Saturday, April 27, 2013


It seems that I get an uptick in readers whenever I post one of my laments about the writer's woes, of getting no damn respect, about frustration and pain and the ever-present fear of losing the skill, of the damn draft never, ever coming together. I get an  uptick when I say I should just abandon the WIP and start something else (as if there weren't already a stables-full of "something else's" already packing the stalls.) I get an uptick when I mention the frightening possibility of having a brilliant idea dissipate into faint mist the instant you step out of the car, get out of bed, or try to write it down as a complete paragraph.  I get an uptick when I complain about my frustrations, acknowledging that the universal condition of dissatisfaction and displeasure at the way things are going.

Is it schadenfreude; readers deriving pleasure at someone else's misfortune, that causes this reaction or is it an acknowledgement that the reader is not alone with their misery?  Perhaps people need to see that fate has not shat woe on them alone but that others are out there without the blessed  umbrellas.  I know I felt that way for years, watching others' successes without realizing that I was seeing ONLY their successes and not the string of failures/rejections trailing behind them.  It's not something you talk about, these growing trunksful of works that are good, but not good-enough. Instead the talk at the bar revolves around recent sales, new markets, and the bright future that lies ahead for all of us.  Later, in your room, you stare at the draft WIP and wonder why something that started off with such promise turned into a tortuous mess beyond hope of resolution.

Just like this post.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

So, you want to be a short story writer?

You are insane.   For the love of God nobody in their right mind wants to be a short story writer!  Instead we just want to write and the result is usually short stories, not twenty pound tomes that produce large advances and book tours. Instead, those of us afflicted with short-story-itis get the crumbs of the publishing table, a few cents a word, each penny scant reward for the gallons of blood, sweat, and tears involved producing these small gems.  Worse, there is no reward for the thousands of words painfully created and then even more painfully edited down into a tight, well-crafted final draft.  On that basis the payments are less than mills per word and sometimes, micro mills.

Of course, this paltry compensation applies to novelists as well - writing ain't for cowards or those who aspire to wealth. On the other hand few novelists reap the reward of frequently seeing their name in magazines or among anthology table of contents and, rarely, on the covers.  Unfortunately, few readers of short stories ever remember the writers.  Oh, they might remember the plot, sometimes the characters, or become bemused by the setting, and probably like some bit of inspired dialogue, but the writer's name - hardly ever.  Which is why so few fans show up at a convention's short story writer's reading save a few friends who are there more out of pity than interest, or someone who just wants to have a good seat for the next reader, a novelist who will, no doubt, pack the room.  Yeah, been there, done that.

But we short story writers continue to attend conventions, clustering in the bar to console one another, to talk craft, bemoan the diminishing word rates, and inwardly revel in the sheer joy of being with others who love writing in the short form.

Yeah, you have to be insane to write short, but it is a joyous form of crazy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stone Soup

A wanderer came into town declaring that he could make soup from a special stone he carried.  As the stone simmered in the pot he opined that it could use a little onion for flavor, after which others suggested more ingredients to improve the stone soup, all of which led to a delicious 'stone" soup everyone who contributed could enjoy.

You've borne with me as I struggled to open the floodgates of creativity for the past few weeks. You've heard me talk about how I've scribbled bits of this and bits of that, sometimes a scene, sometimes a bit of dialogue or description, and sometimes just rambling thoughts of what might go into the story.  None of this stuff was related, save that it occupied my mind whilst I awaited inspiration from my [absent] muse.  Garbage for the most part I thought but was too stingy of my words to cast it away.

In an act of desperation I threw everything into the pot where the stalled story simmered and boiled, adding no substance save a title and a few pathetic scenes.  Well, there was a part that might fit here, and don't those two pieces sort of fit together?  Maybe this bit could be rewritten to fit the first scene, and then I could paste this bit here and rearrange that.....  Suddenly the stone of my frustration had produced a reasonable story that could, with a bit of rewriting, editing, and additions just might be acceptable.

I had cooked my stone soup.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Writer's Taxes

We all start out as hobbyists - writing a bit here and there, sending submission after submission, starting down false paths based on shaky premises, and, in general, learning from our mistakes.  Year after year we struggle with words, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and other arcane arts of the writing guild until finally that magic letter/email arrives stating that you have pleased an editor and they are willing to give you cold hard cash for little more in return than to print your story.  There are few pleasures greater for a writer than to finally find acceptance.

None of this comes without a cost.  Modern writers need their tools - computers, tablets, paper, printers, envelopes, stamps, an Internet connection, and that most critical resource - TIME.  The usual investment greatly exceeds those first few payments you might receive. Sometimes the payments are recycled into better tools or upgraded software to make our writing less onerous.

One sale begets another and you find the modest increase to your income welcome, but give it little extra thought.  That is,  until you have to file your taxes and start receiving those Forms 1099 from the publishers. That's when you realize that Federal and State taxes have to be paid on the full amounts.

Tax deductions are allowed for some of your tools and activities, but not all.  The smart writer keeps track of  their writing income and expenses.  A simple spreadsheet and box beside your computer are all the tools you need.  If you are selling a lot or getting giga-checks from a publisher, you might pop for an accounting system, but that's usually overkill.  Toss your writing receipts into the box for tax time (Be careful to clearly keep your personal expenses separate from your writing expenses) and faithfully record ALL income. Since not all publishers send Forms 1099 to writers you might underreport your income. Starting the practice of record keeping and saving receipts might seem onerous when you have yet to make a sale, but by doing this you are investing in life long and money saving habits.

For detailed advice regarding deductions and income treatment you should turn to your local tax authority.  They can be quite helpful, regardless of whatever news they deliver.

Friday, April 5, 2013


This weekend I will be hanging with the fans at RavenCon in Richmond Virginia, finishing the blocked short story, and generally stealing as many good ideas from other writers as I can.

You can still look through the earlier posts and follow the trajectory of my decline, rejoice with me my successes, and browse my uninteresting random thoughts.

OR you could pop over the and see my comments on stories I've had published, listen to some interviews, or learn a bit about me.

I will be back next week. Stay tuned.