For 30 June and 1 July, I had three deadlines looming. One of the reasons why I like the Writers of the Future (WOTF) contest is that there are four contest deadlines a year. Coming up with a new or rebuilt story four times a year is pretty doable, plus you start building up "Invenstory" which you can send out to other markets. Contests have deadlines. So do theme issues for magazines and anthologies.
Three deadlines coming right at the end of a semester looked bad. Two anthologies and WOTF. But the 1 July anthology deadline moved to 1 August. Too bad, I think I had chosen a story ready-to-ship for that one. For the other anthology I went through several different choices in the required word range, before deciding on a completely different one and shipping that. Two stories required now, one deadline met. Go me.
What I learned at the Clarion and WOTF workshops is how to write fast. For me I start with something of a skeleton of a story, then fill in through a couple of versions. What sending out over 250 submissions has taught me is how to edit. At Clarion in 2004, I wrote seven stories in six weeks. At WOTF in 2008, we had a 24 hour story project. Most of those had rough edges, but you do learn you can work fast and hard in a pinch. Call it burst mode.
It's too easy to stress yourself into feeling that a rushed story will be too full of errors to be good for anything. Well, it possibly could, but remember that I've found typos and word errors in stories which have been through dozens of edits and actually sent out to more than ten markets. And I have a pretty good grasp of grammar and spelling! In writing SF/F, you do have to decide whether to include your made-up and new words in your spellchecker's dictionary. But even forgetting that, do pay attention to those little red underlined words.
Your best friend, however, is to read the words aloud. Your mind can play tricks and you can skim over text and read what you thought you wanted to say. But when the tongue trips up, you know the words on the page are wrong. (grin)
Time In Chair
For the WOTF story I wanted to come up with a totally new story, not finish something I'd already started or re-edit something completed. In this case I had a few handwritten notes from March and April, but hadn't put one word into a computer file. With a deadline of 5pm at the Post Office on Tuesday, I started writing on Sunday. Had office hours on campus on Monday. Worked late writing on Monday night, and then started in at 11am on Tuesday.
My goal was to print out the story at 4pm and get it ready to mail. At 3:20pm I was essentially done, so I did a full read-through and filled in a couple of details. 6000 words. Wrote the cover letter. Started printing at 4:02pm. Left for the Post Office at 4:40pm, mailed at 4:52pm.
Mission accomplished. Is it a winner? It could be. But if it isn't, no worries. (double-edged-grin) I'll rewrite and send it along to another market. Today? I took a story that had been out once in August 2006, cleaned it up and sent it off to one of the majors. Maybe two hours of editing and printing time to get it out.
It's been a very productive week. (triple-word-score-grin)