Today I'm thrilled to host a tour stop for the latest IWSG anthology Dark Matter: Artificial, where I'm welcoming three-time anthology publishee CD Gallant-King with some tips on writing for submission.
Writing for Submission
I have published several short stories with small presses and magazines, but all of my novels have been self-published. I view short stories and novels as two very distinct beasts that require different approaches and VERY different skills.
With novels, I like the freedom that self-publishing provides. I can write about whatever I want, however I want to write it, and I don't need to worry about whether someone else's approval or permission. My audience is (hopefully) other people who enjoy the same sort of stories that I do, so I write the sort of thing that I have fun reading.
With short stories I’m almost the complete opposite. I LOVE requests for submission that give you a specific genre/prompt. I see it more as a challenge to meet their requirements, and it provides a clear outline and focus for your work. Short-story writing is much harder, in my opinion, because every word and beat counts so much more than in a longer work, where you have the freedom to go off on tangents develop side characters and so on. Because a short story needs to be so focused and precise, anything that provides direction is appreciated. A good, evocative prompt is a perfect kickstart to get your creative juices going in the right direction.
I've had my stories included in the IWSG's anthologies three times. I have actually submitted four times, but the first time my story didn't make the cut. I don't think the story was necessarily bad, but it did not play to my strengths (it was way too serious, for one thing). It also didn't really fit with the theme of the collection, which was "Heroes Lost" or something to that effect. Sure, my story had a hero, and he died in the end, but it felt more like I was just pasting the prompt overtop of the story, and it only sorta/kinda fit.
The next time I submitted, the genre was mystery and the prompt was time. I had a half-finished pseudo-hardboiled detective story with a character that I loved, so I re-worked it to fit into the theme. This worked brilliantly, as the story previously didn't have the through-line to pull it together (it was basically just an interesting main character and a bunch of funny scenes), but the IWSG prompt was the focus that I needed.
For the third submission, I started from scratch and went out of my way to subvert the theme while playing into the genre at the same time. With a prompt like "YA Romance" and "Masquerade," my brain immediately went to vampires, and anyone who knows me knows there is no way in a million years that I'm going to write a straight YA Romance story about vampires. So "The Dark Charade" was born.
Which brings us to Dark Matter: Artificial and my story, "Space Folds and Broomsticks." The original germ of an idea for this one came from a completely different anthology call I saw last year, which was looking for Sci-Fi retellings of classic fairy tales. I LOVED this idea and my mind raced with a dozen possibilities, but I missed the deadline. These ideas were still bouncing around in my skull when the IWSG call came up, coincidentally also for sci-fi. I was excited that I was able to use one of my previously-hatched plots, and the "dark matter" prompt was the exact trigger I needed for all the pieces to fall into place. When you read "Space Folds" you may notice that it doesn't deal with dark matter in the way you're probably expecting, but the phrase itself set up the conflict of the story perfectly.
I'm a big fan of space opera/military sci-fi, especially stories about fighter pilots jetting around the galaxy (see: Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Wing Commander, Battlestar Galactica, or our own Alex J. Cavanaugh's CassaStar), so I knew that was the setting I wanted to use. I also always want to grow up to be Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, so of course the whole thing had to be written tongue-in-cheek. That's not to say the story doesn't have some edge to it - my work usually tries to blend comedy and tragedy, the horrific and the absurd. "Space Folds and Broomsticks" isn't as dark as most of what I write, but I do try to ramp up the tension and suspense, and there are dramatic moments.
I don't tend to over-think it too much once I get the flow going and the words come down on the digital paper. Some people write and re-write over and over, but I don't do that so much, especially with short stories. If it works it works. If it doesn't, it will end up in the drawer and I'll write another one. That's another benefit of short stories over novels - because I haven't spent months or even years on it, I'm not so attached to it. I'm not so protective and I don't mind sending it out to rejection time and time again (my record for rejection is 25 times before finally finding a home for one particular story).
I must have hit the right notes for the judges and the folks at Dancing Lemur, because they've selected my story for the third time - the first time this has happened, as far as I know. After your story is chosen, there’s a whole net set of tasks and challenges (like writing this blog post, for example!). But that’s a tale for another time.
Stay safe everyone!
Hugs & kisses,
C.D. Gallant-King is a Canadian writer currently residing in Ottawa, Ontario. Check him out on Twitter (https://twitter.com/
Dark Matter: Artificial
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Discover dark matter’s secrets…
What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?
Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Goldim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!
Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies / Space Exploration / Genetic Engineering
Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter. A Writer’s Digest 101 Best Website for Writers and The Write Life’s Best 100 Website for Writers
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