The first week was tough, the second even tougher (6500 word story). This week I’m aiming for something a little shorter, but no less challenging. My schedule calls for Horror or Mystery. I’ve decided to go with Horror and write out an idea I’ve had bouncing around in my head for months.
Saturday: For Week 3 I chose to target Clarkesworld Magazine. This is one of the most difficult markets to penetrate. That means I’ll have to work even harder on the layering of ideas, the language, and characterization.
Clarkesworld Magazine is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine that publishes short fiction, interviews, articles and audio fiction on a monthly schedule. All original fiction published in Clarkesworld is also made available in single-issue chapbooks and collected annually in the Realms trade paperback series. Our art, articles and half of our fiction are open to submissions.
Word Limit: 1000-8000 words (preferred length is 4000)
Pay Rate: 10¢ per word up to 4000 words, 5¢ per word after
Genres: Science fiction and fantasy
Rights: We claim first world electronic rights (text and audio), first print rights (author must be willing to sign 100+ chapbooks), and non-exclusive anthology rights for Realms, the yearly Clarkesworld anthology.
Stories must be:
- Well-written. Language is important. There is no distinction between “style” and “substance” or “story” and “writing.”
- Convenient for on-screen reading. Very long paragraphs or typographical trickery may work against you.
Science fiction need not be “hard” SF, but rigor is appreciated. Fantasy can be folkloric, medieval, contemporary, surreal, etc. Horror can be supernatural or psychological, so long as it is frightening. There are no barriers as to levels of profanity, gore, or sexuality allowed, but high amounts of profanity, gore, and sexuality are generally used poorly. Be sure to use them well if you do use them.
Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:
- stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
- stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear
- talking cats
- talking swords
- stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
- stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
- time travel too
- stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a’ comin’, Communion wine turns to Christ’s literal blood and it’s HIV positive, Satan’s gonna getcha, etc.)
- stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
- stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
- stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
- stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
- your AD&D game
- “funny” stories that depend on, or even include, puns
- sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
- zombies or zombie-wannabes
- stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue
- stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
- stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one
- your trunk stories
Sunday: I spent most of the day polishing my 7500 word story from last week. It’s set aside now for submission next Saturday. I also made notes on this week’s story.
Monday: I outlined the story, then outlined it a second time after the first one seemed too generic. The story needs to have multiple layers for Clarkesworld, yet be simple enough to tell in a fairly short word count. I worked on character background this evening. Ready to roll on scene one, I think.
Tuesday: I read through openings for stories in the first Clarkesworld anthology I found this quite intimidating. The stories tend to begin in media res, possess a literary sensibility, and ALSO manage to convey a speculative idea within the first paragraph or two. Density is important. I tried various approaches to finding such a beginning for my tale without a lot of success. Upon further think-state, I realized the reason I was having problems is that my story opening didn’t have enough depth to manage the feat suggested above. It’s too linear in concept. I can’t really get all media res on it’s ass until it has an ass worthy of such an approach. Back to the drawing board for now. I did write three literary flashes, however. (750, 250, 100 words)
Wednesday: More of the same. I have a new inciting incident that does offer a media res potential, and I’ve deepened my view of the protagonist and the story situation. The climax and resolution can remain as I had it. I just have to get there via a somewhat different path. I tried a couple more openings. Not quite, but closer.
Thursday: I found my opening at last (I think). The rest of the plot fell into place as well. Simple enough to keep under 4000 words or so and layered enough to read deeper than that. Now it’s a matter of writing it effectively. I’m less confident of that, but tomorrow is the last day of the week. I’m determined to get a draft laid down.
Friday: Started the day with good intentions. Sat down and started into the second scene with some momentum, then promptly lost it. The scene seemed boring and headed in the wrong direction so I stopped writing and tried to get a grasp on things. I don’t know the characters well enough, don’t know the world well enough, don’t even know if my climax is a climax. To complicate matters, I feel like I’m falling behind on several fronts and yet can’t get myself to work on any of them. Something has to give if I’m going to make it through this year. I have got to stop procrastinating and get on with it. I guess you would call today a reality check. Will I persevere? It’s not looking likely, but I’m at least sitting at the keyboard typing words onto the page tonight. Tune in tomorrow.
Saturday: Well, I very nearly gave up. I mean I already wrote 3 literary flashes this week, so it wouldn’t technically be a failed week, but it just didn’t sit right. So, I talked to Sue about my plot problems and she said something in passing that lit the old light bulb and I was off and running again. I revised the second scene almost entirely (reversed the roles of the two characters involved), then went on to a third scene. This was enough to bring the story to closure. So, at 3500 words, I had a draft. It feels so much better than giving up.