Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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Flash Writing Challenge
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Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Issue 137, Volume 13 -- October 2009


This is going to have to be a short editorial. I've been working quite a lot on my steampunk novel instead of paying attention to my duties here at Aphelion. I've put the story through several changes, reconsidered the format and the backstory and the world-building- Everything has changed several times now. The present version is slightly over 53,000 words. A week or so ago I thought I'd completed the initial rough draft. But that was before the most recent format changes that allowed me to tie all four major segments into a single manuscript. So now I have one of those four segments in a full rough draft stage, and a framing story to tie all the parts together. Heaven only knows what it will look like when all four parts reach the full draft stage. But that is the craft of writing, in a nutshell.

You see, the job isn't over when you get to the point of writing "The End" at the bottom of the last page. When you get that far you've only completed what I've seen some pro writers call the Draft Zero stage. Your first complete draft of the story. After that you have to make editing passes, spell check over and over again, grammar checks, look for awkward phrases and such. That process gives you a real first draft. Then you are ready to start rewrites and cuts. Cutting out some of your deathless prose isn't easy, but it becomes necessary. I recommend reading Seanan's articles on writing over in our Features section. She's absolutely right about the "kill your darlings" stage of making cuts to your text. She's not the only one that I've been earning things from. I've been reading Lilith Saint Crow's blog posts on writing, Cherie Priest's blog, Eugie Foster's blog, Seanan's blog- all of those are over on Live Journal. I've also been clicking links to loads of other blogs and websites all over the Internet, wherever a writer points me towards. Our own Nate Kailhofer has been a great help over the last few years. As have Jeff Williams, Wishbone, and all the writers who post critiques and comments over in the Forums section. What all that reading and researching boils down to is that the editing of a manuscript is just as important, and sometimes even harder than the actual composing of the story. First drafts, unless you're some way famous big name pro, don't usually sell.

So let's say you've got your real First Draft now. What comes next? Next you send that puppy off to your First Reader. Someone who can not only spot the flaws, but who is willing to give you honest and detailed criticism. Painfully honest and detailed criticism, because someone who reads the story through and then tells you "that's great" isn't doing enough for you as a writer. No, you need someone who will point out continuity errors, run-on sentences, places where you've repeated words too often, and places where you lose the reader. So when you get your reply from your First Reader, you dive back into the text and fix those flaws. More editing, more rewrites, more cuts, more, more more... And then you're still not done. No. But you will have a Second Draft.

Your Second draft might be the point where you send it off to your agent. Rest assured that your agent will point out even more changes you need to make. That brings you up to Third Draft stage. Maybe the Third Draft is what your agent sends to a publisher. Said publisher will most likely ask for further changes.

I forget who it was that said most manuscripts go through an average of four complete drafts before they reach a state where they can be sold to a publisher. It might have been in one of Eugie Foster's blog posts, or it might have been in one of Lilith Saint Crow's- Maybe even in both. I do know that by the time you're ready to send a version to a publisher, you're really tired of reading and editing the thing. If your manuscript sells, before it finally reaches the bookstore shelves you'll get one last chance to clean it up yet again. The Galley Proofs if I remember the term correctly. This will be your last chance to fix any problems that still remain. After that, the readers will get their hands on it. At that point you might just find out things that everyone else missed. The most famous glaring error I can remember was from Larry Niven's first edition of Ringworld. If you own one of those first editions, it's worth a small fortune. You see, Larry and everyone else concerned with putting that hardback book on the shelves in a store missed one little thing. One little error, right there in the first chapter. Larry started the story with his hero at his own 200th birthday party. In order to make his birthday last longer than just one day, Larry had the hero leave the party and use a teleport booth to jump around the world, trying to stay ahead of the sunset. The hero teleported to city after city after city. But Larry had written the list of cities backwards. He had the Earth rotating in the wrong direction. And no one caught the mistake until after the first edition hit the stores! The second edition came out a little later, with that little error corrected.

There are other ways an error can creep into a book. Recently Pat Elrod got a special, limited edition book published in her Vampire Files series. All well and good, except for one little thing. Someone in the typesetting department at the publisher evidentially was a huge Tolkien fan. That's right, you guessed it. The first 500 copies had a typo on the spine of the book. The book cover was perfect. But on the spine of these 500 numbered, autographed, limited edition books? Pat Elrod's name was spelled "Elrond". She let that pass, knowing that the typo increased the book's collector value, but the second run had her name correctly spelled.

Writing is hard work. Editing is hard work. Sometimes it seems like the job never ends. Keep at it, though. It is worth it, in the end.


Serials & Long Fiction

New Columbia - Part 1 of 3
By J. B. Hogan
Ari Blanque is a citizen of a futuristic world which has been divided, race against race, class against class, civilian versus military. As a rich young man of privilege, he has never had to work or accomplish anything. However, he has one skill. He is a demon when he gets behind the wheel of his car. This talent attracts the attention of rebels, who need a driver to help them reach their base near the legendary paradise, New Columbia. Against his will, Ari undertakes a long and dangerous journey, during which he learns the secrets of the brave new world which people like his father helped create.

Suicide, It's A Killer
By Aaron Carnes
A surreal take on the classic fantasy hero epic. The narrator can have anything he wants. The problem is figuring out what that is. **For mature audiences.**

Short Stories

By Blake Datch
All Jenkins wanted was to connect with his teenage son. He thought that giving him a Transficube -- a nanotech device that could become anything its user desired -- might help.

By Ben Cooper
Arnold was thrilled when his new gynoid arrived -- the most advanced and lifelike sex android on the market. **CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE AND SITUATIONS**

Rad Day
By Roderick Turner
Most people sealed themselves in their homes on Rad Days, when radiation levels rose to dangerous levels. But intrepid reporter Kayla Foster knew that the best stories happened when the weirdos figured there were no witnesses...

By E. S. Strout
Mysterious radio signals led them to the strange object in two-thousand-year-old volcanic rock. Then they detected more signals, as if the artifact had triggered something dormant for even longer.

The Devil's Compass
By Jason Dookeran
Terri couldn't explain why she bought the old -- and apparently broken -- compass from the old man. And surely it could have nothing to do with the sudden series of terrible accidents on her family's plantation...

By Mike Wilson
The subject for the experiment had to meet certain conditions -- body beyond repair, brain intact. Billy's accident seemed like the perfect opportunity. Of course, nobody's perfect.

By Chris Nardone
McGee had retired from the game after a horrific accident. Now as an Enforcement Agent, he must face danger of a different kind -- a murderer with powerful connections.

By Chris Castle
The young man had been lucky -- somehow, the plague or poison or curse had passed him by. Unfortunately, he couldn't hide in his parents' house forever.

By Dave Weaver
The astronaut who stayed in orbit while his crewmates took the first steps on the Moon has a secret... (*Lawyers: Any resemblance to actual people and situations is, well, not a coincidence, but not intended to imply that this story is true. At least we hope it isn't true.*

20% Off Designer Genes!
By Lee Gimenez
There wasn't anything really wrong with their son Tommy, but John and Ann Williams thought they could do better with their next child.

*** September 2009 Forum Challenge***

Congratulations to David Alan Jones, winner of the "Troll's Comeuppance" Forum Flash Challenge. Check out David's entry "Masterwork" and five more tales of poetic justice -- after you have read and commented on our other stories, novellas, poetry, and features, of course.
(This challenge was a trial run for a new voting system intended to discourage mischief voting. Reviews are mixed...)

(All entries will also be available (shortly, if not immediately) via the Flash Index in the Fun and Games section of the Forum, provided by Nate Kailhofer, Flash Editor and Challenge Master.)

Poetry and Filk Music

Coach a Bower
by Richard H. Fay

Endrick the Goblin Slayer
by Raymond Towers

Hill Country Romance
by Thomas D Reynolds

Pantry Goblins
by Richard Tornello

The Cyborg
by J Davidson Hero

The Mischievous Troll
by Mark Edgemon

The Vampires
by Dwayne Bunney

Where One's Heading
by James J. Dye

Witches and Warlocks
by Richard Tornello


Thoughts on Writing #14: Know Your Territory
By Seanan McGuire
In an ongoing series, Seanan McGuire takes apart the engine of writing to find out how it works, and offers her insights into how to put it back together again.

By McCamy Taylor
McCamy Taylor looks at the manga series by Hideo Yamamoto, and says a few words about giant robo anime.

Aphelion Webzine is © 1997-2010 by Dan L. Hollifield