The First Sentence

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How important is the first sentence? A Writers Path had a recent post on the importance of the first sentence setting the tone for the entire story. That blog also had a similar post on The Importance of a Great Literary First Impression.

Aeryn Rudel of Rejectomancy had a post as well where he analyzed the first lines from his stories that were published last year. And The Write, Already! blog recently had a series of posts promoting John Brueckner’s “892 Opening Lines” book. There’s even a publication dedicated to the first sentence called, not so coincidentally, The First Line. I’ve posted previously about that publication.

I also recall an editor of Asimov’s or Analog year’s ago discussing how important the first sentence was. What I recall, whether I remember correctly or not, essentially was if the first sentence didn’t grip him, it had little chance of being purchased.

Clearly, this is on a lot of people’s minds. So have I practiced this philosophy? I’ve certainly tried with varying amounts of success. I’ve also tried to vary my approach. Sometimes the first line is dialogue. Other times it’s the narrator speaking.

To date my favorite is from a story I’m still shopping around. Indeed, I hope to use it as the lead story in my short story collection submitted to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. (I wrote about this contest here.) The line is: “The naked man ran screaming from the room.” Don’t you want to read on to know why he is both naked and screaming? I thought so; I haven’t gotten an editor to bite yet though.

Do you try to nail that first line before proceeding with a story, or do you not worry about it? Do you have any first lines you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.

 

Bouncing Around

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I’ve been bouncing around a lot these days. I’ve lacked focus on any of my writing. I’ve even put off submitting those works that have received a rejection. So what gives? Good question. I don’t know.

According to Word, I haven’t worked on my WIP novel in over a month. I’ve finished three flash stories though, and I’m one scene away from finishing the novella I thought I’d finish last summer. That’s some progress, I guess.

I feel like I’m waiting for something, which is probably the wrong approach. If there is any upside, it’s by not resubmitting my stories, I have a catalogue worth I can combine into a collection for the contest mention in Submission Dilemma III. Needless to say, I’m going for it. I’ll spend the $25 on the submission fee and take my chances.

But, first, I need to finish the novella. The submission guidelines say no story should be longer than 15,000 words. The novella is longer but already broken down into a couple stories. I estimate the longest of those stories will come in just under 15,000 words. Regardless, I plan to spread the individual stories out in the collection to build tension.

Collecting my stories into a single work will reduce my number of submissions for the year while I wait to hear back from the contest, but I’m okay with that. I like the idea of having a collected works manuscript. Now I just need to finish the novella and organize the collection before the April 15 deadline.

How has your writing focus been lately? Have you been productive, or are you finding distractions? Let me know in the comments.

Submission Dilemma III

I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.

Post #34 -Novella Submission

8/16/18

This was the week.  Monday, August 13 was Tor’s deadline for novella submissions.  Followers of this blog know I’ve worked most of the summer on combining three of my unpublished stories into a single novella.  This involved expanding the third such story from a flash fiction piece to a significantly lengthier piece to meet Tor’s minimum length requirement of 20,000 words.  While working on this project, I encountered two issues, which I detailed in Post #31 (involving not submitting my best work) and Post #32 (involving a submissions dilemma).

Well, I resolved both issues by not submitting the novella.  This was a difficult decision, but I believe the right one.  Because of the looming deadline, I sent the finished novella to my beta readers with not much turnaround time.  Two managed to get through the 21,100 words, and both had the same comment—the ending didn’t resolve anything.  In other words, it wasn’t an ending at all.

The interesting part is, I had the same critique.  Often, I need a beta reader to point out a flaw in a work.  This time, I knew the flaw going in.  In order to meet the minimum word count, I had added a scene beyond the ending of the original third story.  I like the added scene, but it opened up an entirely new avenue of the story, which I then didn’t explore.  I was rushing to finish the story, so I’d have time to edit it and send it out to my beta readers.  So the story has no proper ending; it just stops, and my beta readers were left unsatisfied. If they felt that way, there’s no way the editors at Tor would accept it.

That’s when I decided not to submit the novella.  I already had qualms about not submitting my best work, and my beta readers’ comments only solidified those qualms.  This is my longest work to date, and I want to do it right.  I want to have the best chance at cracking the pinnacle of sci-fi publishing.

So, I have a new plan.  Initially, I’ll chop off the first of the three stories.  As I expanded the end of the novella, I realized the first part no longer fit.  The story had morphed into something different.  With the first story separated from its sequels, I’ll start submitting that story to markets again as a stand alone piece.

Then, I’ll continue to take the novella wherever the last scene leads.  I haven’t figured out what that entails yet, but I’m excited to find out.  Once I’ve written a proper ending, I’ll see if my beta readers agree.  Hopefully, Tor or another market will be open at that time for novella submissions because mine will be ready to head out the door.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever purposely failed at a writing goal because you knew it was the better way to proceed.

Photo credit: typographyimages via Pixabay

Post #32 – Submission Dilemma 2

8/2/18

I have another submission dilemma. I’ve talked for weeks here about the novella I’m writing for a Tor call for submissions. The submission window closes in mid-August.

The novella consists of three linked stories I wrote over the past year, the last of which I greatly expanded to meet the call’s minimum word count. Before combining and expanding these stories, I had submitted each to various markets. None were accepted.  That’s part of why I decided to go the novella route.

When I made that decision, I stopped submitting those three stories to markets as a rejection came in. The problem is one of the three is still under consideration at a market. It’s been there since the first week of May.

My experience with this market’s response time varies. Twice, this market rejected my submission in under a week, but another time this market took just shy of three months to reject my submission. Was the latter story held for further consideration? I’d like to think so, but the eventual rejection was not a higher tier one according to Rejectionwiki. Now I’m approaching the same three month mark with the story I submitted in May. The Submission Grinder says this market typically has a 24 day response time. (If that’s true, then my stories rejected in under a week must have had something wrong with them. Either they were terrible, or I didn’t follow the submission guidelines.)

Neither the market this short story is at or Tor accepts simultaneous submissions. What do I do if I don’t receive the missing rejection? Do I submit the novella to Tor on the assumption the short story will be rejected? Do I hold off on submitting to Tor and hope it has another call for novellas in the future? Do I submit to Tor and if the short story rejection turns out to be an acceptance, do I withdraw my submission from Tor or hope the short story’s rights revert to me before Tor publishes the novella (which assumes Tor accepts the novella)? In that case, is the novella a reprint? Does it even matter when the short story is about 5500 words of a 21,000 word novella?

Let me know in the comments what you think is my best course of action.

Photo credit: qimono via Piaxabay