On Typos and Professionalism

This afternoon, I checked out a pretty sweet Kickstarter for a graphic novel. The story seemed interesting, the art was gorgeous, and the buy-in was pretty decent. I really liked the project.

I almost backed it, but one thing stopped me.

The Kickstarter page was riddled with typos and poor punctuation.

When I’m backing a project, I want to know that the quality will be the best it can be. When I’m creating one of those projects, I want to make sure that my backers get the best possible thing. Anything less is a problem.

We all make errors, sometimes in highly-visible, embarrassing places. Everyone has a story or ten about typos. Lord knows that a recent project has two errors that I’m mortified about. But I do my best to prevent them, because, as a writer, editor, and publicist, I make my living with words, and that means that I am judged by my words.

We’ve moved out of the exciting, fresh days of Kickstarter. Most of us have backed more than a few projects, and many of us have gotten burned, somehow. Backers typically also have limited budgets, and Kickstarters aren’t usually cheap. It’s more of an uphill battle for pledges than ever, and everything has to be just right.

There are several hurdles to overcome in the quest to earn pledges. When I put together a Kickstarter page for a publishing project, my words literally make the difference between success and failure.

Step 1: First look: Is it pretty? Does it immediately capture their interest? Do they want to look at more? This is a combination of the visual elements and the first hooks.

Step 2: The overview. They think it looks cool, but now they want to find out if it’s something they really want.

Step 3: The critical judgment (sometimes overpowered by the shiny). The visual and informative elements are now combining to give your project a total sum. There’s a tipping point between ‘yes’, and ‘no’, and from there, it’s a matter of how much they’ll be pledging, which is also complicated algebra dependent on your page.

All of the steps are complicated and important, but they can all be undone by one little element: poor execution. Bad spelling, poor punctuation, clunky language, or inconsistent formatting can completely ruin all the other amazing things you’ve done with your project. It introduces an element of doubt: “If they don’t care about proofreading this important, public-facing thing, will they care about the project once I’ve given them money?”

There are so many battles to fight on the road to create a successful project. Don’t sabotage yourself by neglecting the most important details.

The SFWA Bulletin

In late November, I found out that I’d be acting as Production Editor for a special issue of the SFWA Bulletin, edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts. A little over three months later, the issue is beginning to land in mailboxes, and we have a new editor! But we’re already hard at work on the next issue, a special for the Nebulas. But for anyone who missed out on the news via the SFWA outlets, here’s a little on the new editor, the table of contents for the special edition, and how to obtain a copy of said special edition.

John Klima previously worked at Asimov’s, Analog, and Tor Books before returning to school to earn his Master’s in Library and Information Science. He now works full time as the assistant director of a large public library. John edited and published the Hugo Award-winning genre zine Electric Velocipede from 2001 to 2013. The magazine was also a four-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award and recipient of the Tiptree Honor List for one of its stories. In 2007 Klima edited an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories based on spelling-bee winning words called Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. In 2011, Klima edited a reprint anthology of fairytale retellings titled Happily Ever After. He co-edited Glitter & Mayhem with Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas—a 2013 Kickstarter-funded anthology of speculative nightclub stories. He and his family live in the Midwest.

TOC for Issue 204 of the SFWA Bulletin
2 SFWA at Its Core – Susan Forest
3 Editorial
4 Science Fiction on the Front Line – Richard Dansky
7 Social Media & the Solitary Writer – Cat Rambo
10 The SFWA Forum – Susan Forest
10 Volunteering – Dave Klecha
11 Writer Beware – Victoria Strauss
13 Estates Project – Brenda W. Clough & Bud Webster
17 SFWA Operations Manager – Kate Baker
18 Everything Old Is New Again – MCA Hogarth
21 From the Ombudsman – Cynthia Felice
22 Website Redesign & Featured Book – Jeremiah Tolbert
23 Anti-Harassment & Diversity – Jaym Gates
27 Moving to California: The SFWA Bylaws Overhaul & Reincorporation Process – Russell Davis
32 Of Myth & Memory – Sheila Finch
36 SFWA’s MG/YA Group – Jenn Reese
37 50,000 Words Under the Sea – Ari Asercion
40 Copyright Battles & SFWA – Michael Capobianco
43 SFWA Standards for Pay – Jim Fiscus
45 Picking the Right Convention For You – Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood
53 Better Teachers, Better Writers – James Patrick Kelly
59 SFWA Annual Events – Steven H Silver
60 The SFWA NY Reception – Steven H Silver
61 SFWA Reading Series – Merrie Haskell
62 About the Nebulas
64 Interview: E.C. Myers – Tansy Rayner Roberts
Norton Award – Merrie Haskell
President/Vice President/Secretary
From the Treasurer
The Board Members Called “Directors”
74 Apres SFWA, The Deluge – Lynne M Thomas
75 Keep New Friends: Interview Rakunas & Gunn – Rachel Swirsky
78 SFWA Discussion Boards – Cat Rambo
80 Communications – Jaym Gates
IBC About the Cover Artist

For information on subscribing, contributing, or advertising in the Bulletin, please email bulletin@sfwa.org. For information on the Nebula Awards Weekend, May 15-18, in San Jose, CA, please see http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/nebula-weekend/. (Non-SFWA members welcome!)

Flashy Fiction

(I do beg pardon for the short, flashy post. (Haha, get it?) I’m on deadline for 4 nonfiction pieces, and I’m running out of words!)

Flash fiction is hard work. It isn’t for the faint of heart, either. While it seems to be to short stories what speculative-fiction is to literary snobs, flash fiction takes at least as much work as a short story, and far more care.

So why write it?

Aside from its literary value, it is an excellent training tool. Every single word must count, without becoming overblown.

Proper flash isn’t a scene, or a snippet, it’s a micro-story. Beginning, middle and end. Conflict and resolution. Tension and release. Think of it as that twenty-minute snooze on lunch break: you have to go to sleep, sleep, and wake up. None of those things can be missing for a proper nap. (Bonus nap-points for a nice blanket and good dreams.)

Seeing the entire story on one page tightens up plotting, and allows the writer to judge flow and coherency better. It is a good chance to play with style, endings and surprises.

Flash needs depth, as well as beginning, middle and end.

Flash also allows for a higher output. When I started seriously trying to hone my storytelling, I wrote almost nothing but flash. Piece after piece of it, trying to learn how to put words together more clearly, how to raise the stakes and tension. I was able to keep a short turn-around between writing and editing, so I could also see how the drafts changed. (We won’t discuss the fact that I over-corrected and started writing way too lean.)

Besides that? It’s fun. Setting a challenge of a new piece a day stretches muscles. It’s a good warm-up if you’re working on longer pieces, or a way to get out of the all-consuming novel.

So go for it. Have fun. Write mini-myths for your novel, or an event from a character’s past, or the birth of a new species. Push a boundary, take a few minutes to explore the shadows.

Think of it as a tasting menu of fiction: a dozen stories, each with different ingredients, expanding the palate and mind.

Guest Post: The Road to Clarion: Allowing Myself to Say Yes

Haralambi Markov is a Bulgarian fiction writer, blogger and reviewer with a background in Marketing and SEO, who currently operates as a freelance writer. Generally off-kilter, but most pleasant, you can find Markov sitting somewhere with fingers on some sort of keyboard. You can find him rambling at his blog The Alternative Typewriter and on his Twitter at @HaralambiMarkov.

This year, I made a promise to myself that I’ll stop denying myself my dreams. I promised I’d do something crazy. Try my hand at a real adventure. Allow myself to shoot for the big bright stars even if I didn’t have all the coordinates figured out; even if I didn’t know how I’d launch myself in space first.

It was a silent promise made on New Year’s Eve, when so many others like it are being born and then soon forgotten. Yet, where other promises faded, this one took root and didn’t let go. I found myself hungry for doing something for myself. Something that would make me happy rather than play to someone else’s satisfaction and I have nothing but time and ability as I’ve said goodbye to higher education (for now) and the freelancer gig isn’t going that bad.

Enter Clarion, the ability to enroll and the possibility to be accepted.

I didn’t put any serious thought into applying until two weeks ago and I’m going to walk you through my thought process, which at one point led to seriously binge watching TV shows to get my brain to shut up:

“Why not? Wasn’t I published in a couple of great places last year? But how am I going to get there? I don’t have any money. It would be such a waste to put so much effort and then not go at all. I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t. But I know so many people who went there and urge me to go! I should. Yeah, as if anyone is going to accept me. I didn’t write at all last year. I have nothing to show. I have learned no new skills. I can’t even sell my backlog of finished pieces. Nope. Not going to do. I’ll spend this year writing and I’ll apply next year, ya know. God, but I want to. But I will fail. I’ve failed in just about everything I’ve tried. This will be a glorious failure for everyone I know to learn.

“But, but, but… It’s the VanderMeers, Catherynne Valente, Nora Jemisin and Gregory Frost and Geoff Ryman. Holy fuck… I’d get to meet them. I’d get to discuss my writing for once. Learn so many things. But it might not happen. I’m bilingual. I’m fake. They’ll know. These people WILL know. It probably will never happen. So what? Lots of things never happen. I’ll just do it until I get in or I die in the process.”

That’s actually the most difficult part of the application process for me. Allowing myself to say yes and overcome the mentality that limits me with what’s reasonable and what’s viable and what’s most likely to happen. My life has been about doing what’s right, what’s expected and what’s reasonable. Going to a writer’s resort for six weeks halfway across the world is so far removed from my reality it took so much pushing and mustering courage to actually make the first step.

I’ve just gathered all the critiques for both stories I’m submitting and I really can’t thank my friends who have taken their time and put so much effort to show me how I can be better. It’s empowering to hear people I admire like Angela Slatter, David Edison, Jonathan Wood, Jaym Gates, Natania Barron, Jacques Barcia and Theresa Bazelli say so many positive things about my writing and think I can do it, I can get in.

It’s proof I’m not fake, even though I’ve been discriminated against in the past just because I did not grow up in an English speaking country and therefore my writing is subpar. The road to Clarion is hard on my mind as I find myself wrestling with demons I thought I’d won against, but I’m doing the work. I’m editing my stories, gathering information and hoping for the best.