October 25th, 2006


Is This Carrying Things Too Far?

The Length of Things

Different sources use different definitions, but stories of different lengths fall into different categories:

Over 80,000 words - Novel
25,000 to 40,000 words - Novella
12,000 to 20,000 words - Novelette
7,000 to 10,000 words - "Long" Short story
3,000 to 7,000 words - Short story
1,000 to 3,000 words - "Short" Short story
under 500 words - Flash fiction

Sometimes writing workshops use various tricks to get people to write economically -- Jeff Ford had the 2004 Clarion class write a 900-word story (it was originally going to be 800-words, but you know...) and I understand the 2006 Clarion class got to write genre poetry.

A New "Low"?

This weekend I got my new copy of Wired magazine, the November 2006 issue. Flipping through it, I discovered an article on six-word stories. No, honestly! You can see the text of the stories they used, plus some extras, here.

I have to say, being long-winded and long-writed (writed???) -- a wordy sonofabitch -- that I just can't see how to write something that short. I joked to Mrs. Dr. Phil, that a Dr. Phil six-word story would actually take 22 words, have 3 characters and one P.O.V. change... (grin) Unless you want to consider: "War ends. Above God smiled." Damn! I wrote that in FIVE words. Gee, maybe this Clarion training in writing short stories is BEGINNING to take hold. (double-wide-grin)

Of course, even the 33 writers they contacted had to play games with the six-word limit...

Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
- Ken MacLeod

Steve ignores editor's word limit and
- Steven Meretzky

I could pull out my favorites, but you know what? Just jump over to the article or find yourself a nice printed up copy of the November 2006 Wired magazine and enjoy some silly, short and occasionally poignant very short stories.

Dr. Phil
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    amused amused

This Is Why You Don't Self Publish

Nick Mamatas nihilistic_kid found a flyer in Boston Common and reproduced the text on his blog.

Antonio Medeiros has spent the last seven years writing stories that capture his imagination. Master Thief is the first in a series of completed manuscripts to be published. Master Thief first took life six years ago and sat for much of that time gathering dust on a shelf. With a great deal of encouragement Master Thief was dusted off and submitted to Outskirts Press and accepted for self publication. Having Master Thief in print became a dream realized.

Steps Up On Soapbox

Okay, kids, friends, everyone -- here's the deal. If you are writing, then you are a writer. If you have sold some of your work and they have paid you and they have either printed it or put it on a website, then you are a published writer. For good or for bad. If you pay someone to print up your work or stick it on your own website, then you are a writer. Period.

If you are a writer, then I hope that you like what you've written. I am very pleased with some of my stories. I am even pleased with some of my stories which are not finished and have been spinning silently on computer hard drives for years, decades even. Someday I might get back and finish them. Or mine them for details or characters for other stories. Or not. I've sent forth some 40-odd stories some 117-odd times to markets. A few people have read my words. I've a couple of publications in places most people haven't access to. I consider myself a writer-in-progress. Both my mother and my mother-in-law like my writing. That is very cool.

But most of that doesn't really mean a damned thing, does it?

If you self-publish, you can probably find some people to buy your books or stories. That long tail of the curve phenomenon means there's all kinds of people out there. But mainly what happens when you self-publish is that the publishing house makes some money out of your wallet and you get your ego stroked to see your words in print. It's heady excitement to be sure -- I hope it's worth the money.

Once in a while, someone who has self-published has been able to sell that work to a mainstream publisher. But it is rare. You see, like self-publishing your own whacko scientific theory -- and trust me, as a physicist I get these from time to time -- you are missing the whole review/approval part of the game. While you may not like or agree with the tastes of all the editors out there, getting a professional to take a chance and pay you money to publish your words, and then work with you to get those words in shape so that the story, and not the typos or inevitable grammar flaws, stands out -- this is an indication that maybe you can really write. That people will come around and want to read your stories.

Dr. Phil has spent more than twenty years writing the kind of rich, realistic and science-laden SF stories that he likes to write. With a part-time teaching position that barely pays the gas for his 155 mile a day commuting, the fact that he might write a check for a lot of money and endanger his mortgage payments, must tell you that his new self-published book, The Idiots Amongst Us is the new MUST READ Science Fiction Novel of the Year... according to Dr. Phil, who should know. And can't you tell that Dr. Phil sprang for the bucks for the deluxe binding? You don't find value like that in just any book.


Stepping Off Soapbox, Looking Carefully So As Not To Twist An Ankle

I know I'm "not quite there yet." I think someday I shall "be there." Several people in the industry say that "I am getting there."

I can wait and do it write. Er, right. (grin)

Dr. Phil
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    aggravated aggravated