And doggone it, people like it!
We all know the words of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live. But sometimes it’s hard to believe them, no matter how often we tell them to ourselves, especially when it comes to our writing.
Take the month of August, for example. I sent out 11 submissions. I had 8 rejections and 1 acceptance for the month. That’s about 11%. Ouch. But if I think of it on the positive side, I sent stories off to some publications with a 5% acceptance rate. I figured I probably wouldn’t get in, but it didn’t hurt to try, right? And beta readers like my stuff (or so they say). So that means it’s just a matter of finding the right market, right?
And now I’m having those same doubts about my novel. A beta reader this week hated the chapter she read so much, she actually started cursing in her review. But then someone else read that same chapter and said I did a great job with it. Myself, I’m not sure what to think about it. I like it but I think it needs revising. Maybe.
Since this is a long weekend for us Americans, I printed out my revised novel (17 chapters=221 pages in double-spaced 11pt Times New Roman) and have been reading through it, looking for inconsistencies I might miss if I revise a chapter at a time. Half the time, I think what I’ve written is crap. With the rest, I’m impressed by how not bad it is. But mostly, I have no idea. I want to think it’s of publishable quality, but I’m too close to judge objectively.
What’s your overall view of your writing? What do you do when waffling between good and not-so-good? Which side wins?
- The Lone Wolf. I’m hoping that after this latest round of edits (halfway through) I’ll be able to start sending out queries. However, I realized that the beginning of the first chapter needs to be rewritten, again. And chapter 15 should be two chapters, which means I need to write another Andrew chapter (fortunately his teenage sister thought she might be pregnant, requiring him to do some soul-searching with respect to his childless relationships and all the small people passing through his life). Nine months to write the book, and apparently a lifetime to edit it.
- A Handful of Wishes. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately, especially Paribanu’s character and Zeke’s relationship with her. If I weren’t so stubborn, I’d focus all my energy on this one and come back to The Lone Wolf when I’m a better writer because that one is more nuanced, I think. Oh well.
- Various short stories and flash pieces. The nice thing about flash is that if I have an idea, I can usually hash out a story in a day or two. Then off to my critiquers, and out to the shark tank of the publication world within a week. It’s a nice break from novels.
- Aida, the daughter in The Lone Wolf, is demanding a sequel. She grew up to be just like her father, unfortunately. This’ll possibly a future NaNoWriMo.
- But not this year. I have an idea for that already, and today I realized that it’s going to be half steampunk. I’ve never written steampunk. I’ve never even read it (someone said that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could be considered it). My closest experience with it was Will Smith in Wild Wild West a dozen years ago. So looks like my free nonwriting time will involve devouring everything I can on the genre. And I know what you’re thinking – why not just write a non-steampunk novel? Oh, Dear Reader, if only it were that easy.
- I have a list of about a dozen journals I’d like to submit to, only no stories to send in. So, hopefully working on finding pieces for homes, in addition to homes for pieces already written. On that note, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories recently, trying to see what’s out there. Maybe with the school year starting soon, I’ll get some inspiration from my students.
What’s on your to-do list, either writing or reading?
Sometimes when I’m writing a short story, I just write and then try to find a home for whatever comes out. Sometimes, however, I see a publication that I want to get in to, or a contest, and then I try to tailor my story to their specifications.
I was recently working on a story and didn’t know where it was going. I’d been attempting to write it for months with no luck beyond the opening 100 words or so. I came across an interesting anthology and BAM – story was easy to write. I shared it with my critiquers, edited it to near-perfection, and sent it off.
And then I checked the submission guidelines only to find they’d been expanded. Instead of just plain sci-f/fantasy/horror with an escape theme, they now required a speculative element as well. My story was just plain horror. Crap. I didn’t withdraw the submission, figuring the worst they could do was ignore it. The guidelines said that if you didn’t hear back in 30 days, consider your story rejected; there were too many entries for individual responses.
So imagine my glee yesterday when I received this email from the editors:
Thank you for submitting your story, “Tim and Sara,” to XX. We enjoyed reading it and it was well-written. Unfortunately, it did not meet our needs for publication at this time. So, although this is a rejection letter, I encourage you to submit to us in the future. I hope you continue to write and hone your craft.
And it seems that editors only say “We want to read more” when they really do want to read more, not as a way to just be polite. Yay me!
According to Duotrope, the submission tracking website I mentioned last month, my acceptance ratio for the past 12 months is 33.33%, which is “higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.” I’ve sent in 17 submissions since January, although just one for this month (but I’m about to throw another one into the shark tank any day). I have 8 pending submissions. I’ve had 5 rejections since I started sending stuff out, and 3 acceptances. I have a list of 20 places I want to send stuff, half of which have actual written stories attached to them.
I seem to be doing okay for someone just starting out, although ideally I’d like to have 10 pending pieces at any time. I’d also like to stop procrastinating and finish the dozen half-written stories I have lying around. And get my novel edited enough to send it out to agents. And then of course finish the novel that’s in line behind it. This just never ends. :)
What about my fellow writers out there? What are your goals, and how are your submissions going?
“Carpe Diem,” a 500-word flash piece about reconnecting with a lost love, has been accepted by the Journal of Microliterature. It’s scheduled to appear on July 3rd.
From the editor: “Thank you so much for the submission! A very cute, touching, intriguing story. While it was perhaps a little lacking on depth, the quality of writing and the emotion attached to the story more than made up for it. Hope to see more from you in the future!”
I’ve submitted about a dozen or so short stories for publication, thanks to a website that tracks submissions as well as information about billions of journals, magazines, and websites: Duotrope.
This site is very helpful to a writer wanting to get published. It allows you to enter in information about your submissions – title, submission date, etc – and then it keeps a running tally of how many days it’s been since you submitted, as well as the average time to hear back.
But wait, it gets better. Duotrope has a database of just about all the possible places for you to submit, and you can search by genre, pay scale, title, submission policy – whatever criteria you want. The site also keeps statistics on acceptance rates and lists the date of last response. It’s a real help when you’re trying to decide which place to submit to – you’ll know to avoid the ones with a 50% never responded rate who haven’t gotten back to anyone in months.
And best yet, the site is free (although they do accept donations). If you’re looking to submit short stories or poetry, I suggest you check it out.
I’ve been sending out some of my short stories and flash pieces for publication, and I just had one accepted! “The Hunter and the Monster” appears online for The Fringe Magazine, and it’ll appear in their monthly PDF as well. Yay!