Feb. 28th, 2018
The theme for story four was “chances,” and although there were plenty of clues in the submission call that it was to be a romance anthology, it was never explicitly stated. Two people that take chances to be together didn’t say “romance” to everyone in the group, and I can see why that would be the case. If you don’t write romance, your version of “two people taking chances to be together” could manifest in other ways—a father and daughter trying to find each other when war comes to their world. Therefore several well-written pieces just didn’t make the cut because they were not, technically, romances.
Others had romantic elements, but the romance wasn’t the main focus, but a sub-plot.
But romances are right up my alley and since one of the examples in the call was “Anthony (conquerer) and Cleopatra (conquered)” that was the first plot bunny I chased down the wrong hole. For four days. Yep, I gave up on it some time late on Thursday and went to bed knowing I’d have Friday and the weekend to start fresh. Fun times. Fun times.
I woke up on Friday knowing exactly what I wanted to write — another prequel story in my space samurai saga WIP, this time focusing on a tid-bit of the origin. Since the novel I’ve been working on takes place some time later in the timeline (in medias res and all that) this gave me the opportunity to go back, not quite to the beginning, but to explain some of the why that leads up to the events in the novel (no, it’s not out yet; sorry folks, but this is what happens when an idea that’s been rattling around in your head for years begins to take form and what you think will be one novel becomes five—some ideas are like tribbles).
So, almost three thousand words over the 8000-word limit, I was done. On Sunday night.
Synopsis: Tearjerker romance (yes, it has an HEA) in a space opera setting where two foot-soldiers from rival Houses are thrown together as they struggle to save their species from extinction. In order to survive the hand dealt them by history and fate, one must conquer and one must surrender.
- Editor 1: Tough to wade into it; starts slow like a literary piece; work on pacing.
- Editor 2: Bujold vibe; massive paragraphs stopped her; gave up and went to middle where pacing got better; didn’t have emotional hook because the opening was bad; hit the paragraph key more often; it’s all there, but presentation was wrong in paragraphing; well done; too much work to fix the beginning; fix pacing.
- Editor 3: Names and details were too much; got interesting on p. 5; got kicked out around p. 18.
- Editor 4: 100% my kind of story; great world building and setting; all comes together; loved it; loved the concepts like the genetic engineering; super-resonated with him.
- Editor 5: Had trouble getting into it on 1st page; really liked despite it being SF; agrees with co-editor.
- Buying editor: Bujold-type of story; read the set up aloud to get a better sense of where to put the paragraph breaks; repaginate with new paragraphs; adjust sentence length; should be a fast read; plot is fabulous; no buy because of style points; nothing wrong with plot or characters or the way it was set up but first seven pages were tormenting.
After the verdicts came, the editors of the “Strange” anthology said they wanted to put it on their maybe list and Dean Wesley Smith took me aside on the next break and took me through re-paragraphing and fixing the opening. He basically told me that “When you think you’re over-paragraphing, you’re probably doing it right.”
Interesting little story from the old days when manuscripts came in manila envelopes. Basically, they’d pull out the first page. If it was formatted correctly, they’d keep pulling it up past the title in the middle of the page, and keep going for a few lines. If there were no new paragraphs, they’d slip the first page back in and send the manila envelope back to the author. The manuscript didn’t even get pulled all the way out of the envelope, much less read!
Despite the no’s from both editors who said it had a Bujold-vibe I was thrilled at the comparison because that’s exactly what I was going for. I want to be the next Lois McMaster Bujold. And it was a relief that no one said anything about being confused. Later, in my conversation with Mr. Smith, he told me that all my information-flow issues (people getting confused) were actually a paragraphing issue. The information was all there, but I’d buried it. I had the most wonderful sensation of light bulbs turning on, gears clicking into place, and fireworks going off.
At lunch, I had a chance to talk to Ron Collins, one of the editors for “Face the Strange.” He thanked me for writing Dominion, said it hit all his reader cookies. I asked him, “You really think it fits Strange?” and he said, “Oh yeah, two people from rival Houses dealing with each other. Sure it does.”
After four days I had a “maybe” on what I thought was my strongest story (despite it being written in far too much haste) but from a different anthology, one whose theme I hit entirely by mistake. Now, some of that had to do strictly with preference (he liked that type of story and the paragraphing was not enough to stop him, and the strange names and sci-fi terms were things he got into rather than turned him off) and some of it was just pure dumb luck.
I’ll take it.
Since it’s a “maybe” and the final table of contents for “Strange” is still being assembled, I won’t find out until the end of the workshop if I’m really in or not. But I’m in the running. And if I don’t make it, I know exactly what to do next—I’m going to fix the paragraphing issue and send it off to another market. I’m told that most of the rejections from this workshop tend to sell well to other markets.
Time jump to three days later:
I won’t keep you in suspense on this one. It’s just too exciting not to share. This story went from the “maybe” list to the “buy” list, making it my (officially) second sale. Remember what I said about sci-fi being about characters. And word-counts being pirate code.