Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

The Writing Life — and a “Changing Faces” Update

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Folks, once again, I had a promising story bounce out of a market.  I have tried this particular story, “Sounds of Nightfall,” at every major market and most of the minor markets . . . sometimes it gets good comments, and other times, it has drawn a “huh?” reaction.

Anyway, I’d found a jazz magazine that does a short fiction contest, so I decided to try “Sounds” there, as it’s about a jazz musician who’s been helped by the spirits of two deceased saxophonists — Charlie Parker and Art Pepper — and I hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, it didn’t win a prize there — they have first, second, and third prizes available — and it bounced out after about a month and a half.

I write urban fantasy, mostly.  (Every once in a while, I surprise myself and write space opera.  Or even hard SF, when I can wrap my mind around the concepts.)  This was a story that was in the queue for the magazine Dreams of Decadence when it suddenly went under about a year ago; that’s probably as close as “Sounds” has been to actually getting published.

I’m starting to think that I should put together a bunch of my short stories that have drawn good comments, or, “I nearly bought this, but . . . ” types of things, and put them at SmashWords and at Amazon.com.  I don’t know how well they’d sell, of course, but at least they’d be out there and off my computer.

See, this is how the economy affects writers.   Mainstream magazines, even in the SF/F genre, have to be cognizant of the “bottom line” — how much profit, or at least as little of a loss as possible, can they make during this economic downturn?  With the digital realm affecting print magazines in various ways, that means there are more markets available than before — but most do not pay very much.  And all of them want to find people who have sales, and a following, and/or have gifts of self-promotion if at all possible, all in order to drive sales and page-views.

Now, this is perfectly understandable from an economic perspective, but it hurts newer writers — or unknown ones, like me — because we don’t necessarily have names.  We don’t necessarily have enough of a Web presence to drive page-views.  All we have are good stories that we want people to read, and sometimes, that doesn’t seem to be enough.  (But I shall persevere.)

So that’s about it, as far as a short story update; a few stories and one poem are out at various markets — and I did get a story into the Writers of the Future contest last quarter, for whatever that’s worth — but my main strengths as a writer tend to come out when I’m writing novels, not short fiction.   That’s why I work on my novels more, even though they take more time and thought to write . . . but I also work on the shorter forms (short story, novelette, novella) because I want to master them, too.  (We’ll see how long that takes, or if I ever get there.)

My general advice for other writers is this: go out there and write whatever you can.  Then try to sell it — ralan.com is one of the best places to go to find markets, while duotrope.com is another good one (both are free, but take donations if you’re able to help them out) — however you can.  Some of my fellow writers have discussed how they use spreadsheets; they mark off which magazines they’ve tried, and when, and where, so if you find this a useful tool, go for it.  And don’t let rejection get you down; just keep trying, because you never know when someone’s going to like your work.

As for the “Changing Faces” update, I’m happy to report I managed about 1800 words (the first words written on this project, at all, since last year sometime) and believe I have a good starting point for chapter 20.  We’ll see how it goes, but I’m cautiously optimistic at this time.

Figure it this way: if I get any words in during this time of great stress (with the bad economy, many personal issues including the ill health of my very good friend Jeff, and other things), I’m ahead of the game.  Which is why when I turn on my computer later tonight, and see what else I can get with regards to this MSS, I hope to be able to better develop the nascent “I think I know what’s next” feeling and get it actually down on the page.  (Here’s hoping.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Posted in The Economy, Writing

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