Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Curse of the Galley

It takes hours of Herculean effort to finally get a story polished to the point that some kind editor finds it acceptable enough to respond with a contract.  That response indicates that the work was not, like so many, a failure and doomed to sit in the darkness of a trunk forever.  The response alone is ample reward for what was clearly a well-composed, structured gem of the genre.  Pat on the back, cheers, and dancing follows before the writer must return to the electronic anvil and pound out the next speculative masterpiece as the pleasant glow of success continues.

That is, until the galleys arrive.

You read through them and are devastated. Clearly whoever prepared the galleys screwed up the sentence structure, substituted inappropriate words in some places, misspelled others, and clearly randomly missed the stellar punctuation.  You experience feelings of being violated, abused, and hurt that some ignorant lackey could so interfere with an obviously well-crafted story.  With rightful indignation you vow to go through the galleys mistake by agonizing mistake against the clean submitted manuscript and reveal what that unskilled fool had done.  The harsh words of a cover letter are forming as you proceed to the first error.

Hmmm, the galley seems to agree with the submission.  All right, so maybe you made that minor mistake,   You correct it and move on.  At the second error you feel shame that you had so poorly chosen that word, when another would be so much better.  You concede the point and correct that as well.  Later and you blush that you structured a sentence so badly and scribble a better phrasing in the (virtual) margin.

And so it goes, page after page of correcting what you realize with growing horror were your own damn mistakes!  The galley bleeds from wounds inflicted by your red pen as you try to undo the damage and bring the story to perfection you require.  There was no abusive copy editor: You have been the perpetrator of these mistakes.  The red ink makes clear where the necessary changes are needed, except in the process of corrections even better phrasing occurs.

Finally you return the much edited galleys, satisfied that you have avoided embarassment and polished the submission to gleaming perfection.  Only to realize moments later that there were a few more things you should have done.....

Is a story ever finished?


Saturday, May 6, 2017


Every writer eventually comes to the point where they question whether to follow the arc of their writing career or to find something equally fascinating and interesting elsewhere.  Perhaps this angst occurs when you find that you just can't write another crappy scene/story/novel like the (mostly unsold) hundreds you've struggled with before. Or maybe it happens because you discover that you just can't muster the elegance and sophistication others seem to achieve without effort. Maybe it's because you want to add depth to your project but have not yet developed the skill and/or emotional intelligence to pull it off.  Could it be because you are simply tired of sitting for day after day trying to get something done or editing your earlier crap drafts into the crystalline clarity readers demand?

Well, join the crowd.  Your angst is the curse of being literate in a world that places little value on the effort involved to produce a cogent contribution to literature.Yours are no different from the difficulties of millions of us who daily struggle with the challenge of sculpturing raw words into elaborate stories that resonate with readers.  The great majority, regardless of how much they struggle, will not succeed in ever publishing their work or gaining recognition. Those so discouraged may decide to consign their efforts to the trash, unread and unmourned. Alongside the trail of literature are the remains of the many who wanted their words to inform the world but only saw their creations die unrealized.

Despite the many setbacks there nevertheless is that burning desire of every nascent author to express their personal view of the world as it should or could be, or discourse on another's view. There is a long line of literature stretching back thousands of years that speak to the human condition, to dreams, and aspirations, all of which beg commentary through whatever glass the writer wishes to use.  It matters little how successful you become so long as you continually perfect your craft, hone your sense of structure, and continually craft more interesting stories.

In the end, the only audience that counts is yourself.


Monday, May 1, 2017


By the time I publish this RavenCon will be over and done and I will be exhausted.  Too many panels*, too many friends, and too little time for a decent conversation, which, in all honesty, is what a convention is all about. If I missed anyone let me apologize for the oversight.

Put out two short stories last week, both of which had passed peer review of my writing group before submission and one that the editor asked me to rewrite.  A good week which left little time to start another until this week; the week when you are probably reading this meandering prose.  I feel like a time-traveller in that I'm probably getting my tenses mixed up between the now of writing and the whenever you are reading this, which might not be for weeks after I put it up, making my opening paragraph inaccurate in the extreme. Maybe I should use future-intentional verbs: declarational (implying  intent), assumptive (implying that it will definitely have happened), or rhetoricalish (in the sense that it probably won't happen at all, but it's just being mentioned for effect.)

So, I'm on an imposter panel, which will probably devolve into agonizing soul searching about why everyone wants to piss on you, a submissions panel in the last hour of the last day probably be attended by those with hangovers that just want a quiet place to sleep,  a reading where I hope someone other than a relative is present, then a couple on exposition and MilSF in which someone will inevitably argue the virtues of a Glock .223mm versus the Walther P38 or some similar argument about future weapons a la STAR WHATEVER's.**

Great fun!

By Monday I will be exhausted.

*Well, I did ask for them
**Most of these did not  come
to pass, thank heavens!