Monday, March 05, 2007

I get questions

In a response to a previous post, D.A. Davenport wrote, "I love the short story and flash fiction formats. It forces me to distil my work and insists on absolute clarity at all times. I'd like to know why you have chosen short stories as your major form of writing."

I suspect circumstance more than intent made me a short story writer. In the early stages of my career, the time I had available to write was limited--ten minutes here, a hour there, fifteen minutes somewhere else--and I could not keep a single project in my head. I found that I often had to reread what I'd written before I could continue writing and there comes a point where a project is too long to reread and add to in the short spurts of time I had available.

Also, success breeds. I found early success with short stories, getting them published in non-paying markets while I was in my mid-teens and selling my first story to a professional market while I was still a teenager. Every time I sold a short story, it served as an incentive to write another.

Although every novel I've finished has been published--to good reviews--it took me years to place them all and I couldn't bring myself to invest time and effort into long-term projects like novels with no clear payoff when I could write a short story in a few days and possibly see it in print and money in my pocket in as little as a few weeks.

"I am also curious about how you feel about Ezines as a forum for writers," D.A. also wrote, "Do you feel that they are as viable a vehicle as print magazines for a writer seeking to have her work read and noticed? Do you have a preference?"

My preference is to write for publications that pay me. Currently, the majority of paying markets for my fiction are ink-on-paper publications.

But that isn't exactly what you want to know, is it?

So, a bit of history. When I started writing back in the dark ages, using the burnt end of sticks to scratch my work on cave walls, I was a science fiction fan. Many science fiction fans published fanzines (fan magazines) by, for, and about science fiction/science fiction fans. These were often printed on ditto machines and mimeographs. These were amateur publications that did not pay contributors. And these publications were--except for my junior high and high school literary magazines and high school newspaper--where I first saw my work in print.

Science fiction fans also published semiprozines (semi-professional magazines) that paid contributors a token amount of money--often a fraction of a cent per word--and served as stepping stones into writing for the professional science fiction magazines. I also wrote for a few of these.

I see today's e-zines as the modern version of those fanzines and semiprozines. They are often produced by people with a great love for science fiction or mystery fiction or some other genre but who may lack real background in writing, editing, and publishing. For that reason, they range from terrible to terrific.

If you write for e-zines, try to write for the better e-zines--the ones that look good and aren't filled with typos and spelling errors, the ones that consistently have stories selected for best-of-year anthologies, the ones that are edited by people with some clue about copyright law, etc., etc., etc.

Although there are hardliners on both sides of the write-for-love and never-write-except-for-money debate, I fall somewhere in the middle. If you give your work away, do it with the full knowledge of what you are doing and why you're doing it.

And always strive to place your work in the best publications possible, whether they pay or not. You are, ultimately, known by the company you keep, and if the company you keep is ill-mannered and illiterate, it won't reflect well on you or your work.

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