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Harry
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2004 7:00 am    Post subject: The Learning Tree Reply with quote

Something I learned about a short story.

I couldn’t write an ending to a short story in a way that would satisfy the average reader. No epiphany! The people just walked off into the sunset unchanged with the same problem they walked in with.

So I came to the conclusion that a short story is not a novel. A short story is a misnomer, it’s not a story at all. It’s a piece of a story, just as a snapshot shows an instant of action in the course of a life. The life goes on -- so does the story, and the little piece of it that I wrote has no beginning and no end.

I decided not to worry about it. Get on with the next one. The people in my story will get on without me.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2004 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry, this is an important concept for us who are working towards getting a short story published. Do you think editors consider the climax or epiphany in a short story when deciding to publish it in their magazine?

In other words, would they publish a well written story that has good character development but has no climax? As you say, "The people just walked off into the sunset unchanged with the same problem they walked in with."
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Harry
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2004 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave,

Editors think whatever their publishers tell them to think, and all a publisher is interested in is the sales of his publication. A 'name' will sell a story - so will controversy - or eroticism - or religious mysticism - whatever happens to be hot at the moment.

I spent a good part of this last winter reading just about every short story written since WW II I could get my hands on, and it's amazing how many of them are written without closure, (75% or more I'd say).

If you intend to sell what you write, Dave, I'd say pick a subject I've mentioned above, and bearing in mind that one hell of a lot of very, very good writers are doing the same thing. Endings are not important. Neither are beginnings. It's what's in the middle that counts.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2004 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for answering, Harry. I've been playing around with writing some stories that have a lot of middle and very little ending. Two friends complained that one of them needed closure and I disagreed.

However, I did finish one a couple of weeks ago, complete with beginning, middle, and ending. I submitted it to one magazine, just to get my toes wet. Is that what one does when he or she submits their first short story?
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Harry
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2004 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It’s one way I guess. It’s the old-fashioned way.

These days you might die of old age before they even acknowledge receipt of your submission. Once, probably, is not enough. If you’ve set up a system for this one magazine, try sending in a new submission every week or so. Eventually they’ll pile up on someone’s desk and they will feel compelled to respond in some way. Even if they only tell you they’re not accepting submissions any more. Keep sending them. Somebody at the magazine is going to say,

“What are we going to do with this pile of stuff from David Rothman?”

“I dunno, you want them?”

“I dunno, you read any of them?”

“No, I ain’t, you wanna read one?”

“Yeah, gimme’ one, I’m on my way to the john anyways.”

That’s the way Leopold Bloom, sitting in the neighborhood outhouse, in “Ulysses” first read the riveting article about Dublin.

... and if you’ve done a good job; if any one of your stories taken at random is a masterpiece, in just such a ridiculous scenario, the guy will come back from the john and say ...

“Hey! This is bloody good. We can use this next month. You got his address?”
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2004 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not very encouraging when you learn how things in this business work. Bottom line is we have to be prepared to receive a lot of rejection. Sometimes they're not even polite enough, or too busy, to read a few lines.
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Brian Peters
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a different take on the concept of a short story. Let me cross the room and pitch this idea -

A short story is a SHORT story in which has a beginning, middle and end elbeit they are not as indepth nor character building as a full fledged story. I believe a reader has a "right" to know what happened. Was the conflict resolved? Will Aunt Sarah survive her cancer surgery? The reader has been immersed in your world for a brief glimpse and should come out of the dunking fulfilled.

A piece of flash fiction, on the other hand, has no context and can leave the reader gasping for breath because, in my opinion, that is what he/she is expecting - a quick dunking and your out.

All the Westlake pieces (the ones I've read) have an ending - a very satisfying ending like a beer on a hot summer's night. That is why we all enjoy reading them.

Just my two sense worth.
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Harry
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Sunday’s NY Times, Andrew Sullivan reviewed the new biographical novel by Tony Hendra. In it he made what I think was a very wise statement. Maybe you won’t agree, but I think it sums up what I’ve been trying to say.

“How the story ends is not something to dwell on. It is the journey that matters.”

I think that goes for life as well as fiction.

Trashy fiction always seems to have a rock solid outline, the rising and the falling of climaxes always come at the right moments -you can almost sense what’s coming next, and when they’re over you’re satisfied -- you were there at the beginning and you followed the action right through to the end. But it’s the ones like Ulysses, and The Sun Also Rises, Moby Dick. You get to the end of them and they leave you with a question. You carry them with you for the rest of your life -- they’re never really finished.
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Brian Peters
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry,

I think I see where you are going. A novel must have a plot but a story needs a point. How that point is illustrated is what the reader is left with. The story may not have structure as long as the writer has made a point.
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Harry
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I look back at the three novels I mentioned, ie; Ulysses, The Sun Also Rises and Moby Dick, I don’t think of them as motivated by plot. I think maybe that’s what Sullivan is driving at. What did the characters go through to get from the beginning to the end, are they wiser, have they learned anything -- and most of all, have their experiences rubbed off on me?

Good fiction stays with me. I learn from it, and when I'm finished a work of good fiction, I don’t want to start another book right away.

You soon learn the good from the bad. Nora Roberts, for example. They’re packaging them two to a set now, you can finish them both while you’re sitting in the sand at the beach in the Hamptons. Then you can throw them in the trash can on the way home.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Grisham is another one. They all seem to follow the same formula that leaves the reader tossing the novel in the fireplace.

I agree with you but Ernest Hemingway is a difficult writer to read. I did managed to read Moby Dick and Madame Bovary several years ago at the urgings of another aspiring writer.

Good reads are like truffles - hard to find but well worth the digging.
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Harry
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’ve been accused of being an unofficial press agent for Ernest Hemingway. Maybe it’s because I became a fan of his from his short stories written in Michigan before he went to France. When I was a kid I saved up enough money to buy a complete set of his work, this was before he ever thought of writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

In the set was the short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” and in this one little four page work that has no beginning and no end, I was suddenly made aware of the stunning power of dialogue. The reader is suddenly thrust into a scene between a man and a woman and from the intimate nature of their conversation, they expose themselves and the bleak future that lies before them.

They’re unforgettable, to me at least, and I see them now just as clearly as I did then.

You can read it in its entirety at the following URL.

http://www.fti.uab.es/sgolden/docencia/hills.htm
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry wrote:
When I look back at the three novels I mentioned, ie; Ulysses, The Sun Also Rises and Moby Dick, I don’t think of them as motivated by plot. I think maybe that’s what Sullivan is driving at. What did the characters go through to get from the beginning to the end, are they wiser, have they learned anything -- and most of all, have their experiences rubbed off on me?

Good fiction stays with me. I learn from it, and when I'm finished a work of good fiction, I don’t want to start another book right away.



And I bet you want to read good fiction again at a later date. But how many want to read a Koontz or Grisham novel over and over again. They are good reads, good entertainment, but you get everything you'll ever want out of them the first time you read them.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
Harry wrote:
When I look back at the three novels I mentioned, ie; Ulysses, The Sun Also Rises and Moby Dick, I don’t think of them as motivated by plot. I think maybe that’s what Sullivan is driving at. What did the characters go through to get from the beginning to the end, are they wiser, have they learned anything -- and most of all, have their experiences rubbed off on me?

Good fiction stays with me. I learn from it, and when I'm finished a work of good fiction, I don’t want to start another book right away.



And I bet you want to read good fiction again at a later date. But how many want to read a Koontz or Grisham novel over and over again? They are good reads, good entertainment, but you get everything you'll ever want out of them the first time you read them.


Sorry Harry, I forgot to sign in. Dave.
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Theresa Allen
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To Dave:

"It's not very encouraging when you learn how things in this business work. Bottom line is we have to be prepared to receive a lot of rejection. Sometimes they're not even polite enough, or too busy, to read a few lines."
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I think it's a matter of percentages. The more you submit, the better your chances. If my own experiences mean anything, the vast majority of publishers were quite gracious, with a formal "rejection" letter. A couple sent my own query letter back with "can't use" scribbled on the bottom. I don't think I didn't hear from anyone that I sent a query to. And, I actually got the "white elephant" that I wrote (a trade manual) considered for publication! I say, use the "shot gun" method. Find every publishing house that you can find that seems even remotely in the ballpark with what you are submitting and let it fly!
Good luck!
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Heidi
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 9:50 am    Post subject: Publishing Reply with quote

I agree with Theresa and say go for it! Send your stuff to everyone and everywhere it's bound to be useful somewhere. But on the other hand don't send too much of your stuff to one place or person at one time. I learned that the hard way. Some people just don't like you (sucks) Crying or Very sad . I've sent numerous pieces into Teen Ink magazine and they haven't even replied to any of it with a rejection (which makes sense considering they get a lot of submissions every month). Still, my friend sent in something and so did his friend who was like ten or twelve whose piece did they choose? The ten year old's piece. So it comes with the territory I guess. Still I'm glad I found this place. If it weren't for Clive and Alice's generosity I wouldn't have so many pieces published on the web! Well enouogh of my rambling. t.t.y.l. Cool
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Theresa, thanks for the advice. It's been over a month since I sent "The Blue Room" to one magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction. It's a "literary" science fiction story, if there is such a thing.

I let one friend read it the other day and I reread it. There are a couple of small revisions and edits I've decided to make, then I'll try a "shot gun approach," not sticking to Science Fiction magazines.

Getting back to Harry's original topic. My story has a beginning, middle, and end. Most of the time writing it was spent on the middle, then the beginning. My "critic" said the story did'nt start moving until the last part and the ending was great. I'm proud of the middle. The final part was written in a breeze. Oh well.
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Clive
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:22 am    Post subject: Publishers mass mail list construction Reply with quote

I am not a writer of stories, but I am working on a how to manual on The Art Of Cutting Glass and then the art of leaded windows and maybe the art of beveling glass. I have watched this thread evolve and I see a need here for a page of links to publishers that a person can click on and they get all 200 publishers (#-s may vary) in the address of the e-mail… mass mailing in reverse.

If some one wants to do a little research for addresses I will keep the list current for you. I will start a blank page in the forum to discuss publishers.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 7:06 am    Post subject: Re: Publishers mass mail list construction Reply with quote

Clive wrote:
I see a need here for a page of links to publishers that a person can click on and they get all 200 publishers (#-s may vary) in the address of the e-mail… mass mailing in reverse.

If some one wants to do a little research for addresses I will keep the list current for you. I will start a blank page in the forum to discuss publishers.


Clive there is a writer who has a website that lists publishers and agents throughtout the world. It's free. Check it out. Is this the kind of thing you want to do? http://everyonewhosanyone.com/index.html
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Clive
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 7:13 am    Post subject: nope Reply with quote

Not really, I looked at the site and it is not a mass-mailing set up.
I would like to develop a script so that when it is clicked an e-mail opens with hundreds of addresses, just a mass mailing set up…

That site gives me a head ach trying to find an address…

It must be simple, a one click and poof all listed in the script will get a copy.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would we be able to choose only those from the script to whom we wanted to submit? And of course those on the list must accept electronic submissions. And they must accept the same formats.
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Clive
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 7:44 am    Post subject: Lets all think of what can be created Reply with quote

Then some research to isolate the publishers and load them one at a time maybe.

Maybe have a description of what they want. Some thing to help get the message out with ease.
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Theresa Allen
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 9:15 am    Post subject: Publishing Reply with quote

Something else to keep in mind, Clive, some publishers require specific things with an initial cold submission. For instance, some only want a query letter. Some want a query letter with an outline and/or table of contents. Some want sample chapters. Along with submission format requirements, you might want to include these as well. Also, I think it helps if you have the name of a specific person to send the submission off to. If there is a listing of who the managing editors of the various departments of the different publishing houses are that you wish to list, include those. I think that if you address your email to a specific person, you increase your chances of actually having your manuscript read.

Dave, there was a period in my life when I read tons of Asimov. I thought it was great brain candy!
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Gerard Jones
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2004 5:11 am    Post subject: Re: nope Reply with quote

Clive wrote:
Not really, I looked at the site and it is not a mass-mailing set up.
I would like to develop a script so that when it is clicked an e-mail opens with hundreds of addresses, just a mass mailing set up…

That site gives me a head ach trying to find an address…

It must be simple, a one click and poof all listed in the script will get a copy.


It really doesn't take all that long to cut and paste an individual query letter to every worthwhile lit agent, editor and publisher in the US, UK and Canada, 2,200 or so. G.
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gerard, welcome to the Writers Voice. Hope you will contribute to the discussions here and post some of your work.

[Gerard Jones is the writer who created the website I referred to in my post above.]
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