The summer is a time for many outdoor activities. Picnics, trips to beach, the eating of flesh under the naked sun. Unattended meat does fester more rapidly as the temperature climbs, so be sure to dine quickly, and don't leave anything left behind to rot. That would just stink up the place, and attract all sorts of unsavory attention.
As we shamble headlong into the summer solstice of 2012, The Cosmicomicon is very proud to have been selected to serve as this week's host of the first annual Summer of Zombie Blog Tour (June 1st through July 31st). For this third installment, noted zombie/horror author and editor (and founder of May December Publications) Todd "TW" Brown provides some learned advice for not just writers of zom fic (Is that a thing? I'm going to try to make it a thing), but for those who write and submit horror and overall fiction stories in general.
Wipe your mouth, pull up a chair, and keep a round in the chamber. It's getting hot outside.
You want to write a story for a zombie anthology
It is not even a question as to whether or not you’ve read a zombie anthology and thought, “How in the hell do some of these people get published?” Let’s be honest with ourselves here. It’s just me…and you…and the flickering computer screen. So, say it with me. Out loud. Ready? Okay…here goes.
There are some terrible, horrible, mind-numbing, time-devouring, zombie stories being published, and I can do better.
That, my friend, shall be our mantra. Now, you got it in your head, so it is time to sit down and create THE STORY. Here is where I can be of no help. You have an idea, so run with it. Write it and rewrite it. Put it away for a few days, and then pull it out and clean it, polish it, and rewrite it again.
Okay. Now what?
You need to let your baby go out into the big wide world. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you hear Carrie’s mom chanting, “They’re all going to laugh at you…They’re all going to laugh at you!” Ignore her. She’s crazy. Still, a word of warning, somebody might point…might laugh. If you can’t handle that possibility, stop writing and stick to being a fan or critic. But that is a subject for an entirely different column. I say save those rejection letters as the badges of honor that they are. (Honestly, if I were Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, or Stephen King I’d incorporate those people that rejected me into my Christmas card list—I can be petty.)
You’ve written a story. You’ve cleaned it up as much as possible. Now what? There are a couple of avenues—and a lot of back roads—that you can take. First, I suggest you go to the websites of some of those publishers whose anthologies you have read. Check their sites for announcements about what they have coming up. Additionally, I suggest sites such as Duotrope. You can also send out a tweet: “anybody know of a zombie anthology that is taking submissions?” I liken that to standing out on a street corner…and yelling, “Fresh fish!” (Wait, what were you thinking? ooo…somebody has a dirty mind).
Okay, great. Now you know who is accepting. What you have to do next is very important. READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! That might seem like a silly thing to say, but after compiling my first batch of zombie shorts for May December’s premier anthology, Eye Witness: Zombie I stand humbly corrected. And thus, I reach the crux of my article.
While it may seem silly, certain aesthetic points (i.e. courier font type, size 12, double-spacing) serve a purpose for editors. Also, if you read a few hundred thousand words a week, your eyes need as much help as you can give them.
Next, there is the theme. If the publisher asks for “traditional” (read: Romero-style) zombies, and your opening theme has four zombies in cowboy hats, sitting around a campfire, roasting a California senator, discussing global economic woes...your story DOES NOT FIT! Don’t think, “Yeah, but my story is freaking awesome!”
Real example: I had an anthology in the pipeline, First Time Zombie. It was for, as of yet, unpublished writers — the chance to bring some new blood to the party if you will. I asked for presently unpublished writers with a zombie story (no type restrictions…fast, slow…writer’s choice et cetera) to submit with the following guidelines: 3,000 -10,000 words; Courier font type; size twelve font; double-space. I actually received a witch story 1,200 words, single spaced, Times New Roman! Additionally, this individual had a full page of credits on an attached resume. My only question was, “How has this person ever been seen in print!” Oh wait…they have a reputation and a “semi-known name”.
And here is where I plug my own company. At May December Publications, we don’t care what your name is. Now, before you get “more” offended, let me explain. All submissions for MDP anthologies are forwarded to a review team—minus a byline or anything that identifies WHO wrote the story being considered. We don’t know who we accept or reject until after the story has been read and voted “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down”. But I can assure you, no matter the publisher, if they want cowboys and you give aliens…your story will be dumped in the garbage can. If you don’t have the luxury of anonymity, you can find your name on a “black-list”.
So what have we learned here? Try hard, read the rules, and don’t take it personal if you’re rejected. It’s not brain surgery, folks. And one more thing…support your favorite press, be it Permuted, Rymfire Books…or even May December.
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And… one lucky commenter for each blog will receive a Free eBook or Print book from one of the authors! Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and we'll pick a random winner each day! Simple as that!