Ursula Le Guin Answers Writing Questions

On her website and at Book View Cafe, Ursula K. Le Guin has been answering questions about writing. One of the greatest authors of our time is willing to answer our questions–this is an amazing gift.

Her latest entry has selected comments about online critique groups, including one from yours truly. I can say without hesitation that Le Guin is my favorite author, and has been for a long time, so having her respond to something I wrote (even just a brief comment) leaves me speechless.

Le Guin is generously offering to answer more questions. You’ll find the form at the bottom of her latest entry (linked above). I have questions about everything–plot, structure, characterization, foreshadowing, etc. Basically, all possible aspects of writing. It will be difficult to narrow down the list to one specific question. Hope I can get it in before the queue fills up.

Reading Octavia Butler Stories

In preparation for FOGCon, I picked up a copy of Bloodchild and Other Stories. (And by “picked up,” I mean “downloaded to my Kindle.”) Although I haven’t read any of her novels, Butler is one of the many sci-fi greats on my ever-growing list of authors to read, so I was thrilled to find this collection.

Butler’s prose is concise and exact. No wasted words. The sparseness and clarity of her writing highlights the complexity of her ideas. Every story deals with difficult, interesting issues–from disease to communication to religion. Two of my favorites in this collection–“Bloodchild” and “Amnesty”–take a look at human and alien relations. I was struck by the interplay of darkness and hope woven throughout her writing.

Also of interest are two essays. In “Furor Scribendi,” Butler gives advice to the new writer, which boils down to the standard (but useful) read, write, and submit. She says, “Let nothing substandard slip through. If you notice something that needs fixing, fix it, no excuses.” She argues that habit is better than inspiration and talent. (I agree.) The end of the essay is one word: Persist.

“Positive Obsession” describes her life as a writer, including moments from her childhood and her first sale, an openly told account of her experiences. Not only did Butler persist, she got up at two or three in the morning to write. That level of dedication leaves me in awe.

In the future, I hope to read some of Butler’s novels. Her stories left me thinking (even days later, I’m still turning them over, viewing them from different angles.)

Motivation Through Shiny Stickers

I’ve tried several methods to increase my writing productivity. Daily word counts don’t work well for me, especially since I spend so much time revising. Often, I cut words during revision, and then I end up with a negative word count for the day. Not motivating. The goal to write every day isn’t great either, because when I inevitably miss a day, I feel bad.

But what does work for me? A neat calendar and fun stickers! I got the idea from another writer on a forum. Now I have a nifty calendar with pictures of space, and whenever I write, revise, or submit, I get a star. (A gold star for new writing.) If I finish a big project, I get a special sticker.

Guys, it is so much fun.

With the calendar, I have visual evidence of my work. (Too often, it feels like I’ve done nothing, because it takes so long for me to produce a finished story.) I’ve been writing down the stories I’ve been working on too, so I can track where I’ve been spending my time.

The best thing is, the calendar/stickers actually get me to write more. I don’t like to have an empty day, so I tell myself I’ll just work on something for a few minutes. Sometimes those minutes turn into an hour or two. I’ve only been using this method for a month, but in that month I’ve written almost every day. It’s worked much better than just being determined to write every day.

So, in conclusion, stickers are a great motivator!

Sale to Escape Pod

I’m pleased to announce that my short story “Windows” will be appearing in Escape Pod for Artemis Rising, a month-long event featuring women and non-binary authors.

This is my second sale, and the first one to a SFWA qualifying market, so I am very excited. Onward!

2015 Statistics

I always want to know about submission statistics. How many stories do most people send out? How many times do they get rejected? What’s the most common story length? Genre? Highest number of times rejected? Fastest acceptance? I’m not sure why I find submission statistics so fascinating–perhaps it’s just interesting to look at the data.

In 2015, I sent out 14 new stories, received 2 acceptances and 59 rejections. Both published stories were rejected 2 times before getting accepted. My most rejected story received 11 rejections. I trunked one story, and the rest are either submitted or waiting to be sent off.

My shortest story was 250 words. My longest 6,300. Most of my stories were flash fiction, or close to it, with 9 stories coming in at 1,500 words or less. The total number of words submitted was about 33,000. (But oh man, did I ever write a bunch of stuff that I never finished or immediately trunked without submitting.) I’d classify 7 stories as science fiction and 7 stories as fantasy. Until I categorized them all, I didn’t realize I’d written an even split. I didn’t do it on purpose–I just wrote what I felt like writing.) I submitted to pro, semi-pro, and token markets.

I should mention that I’m cheating, since these numbers also include the last few months of 2014 (when I started writing.) I also have a few stories that are basically done and just need some light revision, so those will be included in the 2016 statistics, even though I wrote them this year.

Overall, this was a decent year. Much better than I expected. I got something published. (Yay!) And I have another story coming out next year. That’s a win in my book.