I wrote a few weeks ago, but I want to give that more time to sit before I go at it again. I suppose its time to do some more research and come up with another idea for another story. I want more of a period piece this time around. Time to go check out The Gangs of New York.
I can’t believe it. My first short story based upon Celtic myth set in 19th century Irish slums came to me within a couple of hours after reading An Introduction to Celtic Mythology. I mentioned I struggle with getting ideas for short stories, so to me, this is nothing short of miraculous.
Legends are tricky. They don’t follow modern writing conventions. There was one tale that dangled out there at the end of the margin. I was turning the pages wondering where the rest of it was. Weird.
I considered a few stories, but in the end, the one that stuck was The Children of Lir: some children are turned into swans by an evil step mother and are doomed to be swans until a specific event happens (the event changes depending on the story teller). Many years later, the swans are returned to human form, but are now old and die shortly after.
For me, what makes this story what it is, is the transformation of children who remain in that form until they are very old. This means my story must take place over a long period of time.
I thought, what if this happened to one of my Irish immigrants when they were a child and the spell wasn’t broken until they were old. How old? Pushing 90, I thought. If they were children in the early part of the 1900s, that means they’d be old in the 1980s.
This is something I can run with.
I have done most of my research (80s fashion anyone?) and have written my bursts. Next up–the rough and first drafts. I may be done with this story within a week.
Where do you guys get your ideas for for your stories and how long does it take you to write them?
A story isn’t just written. It evolves.
Well. Maybe that isn’t true. I guess some are just written, but for me, a story comes along slowly. Usually painfully. Its probably not unlike giving birth, but I’m a guy and though I saw my wife do it, what do I really know about . . . I’m getting off track here. . .
A story really is a metamorphosis from idea to the finished work. I’d like to invite you on my journey as I pick up another project and hack it to death. Let’s see how far along this one goes. Maybe it will end with it being published. Maybe it will end in the trash can with somebody peeing on it (well, maybe it won’t end in the trash can, but I can guarantee you it will be pissed on—plenty of times).
So, first step. You got to have an idea.
I’ve been muling over some for the last few weeks. A lot of the stories I conjure up have to do with people turning into animals or spirits or something. I had been strongly considering writing a story that took place in Colonial America and would have to do with werewolves based upon American Indian legend. Then, last night, I was reading a historical fiction (aka a bodice ripper) and I thought, why are so many stories set during this time period? Dumb question. The Victorian age is just damned cool. I just stopped writing a story set in the same century.
I thought to myself: a lot of paranormal-type stories happen during this time frame. I wonder if there was a way I could put my own spin on it. A lot of those stories had to do with high society. What if it was low society? I thought of the clichéd idea of the two lovers from different classes. But what if they were both from the slums? What if there was a werewolf in the slums? What if it wasn’t your typical werewolf? What if the werewolf was an Irish immigrant living in the New York Slums and the werewolf was more in line with the werewolves of Celtic mythology? What if it wasn’t just about werewolves, what if was magic based on Irish/Celtic lore? Well now . . . that has some legs. So, this is what I’m gonna do . . .
I’m going to write a group of fantasy short stories that are based upon Celtic mythology and legend that are set in the Irish slums of 19th century New York.
OK, so, I got the idea. Now, what I do is start some research. I’ll tackle Celtic Mythology first—get a pretty good grasp on its icons and themes. Then I’ll go do some research on 19th century slums. All the while, I’ll write down story ideas as they come to me. I’ll write down possible scenes. I’ll write down character descriptions.
So, that’s how I usually start my stories. How do you go about starting your stories? Got any advice for me as I tackle this thing?
Note: Some of you may remember the original Metamorphosis of a Story I did back in the day. That thread kind of went kaput after awhile when I ran out of steam on the project. I am renaming it to Sphinx. This will be the new Metamorphosis of a Story.