Tag Archives: questions

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

X is for Xenophile


by Lillian Csernica on April 28, 2016

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From Dictionary.com:

noun
1.  a person who is attracted to foreign peoples, cultures, or customs.

 

Hello.  My name is Lillian and I am a xenophile.

I would explain why I’m a xenophile, but if you’ve gotten this far into the alphabet with me, it’s safe to assume you’ve already figured it out.

 

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Filed under Blog challenges, dreams, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Food, Goals, history, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, nature, research, travel, Writing

Q is for Query


by Lillian Csernica on April 20, 2016

 

I thought it might be entertaining to list some of the questions I’ve asked and been asked in my many travels hither and yon.

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Where’s your horse?  (Do people in Europe still think all Americans are cowboys?)

Do you live in a grape field?  (I didn’t know what to say to that until I realized the person asking the question meant a vineyard.)

Is this your mother?  (No, she was not my mother.)

Does your husband want to be in the picture too?  (The person with me was not my husband.  My husband wasn’t even in the same country at the time!)

 

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Where are we?

Are you sure that’s where we are?

Then why aren’t we seeing ( insert name of offramp, landmark, national monument, etc.)?

 

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Where’s the bank?  It’s inside the post office?  Where’s the post office?  (The local branch turned out to be about a mile away, on the far side of the Yokohama train station, on the third floor of an office building.  I would never have found it had it not been for the very helpful Japanese security guard who kept talking to me as if I really did understand most of what he was saying. At that time, I didn’t, but I caught enough to get me to the third floor.)

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In French:  Do you speak French?

Non.

In German: Do you speak German?

Nein.

In Nederlands: Do you speak Nederlands?

Nay.

In English: Do you Speak English?

Yes!

(I was on the train back to the Netherlands from Germany when a nice German customs official needed to know if I had anything to declare.  He was so patient with me.  It must have been obvious I was really nervous and didn’t have a clue about what I was expected to say.  I’d already been asked for my “papers” {passport} twice.)

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