Interview: Graduate Holly Schofield

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. She is the author of over fifty short stories, some of which are used in university curricula and have been translated into several languages. Her works have appeared in LightspeedTesseracts, the Aurora-winning Second Contacts, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes. Watch for new stories soon in Brave New Girls, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, and Analog. For more of her work, visit hollyschofield.wordpress.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2014. How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

In 2014, I was struggling to piece together a “toolbox” of craft skills. I could see that writing SFF short stories (I’m not a novel writer) involved a very large amount of very small techniques, but I only had the vaguest idea of what those techniques were and how to apply them.

Jeanne’s curriculum is designed to cover everything. I filled in gaps that I hadn’t even known existed.

Can you describe your Odyssey experience? What surprised you most about Odyssey?

The biggest surprise was that I managed to turn out respectable stories faster than I had ever written anything before.

There’s a writing rule that absolutes shouldn’t be modified by qualifiers, but I can only describe the Odyssey experience as…completely unique. And utterly epic.

You have also taken four online Odyssey Workshop courses. What made you decide to take them?

Initially, I wanted the “magic bullet”: cheap and easy answers to my many questions about the writing process. Once I’d found out what they really offered—enormous insight into specific areas of writing—I wanted more (more! MORE!) and I fit them in whenever I could, both before and after the six-week workshop.

How many stages does your work go through before you send it off to a publisher? How much of your time is spent writing the first draft, and how much time is spent in revision? What sort of revisions do you do?

I usually knock out a terrible first draft at the rate of about 1,000 words an hour, after a few weeks, months, or years of cogitating about it. Then I’ll run it through several major revisions, making sure I’ve developed the world enough, kept a character arc, and come to a satisfactory resolution. Once I’ve done rough line edits, I’ll pass it to a beta reader or two (or more), then it’s usually back to the drawing board. I give every draft a new version number, and usually it’s up to 15 or 20 by the time I feel it’s ready for submission. Like the cliché says: writing is revision.

Your story “Hat and Stick” recently came out at Evil Girlfriend Media’s Speculate. It is a police procedural set in a world with pervasive surveillance that makes committing a crime unseen nearly impossible. Do you often merge genres when writing? Do you find that blending genres makes it more challenging or less challenging when writing a story?

I like the challenge of genre-blending. At last count, I’ve written stories in 34 different subgenres and mashups. Each genre, or subgenre, teaches me different tools for the toolbox. For instance, writing a mystery helps me understand plotting. Writing a romance helps me improve on character creation. The learning never stops.

And, by the way, an earlier version of “Hat and Stick” was written during Week #4 at Odyssey. I’ve sold four stories that received critiques there, including one to Analog. The weekly story assignments are not just writing exercises.

How many rejections have you received on a single story?  What is your philosophy about rejections?

I think my record is 17, although the average is closer to 5 and it’s improving every year. As soon as a story comes back, I send it on its way again. I aim for at least 100 rejections a year, and usually that’s one goal I always surpass. Last year, I had 127 rejections, but I also sold 20 original stories and 13 reprints.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

My biggest weakness is that I’m now pretty good at most aspects of writing, but getting that last little bit of expertise—trying to get from good to great—is a huge learning curve. My improvement has slowed from rapid-fire at Odyssey to incremental, and I’ve had to learn to be okay with that.

What’s next on the writing-related horizon? Are you starting any new projects?

As always, I’ve got four or five short story drafts at differing stages of completion. The fun never ends!

And, I’ve recently fulfilled a lifelong ambition: I’ve sold, not one, but two(!) stories to Analog. You’ll see the first one in this month’s July/August issue (buy it today!). It’s been a five-year journey to get to this point and Odyssey has definitely played a huge part.

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