Friday, October 16, 2009

Chasing Geronimo

After Amanda's threat to sick Sarah onto me if I did not do some send outs, I guess it was time to grapple with this particular bugbear.

For some time now I have been a strict advocate of the Geronimo method. Here it is highly important to ignore all markets for as long as possible, allowing internal tension to build to breaking point. Now - by an extremely esoteric and mysterious process that shall remain a secret - a single market is chosen.

At this point a bolt of light from heaven strikes the aspiring writer in the forehead, filling them with glorious (and unrealistic) expectations. Here comes the vital element of the technique -- to shout 'Geronimo' at the top of your lungs as you send your little vessel of hopes and dreams out into the wide world to this market - which by now is gold-plated and hovering improbably on some cloud somewhere. Unfortunately, if the pearly gates should remain closed, then the writer is banished to a Purgatory for no less than two years, here to be fed on brackish water and the bitter unleavened bread baked from the pulped early drafts of their novels and short-stories.

Surprisingly, the Geronimo method does actually work sometimes. Unfortunately - and this could be a co-incidence - it has led to an embarrassingly large pile of manuscripts that have been sent to only one market. These manuscripts develop a thick crust of psychic cyanide, deadly to touch, and just a deadly to thoughts that stray in their direction.

Apart from probably revealing a little undiagnosed mania, the Geronimo method gives one possible (dysfunctional) approach to grappling with markets.

I'd love to hear how other people get their writing out there. Do you work to targets? What tricks do you use to overcome the emotional 'potential energy hill', or is it just down to sheer determination?


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, I write and send to my agent.

But before I had an agent, I would write and be constantly looking to see what editors wanted. Then I would target the editors with what I had that was suitable.

I've heard of writers who have the scatter gun approach. They send stuff everywhere, in the hope that some of it sticks.

matapam said...

My problem is thinking enough around the terror of the mere thought of submitting that I can manage the mechanics of it.

If I'd write more short fiction, I'd get over it. This one a year or so novel stuff slows the learning/confidence curve.

I think I submitted the first one without contact information.

Anonymous said...

I market shorts which is, of course, quite different than marketing novels.

First off, I never offer my work to free markets. I would if I knew and loved the editor, or I simply wanted to donate my time and efforts to a particular cause. I haven't hit one of those yet since most of the editors I know and love are actually able to pay.

Some markets are practically the same as "no pay." Five dollars isn't much, but it does follow the rule about the money flow going TO the author.

I generally start a story's journey at or near the paying scale top. I don't expect to sell to these markets, but why not give them first shot if for nothing else than to be able to mark them off of my list? And I figure with two pro anthology sales, I must not totally suck wind (this falls under things-I-tell-myself-so-that-I-can-carry-on-with-some-degree-of-pro-attitude). I generally go down the pay scale from there for submissions.

Now and again though, I'll get a hair up my butt about a particular market. This is usually a market which has given me real encouragement that my work might (just not this piece) have a shot at publication there. Right now, my top contenders here are Abyss & Apex, Weird Tales and Fantasy. So I do start with the pros first, but these are the first three of the semi-pros that get my work.

Only after everyone else has in effect told me to go eat worms, do I start with the pay-next-to-nothing-but-it's-still-money markets. There are actually quite a few markets here that I like and would be happy to have my work appear in them, just not enough to pass up the big money in case one of them worked out.

And I am religious about reading and following guidelines. Why start your story off with a strike against it by not getting the editor's name right, having a shoddy manuscript, sending a sf story to a fantasy mag (for instance), or any other number of immediately rejectable reasons?

I suppose when editors start asking me for stories, I'll alter my approach, but until then, I follow the money.

Linda Davis

RJ_CruzeJr said...

I hear you, Chris. I'm kind of an advocate of the Banzai method, which is basically the Geronimo method combined with the application of industrial-strength quantities of saké. Sure, it can produce some interesting results, like discovering that Outdoor Life is not a market for vampire erotica, but you don't know until you try.



Kate said...

I use the bogeyman method, which consists of hiding under a fluffy pastel colored blanket until it all goes away (Pastel blankies make bogeymen go away. Well known fact. The fluffy is for comfort.).

The usual process is something like this, with very variable times: think "I should send this out." Hide under blankie until the scary idea goes away. Forget it for a while. Repeat until someone nags me into actually sending "this" out. Hide under blankie again. Indulge in large quantities of chocolate and self pity when rejection arrives, and hide under blankie again. Repeat endlessly. When the blankie starts growing its own appendages, wash the blankie.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. How did you find out what the editors wanted? Ask them directly?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, matapam. Nice to meet another follower of the Geronimo method!

The other probleme with novels is that because you have put so much of yourself into it, the 'drop' is so much worse when it bounces from a market. I have not found too many easy answers, other than it is possible to get stuff out there, it just takes effort to overcome the resistance.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

tap. tap. tap... Chris, don't make me take a plane out to Australia, seriously. You won't like it. I'll make you send stuff out. A lot of stuff.

Look, Chris, send more than one thing out. The rejection hurts less if there are other hopes out there. And Pam, yeah, some short fiction WILL hep you get over it. Want me to teach you to write shorts? I had to learn, so I know the insides of the thing.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Linda. That's good advice. I don't think I've ever subbed to Abyss. I've had near misses with Weird Tales.

I used to follow a similar sort of approach, with my first three being Asimov's, F&SF & Interzone. I did get a few encouraging responses from Asimov's. But after doing that for five years from Australia, it just seemed like putting money down the drain in IRCs.

I have sort of got a little discouraged lately - that and I have been concentrating on novels.

But - I must bite the bullet and get back to this.

Chris McMahon said...

Hey, RJ. I hadn't thought of adding alcohol to the Geronimo ritual. I did incorporate some Japanese elements - such as ritual disembowling, but the cleanup was a bitch:)

Kate said...

I thought the point of ritual disembowelment was that someone else had to clean up your insides?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. Don't let anyone ever take the blanket away!

I'm heading out this morning to get myself one of them pastel blankets. Probably also useful for hiding from knocks on the door as well. If only it would make work go away:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Sarah. I promise to do some sendouts. Having said that you're quite welcome to come and visit sunny Brisbane:)

I have got pretty slack. I think part of the problem is that I have swung from shorts to novels over the last few years, and there are so few novel markets.

But - yes - must grit my teeth and get on with it. Doesn't seem to be any easy way.

Chris McMahon said...

Ah! I knew I was doing something wrong Kate. Stuffing all the loopy stuff back inside my gut and taking that regeneration potion was a grim exercise. And then the cleanup!

Amanda Green said...

Chris, the pastel blankie is good. So is hiding under the bed, my personal favorite. Of course, Sarah now knows about both of those, so I guess we have to find new places to hide so she doesn't drag us out. ;-p

Actually, Sarah is right. It does get easier the more often you send out. Sure, the rejections hurt, but I've sort of made a game out of it now. I try to figure out if the rejection is the automatic "sorry, we know our site says we take submissions right now but we really don't" type or the "this is pretty good but doesn't really fit what we're looking for" to the "wow, this is great but we don't have a place for it, try here" to the acceptance. Of course, it also helps to have Sarah lurking behind you, ready to kick if you get too whiny about it. (ducks the fish Sarah just threw my way).

So send out and write and send out and write and, oh my, what a viscious circle.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Amanda. Ah, the under-the-bed method! All the secrets are being revealed! Unfortunately my bed has no room under it. And if even if there was I doubt the other boogeymen would share in any case.

I have found it harder with novels to get them out there. There seems to be less markets, and the length of time between rejections is often 6-12months. Its also more difficult to have 'balls in the air' since I always feel like I need to re-write the ones that have been rejected. Maybe I need to move on to new projects quicker.

Probably writing some shorts and getting back into the swing of that would help.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, I think you're right about doing shorts, but not to the exclusion of your novels. As for rewriting them after a rejection, my advice is not to unless you have several places telling you the same thing. Of course, I'm still very new to this and can only go by my own experience and by what Sarah and some of the others tell me.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

ARGH, Chris!

DO NOT REWRITE THE REJECTED ONES. That's it. I'm coming out! If it's the only way to straighten you people out...

(Maybe #2 son will build teleporter already!)

Anonymous said...

Listen to Sarah, Chris. It could get ugly.

Seriously, I love Sarah's advice, and I totally ignore the urge to rewrite a short upon rejection. Unless they've committed to buying it, then it's like closing the barn door after the fire. Besides, just because this editor found something wrong with it doesn't mean the next one will. The more rejections I get, and I'm well past 50 for this year (not nearly enough), the more I decide that it's an each-to-his-own thing with editors. The trick, as was quoted upstream, is to have many out so that any one isn't that important. You'll find yourself with many more stories if you focus your writing on new ones.

Linda Davis

Kate said...


Listen to Sarah and don't rewrite unless there's an "I'll buy it if you make these changes" on the other end.

An anecdote I heard once - from Lee Modesitt (how I came to be talking to him is a different and much longer story for another occasion). He was asked to write a story for a particular anthology, which he did. The story didn't go in the anthology, because it was "too anti-woman". He sent it elsewhere, unchanged, where it was rejected for being "too feminist". The same, unchanged story eventually sold to a semi-pro zine and ended up winning awards.

It's all perspective.