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Charlie Hatton
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#45. I've written two science fiction short stories.

Okay, so don't get all excited. (I know, you're not. Just let me have my moment, would ya?)

Anyway, I wrote the stories, but never got 'em published. See, apparently, the best way to break into short story writing is to write a story that's... well, in a word, short. Like a thousand words or so. I guess it's easier for an unknown to sell something that's not gonna take up much room. Makes sense, right?

And then there's me. I had a couple of cool story ideas, so I tried putting them on paper. Together, they weighed in at around twelve thousand words. Not good. But I can spend five hundred words talking about navel lint (don't make me go there, please), and I didn't know how to strip these stories down to something marketable.

So I joined an online writer's group called Critters, and got my stories reviewed. The first -- longer -- one got really good reviews, and a few comments about how to shorten it. So I worked on it some more, trimmed the fat, and got it ready to send out.

This is where I made my second unrealistic decision. Again, the best way to get published is to shoot for smaller mags first, even those that may not pay well, or even at all. Anything to get your name out there. Fuck that. I'm all about the instant gratification. So I sent my story out to one of the most famous science fiction weeklies, and waited. Three weeks later, I got a response -- a form rejection letter. No feedback, no comments. Not what I wanted, of course, but in retrospect, what I probably deserved. Bitches.

I sent the story back out -- to another highly visible and successful mag -- while I worked on getting the second one reviewed. In the meantime, I wrote reviews for other people's stories on Critters. Long, detailed -- but helpful! -- reviews. It was actually kind of fun, and I like to think that I helped some people out. That went on for a couple more weeks.

Then, I got my second-story critiques back. The people reviewing my story seemed to like it (though it was also too long by a thousand words or so), but more than one person mentioned that it was very similar to a short story written a few years ago by a very famous author. Which I hadn't read myself, lucklily for my self-respect, but which also wouldn't help in getting the idea published. So I scrapped that story.

I started working on a third, but couldn't figure out where to start it. I read once that the most critical decision in a short story is where to begin the action, and I simply couldn't get it right. There was an alleged homocide involved, and I tried starting when the 'murderer' and 'victim' met each other, when the 'crime' occurred, and at the murder trial. I even tried starting after the fact, and wrote one intro with the 'murderer' in jail, and another with him living in a faraway place, acquitted but with his life in tatters. None of the angles worked. The story started to sound silly to me, and I forgot what message I was trying to get across. Around that time, I got my second form-letter rejection, and decided to hang it up, at least for the moment.

So, you may never read me in Asimov's or Amazing Stories. You'll just have to console yourself by reading the material here on this site. All of it. Come on, get cracking. You've got a lot of words to get through, buddy. Just try reading them a thousand or so at a time. I hear that helps.

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