Some people describe poetry as a lost art, the sort of effort confined to previous decades or ennui-filled teenage years. Poetry isn’t dead, though. For writers of science fiction and fantasy poetry, the opportunities abound.
Since National Poetry Month is coming up in April, this is a good time to sharpen your pencils (or blow the crumbs out of your keyboard) and embrace your inner poet for the first time in years. Here’s some advice to get you started.
1) Take advantage of Poem-a-Day Challenges
I have published over 100 poems in recent years. I write almost all of those works in the months of November and April, because that’s when the Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides Blog runs the Poem-a-Day challenge. The full challenge involves submitting a collection of works to be considered for chapbook publication, but I just use PAD for the daily poem prompts posted by Robert Lee Brewer each morning. Some participants post their work in comments there, but I don’t advise doing that if you want to submit your poems for magazine publication. You don’t want to give away your first rights for free!
If a prompt doesn’t click for you, find inspiration elsewhere. I usually need to do that a couple times during PAD. I find substitute prompts by scrolling down on the Poetic Asides site to look at the weekly prompts Brewer posts year-round. After all, the ultimate goal is to write a poem each day during the month. The original prompt doesn’t really matter in the end.
When the month is done, I go through my poems to cull, and then I start to revise the salvageable ones.
2) Say it out loud
Revising any work of writing can be a frustrating effort. With poetry, rhythm and flow is vital. Reading out loud helps you to find the flow and eliminate excess words. It’s a good way to find typos, too.
3) Know where to find markets
The Science Fiction Poetry Association’s site offers a good (but not comprehensive) list of poetry markets. New markets open all the time. Other venues will shut down for periods. Others shut down permanently. As you track your submissions, keep up with favorite markets so that you know when they open or close to submissions. The best way to find out about new magazines is to network with other writers through web forums or social media like Twitter.
4) Guidelines to submit work
I wish this had a straightforward answer, but there is no industry standard. You have to carefully read the guidelines for each publication–and don’t trust those guidelines to remain the same from week to week, either.
Many markets use Submittable as their submission platform, so it’s worthwhile to set up an account there. Others rely on email, and requirements may include sending poems in the body of the email, or to only submit poems via attachments in certain file types. Most markets allow a poet to send in anywhere from 3 to 5 poems at a time. This is great after an effort like Poem-a-Day, when you have a batch of poems ready to send out into the world. The only bad side of that is the responses often come in batches as well, so brace yourself to get the lot rejected in one fell swoop.
5) Submit, submit, submit
When I first started writing poetry again a few years ago, I wasn’t confident in my poems. I was becoming an old pro at short story rejections and sent my works out right away after they were turned down, but I had a harder time doing that with poetry. Poetry rejections felt more personal because my poems were more personal.
Here’s the thing. Editors have different tastes and different moods. You never know when a poem will resonate with an editor; you have to make yourself vulnerable, submit your work, and submit again if necessary. Expect rejection.
I have had several poems that racked up ten, fifteen rejections before finding a home. Some have made a circuit of markets over periods of two and three years. A poem might wallow in the slush pile of a magazine for several months, get rejected, wallow on my computer for a few months as I wait for an appropriate market to open, and so on. The long wait is worth it to get an acceptance at long last.
Best of luck in April, poets!Read More
Back in December, a bunch of Harper Voyager US/UK authors got together on the #SFFchat hashtag to talk about writing, publishing, and the sci-fi/fantasy genre with aspiring SF/F authors. We had a fantastic discussion (read the highlights), so we’re going to do it again.
On Wednesday, June 22nd at 3pm Eastern and 9pm Eastern, 18 Voyager authors will be answering questions on Twitter under the #SFFchat hashtag. Each chat will last an hour. We’re also doing a massive giveaway of Voyager e-books and print books, which you can enter using the widget below. All are welcome! Please join us if you want to talk about SF/F and maybe win some free books. A list of what you might win:
The Brass Giant- Brooke Johnson
The Oldest Trick- Auston Habershaw
Elixir: A Changeling P.I. Novel- Ruth Vincent
Desert Rising- Kelley Grant
Breath of Earth- Beth Cato
The Rogue Retrieval- Dan Koboldt
Grudging: Birth of Saints- Michelle Hauck
Mercury Retrograde- Laura Bicklel
Across the Long Sea- Sara Remy
Los Nefilim (print)- Teresa Frohock
Dissension- Stacey Berg
Three Days in April- Edward Ashton
Unexpected Rain- Jason LaPier
Hero Born- Andy Livingstone
Shadow of the void- Nathan Garrison
Darkhaven- Afe Smith
The Drowning God- James Kendley
If you’re an author seeking representation or publication, we hope you’ll also join the #SFFpit Twitter pitching event on Thursday, June 23rd.
BONUS: And the Voyager authors have started a Facebook group just for SFF fans called SFF Junkies. It’s a new place to hang out and talk SFF books or even writing. You can find it in the rafflecopter or use this link.
Enter the Giveaway
The release of my story Final Flight means promo, promo, promo all over the place. Here are my recent posts and interviews–and there are more to come, too!
– Fantasy Cafe’s Women in SFF Month: Beth Cato with The Healer as a Fighter
– “Why I Write Steampunk” at The Spec Fiction Hub
– Final Flight: A Father and Son Story in the World of Clockwork Dagger at the Qwillery
– Beth Cato on Clockwork Daggers at SF Signal
– Writing Short and Long Fiction with Beth Cato at Dan Koboldt’s site
– Writers and their Beasts: Beth Cato at J. Kathleen Cheney’s site
– Introducing Beth Cato of The Clockwork Dagger Series at The Steampunk Cavaliers
– Beth Cato talks about Characters, Cooking and of course, her latest Clockwork Dagger off-shoot, The Final Flight with N.O.A. Rawle
My parents have some issues with new technology. As my mom has joked, “We’re not qualified to have smart phones.” They’re okay with this, really, but it does mean they haven’t been able to buy my ebooks like Wings of Sorrow and Bone because they lack a reading platform.
However, I just found how there IS an option for my parents: a desktop version of the Kindle app! I sent my mom this link, where she could download the Kindle app for most devices. (On my computer, this hops to a Windows Store link that I have to control-alt-delete to escape, which is kind of annoying.) In my mom’s case, the solution was a Kindle Cloud App within Chrome. When she’s logged into her Amazon account, she can click the bookmark for that app and ta-da! She can read my stuff.
I know my folks aren’t the only ones who lack a standard platform for Kindle books, so I hope this little PSA comes in handy. It might be useful for people reading for the forthcoming award season, too, if they send the documents to their Kindle account.
Today I welcome fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author Laura Bickle. Her latest book, Mercury Retrograde, is out today! The first book in the series is Dark Alchemy. Both sell for just $2.99.
Laura’s going to provide some great advice for writers on how to manage time… not time to write, but the timeline of events within your story.
One issue with time, however, is entirely within the author’s control. And that’s the timeline of the story.
I never paid a whole lot of critical attention to time when I read. Sure, I was conscious that some passages in stories could be languid and slow-moving like a drippy faucet. Others were exhaustingly rushed. I never was quite able to put my finger on why.
And then, when my first book was accepted for publication, I discovered the answer: books can grow timeline issues. They’re very subtle, but can really cause problems with the reader’s perception of a work.
A timeline problem occurs when characters have too many events crammed into a period of time – or not enough. A succession of tasks emerges that would require the bending of the rules of the space-time continuum or superhuman abilities to accomplish. It occurs when your main character hasn’t slept for days. It happens when she travels an impossible distance in an hour. It can take place when your main character hasn’t worked regular hours at her day job without explanation. This goes for crazy amounts of overtime, or not working at all. It happens when your character is doing “cop stuff” for seven days in a row without a day off or at least a pro forma request for overtime. It’s easy for an author to lose track of what day it is, and a character can get trapped in a month-long weekend or a year of Wednesdays.
Mundane concerns? Maybe. But they catch an editor’s eye and seep into the subconscious of the reader. And sometimes, we’ve gotta pay attention to the rules of the real world – like time – in order to allow the reader to suspend disbelief for the really magical things we want to do with the story.
My first editor asked me to turn a timeline in with my book. Something simple, listing the day, night, and all the scenes that happened in each. By reviewing my manuscript in this way, I could see where I crammed too many activities into the heroine’s day – or (eep!) not enough. When I finish a draft, I read through it and start constructing my timeline.
I also create a second list that’s not strictly a timeline. It’s one that notes where chapters begin and end, how many scenes are included in the chapter, and how many pages each chapter is. Sticking a ten-page chapter next to a twenty-five page chapter creates unevenness, and keeping a note helps me be more aware of it. It also shows me where I have a bunch of stubby two-page scenes strung together. This causes me to question whether I’m head-hopping or whether I really need to find a way to collapse those scenes into less choppy ones. It helps me analyze flow. It also shows me whether I’m doing a good job of ending chapters in the middle of the action, causing the reader to want to turn the page to the next.
By doing this kind of post-hoc analysis, and correcting the results, I found that pacing issues automatically ironed themselves out.
I’ve turned a timeline in for every book since, whether or not I was asked. And it’s really reduced the amount of time I spend fixing structural issues in revisions. Now, I tend to work with that timeline in my head, and it keeps me honest. It keeps my very human characters from turning into Wonder Women and Supermen.
Not only do I have to manage time, but my characters do, too. Maintaining a timeline is a front-line editing fix I suggest that every writer keep in the toolbox.
Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. Her most recent novel is MERCURY RETROGRADE (Harper Voyager Impulse). The latest updates on Laura’s work can be found at www.laurabickle.com.
Something venomous has come to Temperance …
It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.
Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.
Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.
With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.
“This wonderfully unusual Weird West novel combines the best of contemporary fantasy with metaphysical magic and mayhem, and even a bit of romance.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review