Tag Archives: writing for publication

Bloody Fabulous and a title poll

Rather belated, but urban fantasy anthology about fashion Bloody Fabulous, ed. Ekaterina Sedia, was out in October. My story is in it! You can get a copy from Amazon or Book Depository, and there’s an ebook version as well. My story THE FIRST WITCH OF DAMANSARA is about annoying family members and pretty dresses.

Vivian’s late grandmother was a witch–which is just a way of saying she was a woman of unusual insight. Vivian, in contrast, had a mind like a hi-tech blender. She was sharp and purposeful, but she did not understand magic.

This used to be a problem. Magic ran in the family. Even her mother’s second cousin who was adopted did small spells on the side. She sold these from a stall in Kota Bharu. Her main wares were various types of fruit fried in batter, but if you bought five pisang or cempedak goreng, she threw in a jampi for free.

Vivian is an accountant. I’ve realised I use accountants too often in my stories, as a sort of symbol of order and rationality. I must diversify. Why should accountants take on all the fictive burden of championing order? Why not plumbers, transfer pricing specialists, fish feed salespeople, corporate communications executives?

***

I am trying to decide what I would call a collection of short stories by me.¬†Awesome Title of Awesomeness is the current working title, but it probably won’t do. What proposed title do you like best?

1) Here, There and Elsewhere (I think this is a bit boring, but Cephas likes it. It’s because the collection would be organised according to setting, with stories set in Malaysia, overseas, and in other places (e.g. the Moon) grouped accordingly.)

2) Between Worlds

3) The House of Aunts

4) One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland

5) First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia

They are none of them too good, are they? I would like something quite hip, but not offensively so. I am open to suggestions! My stories are mostly about sensible girls or women dealing with a puzzling world. Maybe I should call it The Book of Accountants.

On writing for publication, and just plain writing

I’m trying to get back on the writing-for-publication bandwagon (not to mention the just-plain-writing bandwagon). Since mid-2010 I’ve tried to write something every day — even if it’s just a sentence; even if it’s just a terrible sentence — because I knew productivity was the main thing for me. I do measure my writing achievements in word count, and I try to focus on that. The other sorts of rewards or recognitions of progress — sales, feedback, award nominations — are too much out of my control, and to be honest they are too random. All you can do is keep plodding on.

The daily writing habit has fallen by the wayside this year, twice — once when I had three months off my job and was travelling and having a generally lovely time, and more recently as I got closer to my wedding(s). I did have my wedding blog writing gig to keep me honest, but I don’t really count non-fiction writing since it’s less difficult for me than fiction.

Vengeance for falling off the bandwagon has been swift. It’s been kind of a hard year for me in terms of writing confidence. One always has wobbles, but I’ve only sold one thing this year (not counting¬†Jade Yeo, since that’s self-published) and only completed two stories. Admittedly one of these stories was a novel, but it was a really bad novel!

I’m now working on an outline for a new novel and am going to go through my submissions log and edit and submit, self-publish or kill the various stories that have been hanging around waiting for something to be done with them. I’ve also been planning to query publishers in Asia — preferably Malaysia or Singapore — about whether they’d be interested in putting out a collection of my short stories, so I ought to go through my contracts and put together a query. (I know short story collections don’t sell all that well and lots of publishers won’t take them from anyone as obscure as me, but I think the scene is a little different locally since we don’t at the moment have as many novelists as short story writers. At any rate, one can but try!)

I’m trying to remind myself of something I’ve talked about before and do basically believe in, which is the importance of failure. I’m not going to write good stories all the time because most people don’t — and even if they do, I’m not one of those people. I’m not going to be able to sell all of my stories because most people don’t — and again, even if they do, see previous statement. People who succeed are people who fail more than other people. (There’s a lot of “people”s in that sentence, aren’t there? Bit cheeky me trying to pass myself off as a writer.)

That’s a thought about writing for publication — and also about external success generally. The other thought I had recently is more about writing in itself. I’ve been thinking about how, in writing stories, you need to focus on the concrete, the particular. Stories shouldn’t be about the abstract because then they become manifestos, cartoons. I do strongly believe in stories having meaning, but not in their having particular messages, because if you wanted to be preached at you would read a self-help book or a sermon. Also shaping a story around one message limits it — any good story should be able to have lots of different meanings in it, so that you can draw out a different moral (or state of confusion, depending on what the story is like!) every time.

I don’t mean to decry cartoons; sometimes that’s what you want. But you should be aware that they are nothing more than that. One of the things I look for in my reading material is truth — and truth can come in many forms and be told in many ways, but the truth adheres most strongly (and most interestingly) to the concrete and the specific, to the details as you live them.

In my head all this links to writing about different cultures — the pitfalls thereof, and why I’m both more forgiving and unforgiving about people writing the Other than others. But perhaps that’s for another post!

Rather dull all this navel-gazing, but I am a believer in writers writing about their struggles — provided they don’t moan too much, which maybe I am! It’s a thin line: you don’t want to whinge and be a bore, but I know I’ve been comforted by reading frank accounts of self-doubt etc. in writers I admire. Anyway, let’s keep trying our best!