Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Thursday, 13 November 2003

No writing yesterday or today. I've reached a point I often reach when writing a story takes more than a week or two: It all seems like crap.

Even though this has happened several times before, I'm still not sure which is cause and which is effect. Maybe when the story is crap I find it hard to write and it takes a long time. Maybe when it takes a long time to write I get tired of it and that makes it seem like crap. Either way, I've become discouraged and am seeing all the stories faults and none of its virtues: It's neither exciting nor funny. The zeppelins are barely in the story at all--they could be ships or trains or airplanes and it the story would work just as well. The hero is not heroic. I expect there are virtues there as well, but I can't see them today.

I have not given up. I got one idea today that may help it. We'll see.

I got a two-month rejection today from Argosy. That prompted me finally to get some mss out. One went out today via email, I got two others printed and ready to go in the mail tomorrow. I still had one out, so I'll have a total of four. There's one or two more to submit to somebody, but I need to figure out who.

It's like one of those math problems optimizing systems of non-linear equations--it's not computationally feasible to find the best solution to the problem of which story to submit to which magazine while satisfying all the constraints. Just producing an ordered list of markets for each story, taking into account both my own interests (most prestige, highest payment, most readers, most attractive presentation, likelihood of a sale, speed of response, etc.) and the criteria of the magazine (genre, length, taboos, etc.), is hard enough. Add in the practical issues (you generally don't want to submit a second story to a magazine that is already considering one, you pretty much never want to submit a story that's already under consideration anywhere else, and you certainly don't want to submit a story to a market that's already rejected it) and it becomes quite complex, before you even take into account the fact that whether any one editor will like any one story is simply unknowable.

Beyond all that there are some second-order optimizations that are worth thinking about, although they've rarely been practical issues for me so far: If I have a story ready to submit, but I've already got other stories at all the top markets, should I hang onto it until a market opens up, or send it to some lesser market that doesn't have one of my stories? Contrariwise, should I send a less-likely story to a top market, or wait on the expectation that a more-promising story will be rejected by the market that has it now so that I can submit that one instead?

Two tools help these things--a good markets database (of which there are several now) and a good submission tracking database. I've been using a simple database to track submissions, but as the list of submissions gets longer, I find that I'm running into the limits of the sorts of things I can do with it. I'll have to come up with something a bit better.

Oh, well. I seem to be mopey tonight. I'll be better tomorrow.


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