Tag Archives: marketing

The Perils of Writing Short Fiction


by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2017

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Opportunity cost. Cost/benefit analysis. Return on investment.

I remember these terms from my Economics and Accounting classes. Little did I know I would one day be applying them to which writing projects I chose to pursue.

So far, the Flower Maiden Saga has inspired me to write three consecutive novels. The farther I go in editing and polishing Book One for the big agent pitch, the more of the causes and consequences of the main storyline I see. The core plots for Books Four and Five have already presented themselves.

This is wonderful. I’m excited about all of it. The thing is, my first love is writing short stories. Reading short stories in Asimov’s and Weird Tales and my English Lit. classes made me want to become a writer. The first time I walked into a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXI and saw my name on the table of contents right there with Ramsey Campbell and Ed Gorman, I very nearly exploded with happiness.

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Short stories are great, but novels are where the money is. I’ve heard that many times. Novels take a while to write and a while to polish and package for publication. Not so with short stories. Short stories will get your name out there and keep it out there.

These are the five main perils of writing short fiction:

  1. Why waste a good idea on a short story? These days it’s all about writing novels. Give the readers what they want, over and over again. Build that brand. Make more money. Fine. If that’s what you want, go for it. Bear in mind there is much to be said for the art and craft of the short story. Hemingway’s “The Killers” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” remain vivid in my mind thirty-five years after I read them in high school.
  2. Short stories are often just one shots. That one shot might be brilliant, but then you have to go write another story. Is that one brilliant story continuing to earn royalties or selling well as a Kindle Single? I visit various writers’ groups online, and I find the emphasis on money to be disheartening. Short stories can be built into a novel. One of my favorite fantasy novels, A Bait of Dreams by Jo Clayton, started out as three short stories that appeared in Asimov’s.
  3. It can be difficult to pack a complex story idea into a limited word count. On the other hand, doing so can result in a stronger story. When I wrote “Fallen Idol,” my first short story sale, I got so caught up in all the research and characters and how-to books’ advice I thought I could rise to the challenge of writing a real novel. Fortunately, I had an attack of reality. All the research and ideas imploded, resulting in a much stronger short story.
  4. Unless you’re selling to the top professional markets, short fiction doesn’t pay much. If you’re sending out enough stories to generate an acceptable amount of sales, way to go! That’s not easy to do, even for the Big Names. I will say that anthologies that pay up front then give you a cut of the royalties can provide some worthwhile income.
  5. Here’s the Peril that cuts to the heart of what it means to be a writer. Are you going to write about what you want to write about, or are you going to write what you think will sell to the markets where you want your work to appear? The Digital Age has opened up a whole lot of  markets. They may not pay much. They may not pay at all. Still, you can get your words out there. Targeting a particular market is a perfectly reasonable career strategy. My first sale to Weird Tales was another day for joyful explosion.

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It comes down to those basic questions we all ask our main characters:

What do you want?

How badly do you want it?

What are you willing to give up in order to get it?

When you’ve answered these three questions, you will be on your way to navigating through the perilous process of telling the stories only you can tell.

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Filed under editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, romance, science fiction, tall ships, Writing

NaNoWriMo Round 2


by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016

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Back in 2014, I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of Garden of Lies, the second book in my Flower Maiden trilogy.

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016. I hope to get to the 50,000 word mark on the third book of the trilogy. 7 pages a day, every day.

I thumb my nose at the Forces of Chaos that beset me on a daily basis. Come what may, I shall write my daily quota. By December 1, I will have at least half of the first draft of my new novel.

(Then comes the Labor of Hercules known as Editing the Manuscript, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.)

I send my best wishes to everybody else crazy dedicated enough to embrace NaNoWriMo!

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Filed under Awards, creativity, Depression, dreams, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, love, marriage, nature, romance, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing

Passion vs. Marketing


by Lillian Csernica on July 10, 2014

When I started writing I’d go nuts with a new idea.  I’d sit there with my pen and notebook or I’d be at the keyboard just going at it like lightning.  Some ideas were big enough to carry me along for days.  The characters just kept talking or fighting or having adventures.  The worlds kept opening up to me, demanding a record of all their details.  I’d end up with some really hot stuff, but a lot of it was middle, sometimes an ending.  I had to go back and figure out the whole story so I could fit this smokin’ hot piece of writing into it.

These days I’m a little more cautious.  I watch the sound and fury inside my head and think about it for a while.  Novel or short story?  One book or three?  One genre?  More than one?  I tend to evaluate my ideas in terms of marketability.  While this is a practical approach, it also takes some of the fun out of that first rush of inspiration.  I do think about the nuts and bolts such as plot and character.  Those can also be approached from a marketing standpoint first.  A lot of editors want to see POC characters, LGBT characters, and stories that speak to what happens in their lives.

If somebody asked me, “So where is the best place to start?” I’d have to say, “What do you want?  Where are you in your writing, and where do you want to go?”  When you have a new character that you’re all excited about, run with it.  Interview him or her.  Let that character talk to you and tell you the kind of stories your best friend might tell you at 3 a.m. after a long night and some hard times.  It doesn’t matter how much or how little of this material you use.

IT’S ALL WRITING, and WRITING IS GOOD.

Then there’s the other approach.  You’re watching the market listings.  You see a new anthology that wants stories about capturing endangered alien species for the Intergalactic Breeding Program.  It just so happens you wrote a paper on the rare Checkerboard Chameleon that is rumored to live out in the wilds of Madagascar.  Looks like you’ve got what you need to start building a submission for that market.

Hold it.

Step back for a minute.

Yes, you have serious knowledge about a rare species and its habitat.  Have you been to Madagascar yourself?  If you have, fabulous.  If you haven’t, you can probably work around that.  Do you have field experience going out and capturing live specimens?  If not, you’re probably going to want to talk to somebody who’s done it and knows the pitfalls.  Then you have to write the story, and rewrite it, and maybe have your expert look it over.  When the story is done, you send it off to the market and cross your fingers.  Your personal credentials will help, but the bottom line is the story.

All of this takes TIME.

What happens if that market rejects the story?  Here you have this custom-built piece of fiction that represents a whole lot of time and energy.  Are there any other markets out there where this story might stand a good chance of being accepted?

Now we have come full circle.  That is the magic question you want to ask yourself BEFORE you sink all that time and energy into writing the story.

If the answer is yes, there are at least five or six other markets where your story fits the guidelines, then go for it.  Be realistic.  Don’t stretch the boundaries of likelihood just because you’re all hot and bothered about this one story idea.

If the answer is no, fall back and rethink your approach.  There may be other markets where your expertise will give your odds a boost, and the story you come up with will have broader marketability potential.  Maximize your investment of time, energy, research, and submission duration.

Passion, inspiration, drive, are all important to the creative process.  Marketing strategy is crucial for business success.  Knowing how to walk the line between them takes experience.  The more you write, the more you submit your stories, the more you learn about yourself, your work, and the business of writing.

May your burning desire to write remain an eternal flame.

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