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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Submitting and Succeeding

Weird pic, I know, but I didn't have any eggs!

Beth of Beth's Adventures inspired me to this somewhat-old-but-still-works metaphor. A couple of weeks ago, I taught a workshop in writing and marketing the short story. Most of the audience were newbies to the marketing aspect. When we got to that portion of the program, I was surprised by the resistance several displayed in submitting their short stories. I got strange questions such as, "If I enter this contest and win, then they'll want to put the story online and then it's published and I can't sell it to a 'real' market." This was for a no-fee online contest that paid a first prize of $700!

What you do when something like that happens is take the money and say thank you! and write another story. I wondered about this until I realized that, as new writers, the people protesting probably hadn't written many stories. So every story was like a precious, single, golden egg. To be treasured and protected and never broken (i.e. submitted just anywhere where it might make sell or win).

To make everyone groan, "You have to break a lot of eggs to make an omelet," AND "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." First, you need to make a lot of eggs to break. Write and write and write. Then repeat. This is even true of novelists. It takes on average 3 to 5 novels before a writer has written a publishable one. Plus, it's difficult to not keep your eggs in one basket (i.e. a few specific markets) if you only have a few eggs. After writing, submit and submit and submit. If you're writing short stories, start writing to the markets. The anthologies and contests that are specific...write a story for them and send them off. If it comes back, ship it to another market. That way you're not keeping all your eggs in a single basket.

This may seem obvious to more experienced authors, but I'm not certain about that? Every story is after all a delicate beloved baby. And rejections are painful. However, in my experience, if you have myriad babies out there then if they don't do well--write another. I remember coddling every single egg/short story at the beginning and then every chapter of my first novel. I've found it's much easier now to "let go" and move on.

What's your experience? How much do you write and rewrite? When do you release a work and submit it? What about other formats? Poets? Novelists?

17 comments:

Swubird said...

Conda:

This is a very good topic, because it brings up a valid point. That is this: When you send a story off to a mainstream magazine the first thing you have to swear to is that it hasn't already been published. Oops! So what do you do? Well, you send it the magazine first, and after they toss it back as unpublishable, trash, junk, amateurish, you take an aspirin and then you blog it and move on. Having said that, however, if the pot is $700, go for it because you ain't going to get that much for a first time author.

That's my two cents.

Happy trails.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yup, that was my point to everybody, Swu--send it off to the biggie market first, but when it comes back, send it to another, perhaps smaller market. And another. Write a story for an anthology and if it doesn't place, send it somewhere else! The average for a pro sale is 200! submissions (not of 200 stories, but more than one).

Beth said...

I'm pleased my sponge post inspired you! :-) And thanks for the words of wisdom - I don't do short stories, but since the concept works for novels, too.....

Jim Murdoch said...

You see, you're treating writing as a business and it takes a long while before a newbie writer can realise that one can be an artist and a businessman at the same time. It's like the post I've just written about marketing. It's a part of being a writer these days. It's non-negotiable.

I don't rewrite much. Admittedly most of my submissions have been poetry and there are so many markets out there that if one person doesn't care for your stuff then just move on. When it comes to a paying market it's a different ball game but I really don't understand the people in your first paragraph - $700 for a short story, that's not a bad return. Who the hell will pay them more? Be realistic.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sage advice, Conda! Contests are great places to perfect your craft and earn some publishing credits.

I understand the whole precious baby thing, but you know, babies have to grow up and hit the big ole world and stand on their own. :-)

Me? I write the story, just let it flow. I edit. Sometimes rearrange and tighten the story. And query. Of late, I haven't had as much time to write as I would like. But I'm reworking my schedule.

Thanks for the great article. :-)

Helen Ginger said...

Very good advice. I've only written a few short stories and never really tried to get them published. But I totally see your point.

Helen

Straight From Hel

sandra seamans said...

I write a lot of short stories and the best advice I've gotten is write, submit, forget, repeat. If the story comes back, rewrite, submit to another market. The trick is to just let it go, the worst that can happen is the market will say no. It's not like they're going to chop your head off if you get it wrong.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Excellent advice. I know getting publishing credits for short stories helps in submitting novels. And if several are out, then rejections sting a bit less.
I'm hoping to create a short story or two from my novel. I've known authors whose characters are so strong in a short story, they spark interest in longer work. In agents and in readers.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Jim, excellent point! I do see my writing as a business. And I'm selling a product, which helps a lot with the inevitable rejections. That may be part of the resistance--if you don't submit, you don't get rejected.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Sia--I always believe that the first draft of anything so just be written (well, for novels, I need a basic plot outline or I get hopelessly lost). Then like you edit and query. And go again.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Sandra, yup, you got it down, girl. And good point about what I call "tweaking" (minor rewrite) for the next market.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Thanks, Helen and why haven't you tried to get your short stories published?

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Kathy, it's a GREAT idea to write short stories with your novel characters--I'm thrifty and that way your work does double duty!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Beth, I forgot to say you're welcome! The fourth has me all discombobulated!

Helen Ginger said...

I had one published eons ago when I was in college. Don't think I've even written one since then! And I don't know why.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Conda V. Douglas said...

Ah well, Helen, we're all different--thank heavens! Short stories are probably just not your milieu--but from your blog I can tell other writings definitely are!

Lynda Lehmann said...

All good advice, Conda.

I learned a lot of this in 2 two-year writing courses I once took at The Institute of Children's Literature.

One day I'll revisit my many stories and four novels and send out again, those I think are publishable. I've learned not to take the profit-motive and (subjective) market needs of publishers, too seriously or personally!

I've even had some positive notes instead of form rejections, but it's a little late to follow up on those. When I stop pursuing my art, I'll head back to the writing....