Might as well track of them here, since they’re not on paper, and so I can’t do the Stephen King thing where he had a nail on his wall that he’d use to impale his rejection forms.
Anyway, Rejection #1 was on 11/30/13, from Clarkesworld Magazine. It took them 1 day to decide and the rejection was not personalized. (According to the submission grinder, which is a site that uses your GPS to find the nearest publications that want to have sex with you, the vast majority of every story that is rejected is rejected within two days, and nearly every rejected story is rejected within a week. Their rejection rate is 98.67% as of this post.)
Disappointing, yes, discouraging, no. I’ve already sent it to another magazine.
This morning I woke out of a dream where I was in a giant and empty mansion, and I couldn’t see the ceilings because they disappeared into a fog.
In real life, I heard a faint noise that sounded like my car alarm. It was 6:15 so it was still dark. I got yesterday’s clothes on and took my car keys with me outside.
It was raining hard and there were some cars pulling out of spots and leaving for work. The sidewalks were like creeks and I had to walk in the grass next to them. Raindrops fell on my glasses, which made the street lights look like lightsabers.
My car was dark and quiet and I realized that the noise was actually coming from the other direction. I started walking toward it and gradually several police cars came into view and I could see the red flicker their lights were making as they echoed off the buildings.
Since it was so early in the morning and I was so close to having been dreaming, I started feeling scared as I was coming around the corner.
I finally passed between two houses and saw the whole scene, which was that there was a huge firetruck, with its siren off but all of its lights flashing, tending to an alarm at the heat generator building.
There was something weird about the lack of siren, like I was in a movie and the sound mixing had dropped one of the channels; I could hear the rain, my footsteps in the rushy water, the security alarm of the heat building, and the firetruck’s engine rumbling, but no wailing to go with the lights. I turned back to my house.
When I opened the door the light the hallway threw into my apartment made everything look like I had turned over a rock. I took off my clothes and lay in my bed and, for some reason, felt like I had done something wrong, like I had wandered off into the employees only section of the morning.
Sometimes the Flaming Lips really get me with their lyrics and music combo. On The Terror it was the lines “Try to explain why you’ve changed/ I don’t think I understand/ Try to explain why you’re leaving,” and recently they put out an EP (listen to all of the tracks here) based on Ender’s Game which has another song that does it.
I think the EP must be informed by the book (the song “Wolf Children” refers to part of the book that isn’t in the movie). The song that’s in the movie is pretty good but the one song that does it for me is “Is the Black at the End Good.” (Song won’t load at your first click—press reload and it will.)
Even though the line that follows the chorus, “‘Cause everywhere that love is/ that’s where I wanna be” is a little bit on the overly sentimental side, the line and music that comes before, “So you see/ I’m happy without it,” is like “Try to explain why you’ve changed” in how many things it could imply, and so it sort of is like a cold reading of moods, and it makes me a little bit obsessed with the song and I listen to it a bunch of times.
Just to be super clear, there’s nothing I’m “happy without” right now, this post has no subtext, I just wanted to explore why I liked the song so much.
By the way, I’m still productive with the writing I’m doing, which is why I post very infrequently here. When it comes to what I’m doing, I alternate between thinking “Hey this is pretty good” and “No this is pretty much garbage.” I’m sure that the truth is something close to “It could be better — just try harder after you’re done the first draft.”
As of today, though, I have a little over 70,000 words written. A lot might get cut, but still, that’s progress!
Last night I was at the small grocery store near my apartment wearing a Canadian Tuxedo and I saw a woman in her late 60s also wearing one.
When she got in line behind me I decided to turn into the punch so I said “Nice outfit” with no irony, and she looked down, said “Wow, we really do look the same,” and the cashier started doing that hold-it-in shudder-laugh that people do, and I blushed and got my change and left.
I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it so since it’s Fall, I decided to get the Fantastic Mr. Fox and watch it again for the little details. I saw the newspaper clippings near the beginning and end and I couldn’t find a good image of them online, or a transcript, so I types one up myself and put it down below. I was sort of surprised at all that was there.
Some trivia that I thought was interesting before the transcript: Notice his column title and byline changes from the beginning to the end. Also, Mr. Fox speaks American English, but uses British spelling. However, he does not use the Oxford comma when listing three things! Contradictions!
Also, I was really surprised at how wistful and downbeat (especially in the second article) Mr. Fox’s column is.
"FOX About Town
The breeze picks up and a change of season is upon us. Once again, we find ourselves savouring the dusky, smoke filled air, the sweetest of the year, and scampering about, even as hibernation awaits just ahead, tapping its impatient hind paws
An 60-something guy at the gym waved to me on Friday, and when I looked around confused, he nodded his head Yes! He was waving to me!
He came up to me while I was still on the stair master, and said “Hi, my name is (I can’t remember what he said). When I look at you, all I can think of is Jean Valjean.”
I said, “Ohhhhh,” as he was walking away, even though I had no clue what he meant.
I spent the rest of my walk up to the top of the Sears Tower wondering whether he meant I looked like Hugh Jackman or another portrayal of the Jean Valjean. I Google image searched. Mostly Hugh Jackman, some illustrations.
I think I figured it out after I got home. Maybe he meant Jean Dujardin? We both have big noses but I think the similarities probably end right about there. Anyway, I was flattered. If he was hitting on me, awesome.
On July 20th I made an excel file to keep track of how much I write per day and how much time I spend writing. Since writing’s a hobby, I don’t want to put so much time into it that it encroaches on other stuff, so that’s why I’m keeping tabs.
So far, it’s going well. All told, 22 hours and 11,500 words, with an average of 525 words a day in 59.9 minutes (I was surprised at the fidelity to my hour-a-day goal). This puts me well on pace to get to a total revised and edited word count over 40,000 (around the minimum length of a novel) by, I guess, Christmas.
In my case, it’ll be a story collection rather than a novel, but that’s the milestone word count where I wouldn’t feel like if i sell it, I’d be shortchanging anyone.
I’ve been looking at Kindle Direct Publishing because I don’t really want to send it out to publishing houses (that’d just be a waste of time since the stories won’t be outstanding enough), but I will probably end up buying an ISBN for it (which apparently costs ~$100).
Direct publishing with Amazon has two main options of getting you paid. One is 35% of the cut. You can set any price you want (between $0.99 and like $99.99, I think) and you can disable the option of book borrowing, which is controversial as to whether it generates any profit for the author (I’ll bet it does, but it’s probably very small).
The 70% cut option means you have to price the book at $2.99 to $9.99 and borrowing will be allowed. I don’t know what I’ll end up choosing, but the price will probably either be $0.99 or $2.99.
I won’t expect to make any big bucks. But I will dream of falling under Stephen King’s definition of talent, which is “making enough to pay an electric bill.”
The other consideration is a pen name. I’ve decided to use one for practicality’s sake: my real name is on a few published scientific papers and will hopefully continue to, and I don’t wish to mix audiences.
A quick look through the KDP store shows that I’d better choose a name that sounds like a real one. I had been considering one of those initals-names, like A.J. Ferguson, but those things are overused and tired. Then I thought of a made-up-sounding name, but after seeing such beauties as “Lee Wilson” and “Brett Kilgore” and “Rhen Blaze,” I am unsure what to do.
Accepting Amazon’s invitation to “Look inside!” puts me into a defensive mode where I read three sentences of poor B. Kilgore’s stuff and am automatically thinking “This is total crap, ugh, barf.” I forget who said it, but it’s true: Nothing can stand against a hostile reading. Just ask any high school English classroom.
And now that I’m telling you this, the whole pen name dilemma sort of smacks of presumption. Like, do I assume that I will be a runaway hit or something? I already said that I did not. Will I be embarrassed at having written something? Maybe down the line, but that’s Future Steve’s problem. Is there any chance that people would be like “Aw man! Prominent scientist Steve Moffett writes fiction! Holy shit now I’m going to ruin his credibility and career somehow!”
No. Maybe I should just use my real name.
So, I have written an embarrassingly small amount for someone who considers himself to write as a hobby. And whenever I come across writing advice from any prominent creative person, they always say to write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
For the past few years if I got any writing done it was on the weekend, from about 9AM to noon, before I ran out of stuff to say. And if I got distracted by something (reddit, or other distractions, or a combination of the two), it wouldn’t happen. As for nighttime writing, if I was at all tired, I’d just stare at the screen for about five minutes and then close Microsoft Word.
I did get one story down that I thought was reasonably good, and it got some encouragement a few years ago—not a publication but a genuine, official type of approval—and I thought that maybe I should just cater to the writing impulse, and not try otherwise, in case it would dilute any skill.
About 5 or 6 weeks ago I changed my sleep schedule so that I was waking up between 5AM and 6AM and going to bed a little after 10PM. I now had an hour to myself in the morning before I had to get ready for school, so I started aiming to write 500 words in a day. With few exceptions, I’ve made the goal every day, and here’s what I think about it so far.
1) I definitely have more energy to write in the morning than at night, so I don’t just stare at the screen.
2) I now feel like a morning that I don’t get the 500 words down is wasteful.
3) Trying to write outside of the plot-free “lit-fic” trappings I usually go for is tough, and I don’t think it’s going super well.
4) It’s difficult to avoid revising what I wrote yesterday and instead focus on adding new material.
5) I wonder if the 500-word thing is making my work halting and episodic, although I’ll have to judge that when the stories are done.
6) Working on 3 stories at the same time (a lit-fic one, a thriller, and a science fiction story) is nice because I can rotate between them, but I wonder if that makes all of them weaker than they could be.
7) So far, that statement by I-forget-whom* is, most of the time, true: If you think you’ve written some really crackling prose just after writing it, it’s trash and you’ll be embarrassed about it after a couple of days.
8) More writing makes me want to read more, and lately I’ve been reading books instead of watching movies and Netflix. I re-read The Great Gatsby (17-year old Steve was wrong; it’s fantastic) and I’ve been trying to finish getting through all of Kurt Vonnegut (I’d read Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Cat’s Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, and Player Piano—I just read Slapstick, Mother Night [I loved that one], and I’m working on God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater now).
9) All of this Vonnegut binging hasn’t, as far as I can tell, influenced the long stories, but I did write a 1000-word exercise that was basically an intentional homage to Vonnegut (that is unintentionally mediocre), and I’ll put it at the end of this entry.
10) I stop when I get to a little over 500 words, and it takes between about 30-90 minutes to arrive there.
* It was Samuel Johnson: “I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: ‘Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.’”
Here is the story: