Saturday, June 09, 2007

Movin' Right Along

Edits for Covenant have come back from Koboca, and I've finished the first pass. Most of the catches have had to do with my changing the story's tense from present to past, plus I had a bit of semicolonitis that needed curing.

The other, formatting edits are a lesson to me in how the industry continues to change....

I type my first drafts in Times New Roman, using italics for emphasis. That's also how I workshop my stories. But unless I hear otherwise, I submit material following the instructions in William Shunn's formatting guide. Many publications follow this standard, which derives from the days of typewriters.

"Always place two spaces after any sentence-ending punctuation," Shunn advises on p. 6. "Never use actual italics. Italics in a typewritten manuscript just aren't as obvious to the eye as underlining is."

To improve readability, I changed my italics to underlines and used the monospaced Courier New font when I reworked my draft of Covenant for submission. I subsequently found my underlines changed back to italics, and my double spaces after periods were reduced to single spaces. Electronic publishing is the force behind this practice. Checking with editor Ellie Daulton confirmed that I can send subsequent volumes with italics (and single spaces after periods) up front.

I first came across the single-space convention more than 20 years ago, when I helped produce the Harvard Business School Update. Back then our software was PageMaker 1.0 (I think it was actually 1.0a). I currently edit and produce the Art Center News for the Art Center of Citrus County, which also employs single spaces.

As I tell my students, the bottom line is to learn and follow the specs of each individual market, because those can differ widely. I've downloaded and brought printouts of different submission guidelines by way of example. Many agree with Shunn, but others depart from that standard.

I did a bit of informal book promotion at Oasis, which is put on by the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society. (This entry has my con report.) I'll ramp up my efforts once the ordering mechanism is in place, projected to happen a couple of months from now. By "informal" I mean that I cart flyers around, which contain a brief pitch and bio along with my contact info. You can see the pitch and bio here. (The flyer doesn't include the teaser.)

Good news this past week: My story "Hermit Crabs" has been accepted to Electric Velocipede. After my long absence from fiction writing, this marks my first sf short story sale in almost 20 years, so that pasted a big grin on my face.

Current stats for 2007 are:

1 novel
1 short story
1 article
1 book review
2 poems
4 pieces of cover artwork

In submission:
1 piece of creative nonfiction
3 short stories
4 poems

Published so far in 2007:
1 poem in Harp-Strings Poetry Journal
1 piece of creative nonfiction in Reed
3 articles, which include four poems among them, in Star*Line, Poets' Forum Magazine, and Of Poets And Poetry

I'll be writing another book review, plus I have a poem and a creative nonfiction piece to prepare for submission. Then I'll see what else I can fling out there.

Book #5 in the series has been moving, albeit slowly. Capturing the tone I want to convey becomes a challenge -- I know what I want to do, but the how can be elusive. At these times my characters turn into Colorforms, and all I can do is press ahead and write a bunch of crap before I hit on the right moment that tells me what I should have done. Fortunately, I have enough experience to tell me that I will hit on the right moment eventually, so the best thing to do is just keep slogging.

Colorforms, for those of you who are considerably younger than I and not into vintage toys, were introduced in the 1950s. They're a reusable sticker set consisting of simple geometric shapes in primary colors plus green and white. Children arranged and rearranged these flat shapes on a black surface. I haven't seen a set in decades (they're still available, here, for example), but they provide a great metaphor for the less pleasant parts of my writing process. When my characters become Colorforms they turn into two-dimensional shapes that I'm just pushing around on the page.

On my better writing days, my characters are real live pop-ups. When I'm truly "in the zone" I get to sit back, watch the movie playing in my head, and simply record what I see and hear. When I'm reduced to Colorforms I supplement my drafting with journal notes that attempt to puzzle out what the heck I'm doing.

Open mic season is coming to a close for the summer. Additional performances, with links to my written material, can be found here.


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