Like a Midnight Hike

I’m looking at a small press contract, thirteen pages long. It’s a standard contract for the industry, but I have a few questions. It’s for a piece of fiction I haven’t finished yet. I was offered the contract based on an excerpt and a one-page description– a “pitch.” (It was invitational.) This is a new experience for me.

Two weeks ago I was a guest on a podcast. I nearly said “No” when the host, Juliette Wade, invited me because I’d never done one and I was scared. I was scared the technology would be an obstacle, and I was right about that, but Juliette helped me work it out, and I was a guest after all. It was a new experience for me.

A fiction market has had a story for a long time. A very long time. (Okay; years.) I was superstitiously afraid to follow up with them, sure I’d get, “Oh, did we forget to tell you? We rejected that thing 13 months ago, right after you checked last time.” This was a new exp– oh, wait. This is not actually that new an experience for me. What was new was that I finally sent the polite second follow-up. It garnered a nice response (they are still considering it) and not an immediate rejection.

All of these things, even the pacing-the-floor-it’s-with-the-senior-editors-I-can-hope-I-can-hope story submission, are good things.

They are scary. I’m scared.

I was going to say, “I feel likeĀ  I’ve just clipped my harness to the zipline,” but I discarded that simile. First of all, ziplines go fast. None of these experiences is going quickly.

Secondly, with a zipline, there’s a line; there’s a harness. There is support.

I think the better analogy is — I’m on a midnight hike on a trail I’ve never been on before, and the light in my flashlight is flickering. I don’t know where to step. Does the trail climb? Does it decline? Does it drop off the edge of a cliff? I don’t know, and I can’t quite see.

Why didn’t I bring some spare batteries?

Alone in the Dark Forest. Original Art by

Alone in the Dark Forest. Original Art by

Well, like the zipline, I actually have more support (fresh batteries) that I might have thought at first.

Regarding the contract, which is a nuts-and-bolts kind of thing, I have already used two readily available resources. Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America (SWFA) has a Contracts section on their website. It contains definitions and explanations, and farther in, some sample contracts. This part of theĀ  site is open to everyone, not just SFWA members. I also e-mailed my friend and mentor Marta Randall and got a quick response from her on my most urgent question. The contract is no longer scary.

(Finishing the work, which they can still reject… that’s still scary.)

That piece, and the pitch, undoubtedly made it to the second round and led to a proffered contract largely because of the help of my writers group, especially Margaret Speaker Yuan who helped with the pitch.

Writing a pitch is a skill. It can be learned and with their help I’m learning it.

Juliette Wade is a great host and interviewer who creates a fun, low-stress environment on her Dive Into Worldbuilding podcast.

Nothing can help with the OMG-I’ll-be-so-bummed-when-the-reject-it waiting period for the story — however, the story has made it that far, and that’s promising. And it’s a good story.

The Hermit from the Rider Waite Deck

The Hermit from the Rider Waite Deck

I’m on a new trail, and I don’t know the way… but I’m not completely in the dark.


(Check out more beautiful, atmospheric art at


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5 Responses to Like a Midnight Hike

  1. Terry says:

    Everything is going well for you. I wish you the best!

  2. Marion says:

    Thank you, Terry.

  3. Brian Fies says:

    Sounds like you’ve got this, but if you want my take on anything, just ask. Never sign away your copyright.

  4. Brandy says:

    It’s odd how even good things can be unnerving. Usually we associate fear with things that are hard or painful. But of course, the unknown does have a cliff-edge aspect to it (or a ditch-bottom, perhaps – not so far to fall). It’s that pestiferous “fear of success” reflex, and there’s no benefit to it at all. But it lurks, waiting to ambush us when things start feeling *too* good.

    Much luck to you on the journey. You’ve already made it through the podcast with pleasure; may the other unknowns turn out to be equally satisfying and lead to even greater success.

  5. Marion says:

    Brian, thanks for that offer! I will certainly take you up on it if contracts get more complicated.

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