Friday, July 8, 2011

The Big Boy: Deadline Dead...Needs...How to Make Your Homeless Story Rich

Since last week I’ve been preparing The Memory Eater.  I’ll just leave it at that for now.  When I have something concrete, I’ll let everyone know.

To make this humungous post easier to navigate, I'm going to break it up into three sections.


1. I’m working on a mock beginning to the anthology which means I’ll be contacting those authors whose work I plan to use as an example for pitching purposes.  There will only be about 2-3 authors, and the ones I have decided on simply have the best flow together.  That doesn’t mean the rest of the work isn’t as good or better.  It means I need to present part of the story, so the puzzle pieces need to be in their proper places.
While I work on this project, I’m going to dissolve the deadline with the intent to inform everyone two weeks prior to the end of submissions.  That means from here on out, those who didn’t think they had enough time to submit can start writing.  When I need to close submissions, I’ll make an announcement and everyone will have two weeks to get their stories in.

Setting the deadline to TBA (to be announced) will be beneficial for three reasons (always list things in threes):

·    It will increase the amount of quality, properly themed stories I have to choose from.  In turn, this will allow me to fill some of the holes in the anthology.

·    It gives me a bit more time to place the anthology where I’d like it to be.

·    And in the coming months, it will grant me some leeway for when my second son is born.

In the meantime, since I have read a majority of the submissions, there’s no reason to keep those authors waiting any longer.  During the next two weeks, I’m going to send out two different emails.  One will unfortunately be a rejection, whereas the other will be a notification that said author’s work is on the shortlist for inclusion in the anthology.  If you don’t get an email, I haven’t read your submission yet.

Here are some numbers for the curious crunchers:

100:  Right around June 10th, submissions broke the 100 mark. 

121:  To date, I’ve received 121 submissions.

12:  Out of those 121 submissions, there are about a dozen I haven’t read.

24:  So out of the roughly 110 stories I have read, I’m currently considering 24 of them.

13:  Roughly 13% of the submissions didn’t even make an attempt to incorporate the Memory Eater.

8:  About 8% of the submissions twisted the theme too far.  Meaning something like magic or gnomes or mother earth was the source of memory erasure.  I was able to make an exception on some, but others fell into this category and will be rejected.

3:  3% sent their submissions as an attachment when the guidelines specifically stated to paste it into the body of an email.

1:  One person sent me a novel and asked if I would edit it.

4,793:  I predicted around 5,000 blog hits for the month of June and came in right under at 4,793, which isn’t too shabby, especially since during the first month (May), the blog had 803 views.

245,000:  I have a 631-page Word document running with over 245,000 words from all of the submissions.

2,310:  This blog post is 2,310 words, minus this sentence, which is more than the 2,024 average word count of the submissions.

As we move forward, I’m projecting to end with a total of around 200 submissions and a shortlist of roughly 45-50 excellent stories to choose from.  So for the 24 people I plan to email in the next two weeks—it’s more than likely you’ll have a 50/50 shot of making it into the anthology.

For anyone who gets a rejection—I apologize in advance.  I know it sucks to receive these, but do know that I read every single word of every single submission unlike most people in this position.  I didn’t eliminate anyone based on credentials—that’s why I didn’t ask for them.  And a lot of the work I’m about to reject can easily be published elsewhere, as I’m sure will be the case.

Moving forward again.

2. What kind of story is C. P. still looking for?  Not looking for?
Okay, so now that we’re pretty far into the submission process, this is going to be a great reference for anyone hoping to make it into the anthology.  That’s not to say if an author chooses a different story or is already in the middle of one that it doesn’t stand a chance.  I’m simply handing out some answers to the test.

Stories which will have a good chance to succeed:

·    Futuristic.  What does the Memory Eater do in the future?  How does it affect the future?

·    Uplifting endings.  Preferably where the MC or MC’s love doesn’t die.

·    Con artists.  Haven’t gotten one of these yet.

·    Deleting a memory not pertaining to love.  Believe it or not, love was a big hit with this anthology.  I’d love like to see other things deleted.  Like a movie.  A bully.  An awkward situation.  A word.  Fad.  Parents making love…anyone?

·    Political.  As far as submissions are concerned, this is a big void.

·    The Memory Eater is…GOOD?  Most of the stories have been about the Memory Eater’s cons, but what are the pros?  Can this device be used in a positive way?  Can it, say, save a life instead of end one?  Help those with disabilities?  Ease the pain of those who are dying?  I’d love like to find out.

Stories which will be starting the race from behind:

·    Anything taking place inside a Memory Eater store.  If you choose this theme, tread lightly, for you will be in a pool of many.

·    Couples deleting each other’s existence because of cheating/lying/murder.  Again, a pool of many.

·    Altering the purpose of the Memory Eater.  There’re only so many of these stories that I can accept.

·    Not using the Memory Eater as the source of deletion.  At this point, I can’t consider stories like this, so they’ll never finish the race.

3. Here are some helpful tips to make your story catch my eye.  Even if you aren't submitting to this anthology, these will help guide your stories for other publications.

You wouldn’t try and cram every possession you own into a backpack while a blazing fire sinks your home into the ground, would you?

Now think of that backpack as a short story and your possessions as ideas.  First off, it’s not even possible to cram all of your stuff into a backpack, so the same holds true for a short story—there’s a limit as to what you can accomplish.  Less is more, especially if you want to survive.

In the short time you have to survive, don’t try and complicate your story with multiple subplots, unnecessary descriptions and back-story, characters who aren’t even important, et cetera.

Write with the mentality to just get by.  Take your main character, figure out what obstacle will be in his/her way, figure out what they’ll do to overcome/succumb to it, and get him/her to the end in a timely fashion.  Then, once you have a clear view of what is truly important, once you’re out of the burning house, revisit your backpack and remove/add/change things.

Just always keep the backbone of your story in mind.

Don’t be afraid to write your idea out.

I used to dive right into a short story with a basic concept of what I was trying to achieve, figuring it would pan itself out in the end.  Once in a while you get lucky and everything ends up making sense.  But for most of us, we end up with a jumbled mess.  Even if it’s written flawlessly, we’re still left with a jumbled mess of flawless writing.

Write the idea out.

Say you just got this awesome idea for a story, example being a guy finds a portal in his basement to another dimension, and you’re like, “OMG, bestseller!”  You hang your “lunch” sign up at your desk, go at your Word icon like it’s the last Word icon on earth and assault the keyboard with everything you’ve got.

Guy finds portal…guy goes through it…guy finds…what does he find?  Um…hold on…what’s he wearing? this new dimension, can he breath the air?...wait a minute…is he single?...I’ll need to know just in case he meets any alien babes…if he meets alien babes…will they be aliens or humans?...what color will they be?

But really, the most important question is, “What’s the main plot?”  Why did this guy discover a portal?  A guy finding a portal isn’t a plot, especially since there is no end.  And to begin, you need to know how to end.  What purpose will this portal serve the plot?  There needs to be a clear, well-defined plot in order to create the central conflict.

If you spent more time plotting this idea out, you could break it down into a poor, single guy who never had a taste of the good life.  But then he finds a portal in his basement which leads to another dimension where he’s filthy rich.  So, in order to fulfill his dreams, he abducts himself and assumes the rich roll, unaware of the rules of that alternate reality.  In the end, he learns that having everything is almost as unpleasant as having nothing, especially since there is nothing left to accomplish.  So he attempts to go back to his original life but discovers that his alternate self is finally happy and refuses to switch places.  The alternate self kicks the original guy back into the rich life and finds a way to close the portal. 


Don’t rush the story, especially the end.  And you don’t need to save the twist for the last sentence.

I’m the guiltiest person out there of rushing the ending.  I spend so much time on a story, perfecting every line, only to get antsy in the end and try to wrap up what was supposed to be ten pages into one.  Five of my published short stories were completed with this mentality, and out of those five, guess how many resulted in editors saying, “You need to redo the ending”? 

All five.

I noticed this with a lot of stories.  People began with a fantastic idea, but let it all fall apart in the end.  Take your time.  If you put hours worth of effort into the first ¾ of the story and get that antsy feeling of just wanting to be done, put the story away for a few days, or even a few weeks, and work on another story.  That way, when you get antsy with the new story, revisit the old one and finish the ending with a new appreciation for how much work you’ve already put in.  (That’s what I did with this blog post!)

One other theme I kept coming across while reading submissions was authors trying to carry a twist all the way until the end…in some cases the last sentence in the story.  Sometimes this works, but most times it backfires.

If your story is complex, you can't wrap everything up neatly in one paragraph.  That's like tying 109 computer cords together with a string from your underwear. 

Remember, you need a good, solid story to get published.  A twist is simply a way to make that story different from all the others.

Avoid clichés because it makes blood boil, rubs people the wrong way, glazes azure or emerald green eyes over, pushes all buttons…oh you get the point.

Reading over a cliché in a story for me is like watching a really awkward moment on television.  I cringe.  I turn away.  I say “no way” if there’re too many.  And by clichés, I’m not only referring to overused phrases—I’m talking about characters, actions, plots, et cetera.

The best advice I can give for avoiding this is to find out what the clichés are.  I wrote a blog post way back when about agent, reader and editor pet peeves.  It can be found here.  That’s a pretty good place to start.

Have a voice.

This is one of the most important tools an author can have.  By voice, I’m referring to the narrator of your stories.  Even in third person, you should have a voice.  It’s the way you structure sentences.  The weird descriptions you use.  The energy in your words.  It’s the element which draws a reader in.  Makes them want to keep reading.  Have to keep reading.

While a twist is like a hairdo, your voice is your entire wardrobe.  It’s how you set yourself apart from others.  How you get noticed.

To have a voice, you need to loosen up and not take yourself so seriously.  These stories aren’t technical descriptions for NASA.  Some writers are so serious that reading their stories is like reading a corpse.

In closing, finding your voice is just being yourself.  Having confidence.  Believing you’ve got this.

Now you’ve got all of that, right?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding serious health problems, please contact Wikipedia.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding the anthology, please contact me at

Thank you all for following the progress of this anthology.  I just want to let you know that I’m working hard to bring this concept to a healthy, fruitful life.

This is, after all, my baby.

P. S. – It doesn’t bother me when an agent sends a form rejection.  What does bother me is when they feel the need to add me to their contact list and constantly send spam about how well their profound agency is doing and that I should buy their authors’ books.  Um, NO THANKS.  If that isn’t horribly trashy/tacky enough, I don't know what is.