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“Secondhand” reception

May 6, 2009

“Secondhand Rush” made its appearance at Baen’s Bar a few days ago.  Edith Maor was, as always, right on top of things and provided comments within hours of posting it.  She had some good points that really strenghtened my story.  She seems to have a habit of disliking my characters.  Either I really need to work on likeability or Edith and I just disagree.  It happens.  But when I disagree with an editor of a professional magazine, especially a gatekeeper like Edith, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I also seemed to have been too subtle in a few places.  The ending made reference to something only mentioned at the story’s begining in passing.  I built up the emphasis and made the end reference more direct.  I also clarified a minor character’s involvement (Axel) and made him a touch more important.

The biggest change was to the protagonist.  He was subtly afraid of death in the original (despite being a bit of a daredevil) but without cause.  In the rewrite, [SPOILER ALERT!!] he has multiple sclerosis.  The illness doesn’t change the plot much but changes the reader’s perception of it.  This came primarily from a reviewer questioning how desperate Chang was. It also came a little from Edith’s plea to make Chang more sympathetic.  I know she didn’t mean “pitiable”, but it came from the same place.  Chang isn’t pitiful at all (how many pitiful people climb the exterior of the Statue of Liberty?), just defiant of his illness.

Anyway, I really think this rewrite is a winner, probably 90% of the way to publishability.  If Baen doesn’t want it, WotF is probably the next stop.  I think it will fit their tastes well, based on some past winners I’ve read.  But if I really knew these kinds of things, I’d be writing those stories anyway.

I highly encourage aspiring writers to join Baen’s Bar even if they aren’t ready to post there.  Izanobu can vouch for the benefits of lurking.  Looking at the short, blunt editorial comments left to other authors by the slush editors is enlightening, as is viewing the progression from one iteration of a story to the next.  Pages load a little slow; that’s my only complaint as it impedes my lurk-and-browse technique.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2009 10:01 pm

    I’m currently working on my thoughts about the JBU slush, actually. I think in some ways it’s really helpful to have a slush pile like that, but in other ways I think it’s almost more useful for JBU because they get to basically customize the story they want out of the ones they enjoy. As with all workshop environments, it can improve your writing and your stories, but there’s always a danger of turning a story away from the one you wanted to tell, if that makes sense?

    There’s a balance between writing the stories you want to tell and writing the stories other people want to read. (And of course the issue of finding the right audience once you’ve got a story as close as it can get to the one in your head…)

    I’d also try Clarkesworld with your story as well once you think it’s where you want it. They have good return time on subs if they don’t buy it, so it’s another plus. But they often publish weird sci/fi, and I think yours might fit…

  2. May 6, 2009 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the market suggestion. I don’t think I’ve ever sent anything to Clarkesworld (hence its absence from my market list on the right). If comments keep coming like they are on the slush (mostly “good story, good writing, but not my thing”), then I’ll start shopping it around. I had my eye set on WotF, but there’s no rush.

    I like WotF because of their tiered response pattern. Flat rejection, honorable mention, semifinalist, finalist, top three places. The honorable mention I got for “Leech Run” was great even though it was no more than a piece of paper. The same holds for my waitlisting for Clarion West: I feel good about it even though nothing really happens because of it.

    I’m going to go look up Clarkesworld now and add it to my market list. Thanks again for the thought.

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