Archive for March 27, 2012

Should You Submit, Quit, or Self-Publish It?

Self Publication - it isn't just for real writers!

The way to become a published writer is to write (and to submit what you write).  Seems obvious, yet so many would-be writers produce that one story or novel and then rework it endlessly, or submit a story or three, get rejected once (or a hundred times), and decide to give up.

Ira Glass does a wonderful job of explaining the reasons we creative types set out to create our particular art, and why so many become disappointed and quit:

I would add for writers specifically that the writers who are published are the ones who continued to write NEW stories, and submit those stories, and move past the rejections, until they were published.

Of course, today we have a wonderful short cut — self-publication!

I have repeatedly been asked for advice from writers who have written one story, or been rejected a few times, wanting to know how to proceed, how to become published.  And sometimes as part of my response I make the mistake of mentioning self-publication as a possible future option.

Don’t get me wrong, self-publication is a very valid alternative IF your writing is worth reading, and IF you believe you have what it takes to stand out from the sea of other self-published works.

But too often, the would be writer latches onto that option as the answer, because the rest of my advice — to write and submit and be rejected until you are good enough to actually be published — requires work, and a lot of rejection, and letting many of your stories die an anonymous and unnoticed death.

And often the amateur writer believes their writing to be perfectly wonderful and worthy of being read.  Unfortunately, it is hard to be objective about one’s own work.  I certainly see how bad my early stories are now, though at the time I thought they were completely awesome.  I would have self-published them if I’d had the option.  And now I am so glad I did not, that they were rejected and I was driven to try again, to try harder, to do better.

So please, if you want to be a writer, then write, and submit, and keep doing that until you are good enough that somebody other than yourself and your mother thinks it is ready for the world to read.  Persevere, and become a good writer, not just a “wroter” (someone who wrote that one thing and just keeps reworking that same one thing), or a self-published amateur, and someday you will have something published that is worthy of being read.


Totally Awesome Reading and Prizes at Norwescon Friday April 6 at 5pm

Please come check out my reading at Norwescon on
Friday, April 6th at 5pm (Cascade 1 room).


The Goonies look on in amazement as Randy reads from his novel

I will be reading from my current novel project, a humorous urban fantasy currently titled “The Family Wizness” — it’s like Dresden Files meets Arrested Development.  It is amazingly twice as awesome as it sounds, and at half the calories!


Pee Wee DollBecause my novel includes a number of 80’s references and jokes, I will also be giving away a bunch of little prizes, bits of genuine, made in the 80’s nostalgia and cheesiness.  I’m really happy with the  items I managed to find and it will be hard for me to let this stuff go.  So I hope you come and join the fun.




How to Give and Get Good Critique

(I wrote the following for the Cascade Writers Workshop, where it was originally posted)

In 1632, Jebediah P. Milford, Earl of Worster Shire, became famous for eviscerating any poet whose work he found displeasing.  Thus began the Milford critique method.

Okay, that’s not true.  What is true is that both giving and receiving good critique can be one of the best ways to improve as a writer (other than writing lots of words).  I could go into the real history and facts about the Milford workshop, or similar workshops like Clarion West, but you probably don’t care too much about that (and it is easy enough to lookup on the web).  What is important, and what you should care very deeply about, is how to get the most out of this critique method for the betterment of your writing, and indeed, the betterment of all humankind.

Read more


Writing Stories About Edgy Issues (Or Maybe Bono-y Issues)

I recently answered a question about finding spec fic markets responsive to stories with a “green message”.  Here’s my answer, and it applies to stories with any kind of message — political, social, religious, sexual, even a rant against whoever canceled the latest Joss Whedon show.

I suggested two things:


First, you can search for appropriate markets for any spec fic story using or


Second, generally speaking, all magazines are open to stories that have a green message (who doesn’t enjoy Kermit’s musings?), with the caveat that what magazines really care about is the story, not the message.  You can have the most important message in the world, but if your story is a thinly veiled excuse just to deliver that message, or if you deliver it in a “As you know Bob, all the reefs died due to global warming and pollution.” “That’s right Ed, if only we had done X we would not now have to try to repopulate the oceans to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the food chain” manner, nobody is going to hear your message over their own groans.


But if you tell a gripping and moving story about your character, who just happens to be affected and their world shaped by whatever issue you are concerned with, if you let us experience first-hand the negatives you worry about rather than pointing them out to us, etcetera – in short, if you tell a dramatic story about a character we care about and sneak your message in like a message ninja – then really what you should be looking at is not magazines that support a green (or whatever) message, but rather the magazines that support stories of whatever sub-genre and length yours is.


Moreover, if you focus on magazines that are known for supporting green (or whatever) messages, well, you’ll be preaching to the choir anyway. So really, you should be looking for ways to get your message out to readers who don’t already know and agree with everything you’re likely to be wanting to share.


At least, that’s my experience/ impression/ knowledge bestowed upon me by the aliens who live in my sock drawer/ best advice.