Tag Archives: Submissions

The lows of writing

Every story, no matter how good or bad, has a lot of work in it. Even if you are a total slacker and you send out your first draft, not even bothering to re-read it, you’ve still put a reasonable effort in to get it finished. For me, I edit and re-edit my stories seemingly endlessly. I cannot read them without wanting to change something. A flash fiction story of 500 words can easily take six hours to get to the standard where I think it is ready to send out. That’s a big investment.

After so much work it is hard to forget about it once it is out in the big wide world. You are so eager to see if it is going to get a chance to be read by the public. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that when I have a story out, every time I check my emails the first thing I do is skim the subject headers to see if there is a response. 99% of the time there is nothing. It is not unusual to be waiting over six months to hear back from a publisher, even for a short story, and that’s if they respond at all.

This part of the process is the one that most undermines my desire to get published. I don’t mind rejection, even form letter rejections (a generic response sent to all rejected stories), but hearing nothing, that’s disheartening. You can’t help but speculate that the story got lost, or wonder if anyone read it at all. What’s even worse is when it was ahead of the pack months ago when you sent it, but now everyone is subbing stories on that topic. That’s the main reason why I try not to write topical stories anymore.

A particular low for me was when an editor announced on social media that they hadn’t received any stories of a certain category that were up to standard for their anthology, so they wanted more of that category. My story fell squarely in that category and I had subbed it a month earlier. So I knew it was rejected, but the editor didn’t send me a formal rejection for another two weeks.

I know editors get inundated with subs, and they often have day jobs, not to mention their own stories that they are trying to write. But I wish they wouldn’t give indicative response times on their sites if they don’t meet those. I also really hope the public rejection before personal rejection doesn’t become the norm.

The whole thing has inspired me to write a story specifically for self-publication. This way I control the timelines and if nothing happens for a while, it’s because I’ve dropped the ball. I’m pretty excited about it too. It’s wonderful knowing that I will be able to count on it being out in the world by a certain date, instead of waiting, potentially for years, for others to reject or accept it.

Waiting… again

I know that one of the key things I need to learn in life is patience. I’m not good at being patient. I’m better than I was in the past, but I’m still a lot more impatient that I would like to be. Where I am both best and worst is with my writing.

When it comes to actually writing a novel, I no longer look at the long slog ahead with dread. I know that it is within my power to get it done and with a bit of patience I’ll get there. If anything my impatience works in my favour here because I want to get it finished fast.

Where I am falling down is waiting for responses. I’ve sent out 4 stories this year and haven’t heard back from any of them. For some I’ll have to guess this is a passive ‘No’, but for others I know that they are just really busy people who have a lot to get through. So I understand why they are taking so long, but it doesn’t stop me from checking my email multiple times a day, my heart in my throat each time. I really don’t like that character flaw in myself.

So I’m going to try diversion. I’m sure the fact I’ve only been working on short stories is why I’m getting focussed on the unimportant stuff. I think it is time to jump back into a novel. When I’m working on a novel I struggle to focus on work, so I’m sure I’ll be able to forget a few attempts at publication.

Now I just have to work out which story. I thought I had it worked out, but then the epigenetics novel kept asserting itself, which is usually a sign that the time is right to get it written. I might just have to be a little bit more patient with the novel I thought I was going to write. I know it will get done eventually.

Submitted!

Well, it’s done, I’ve completed the edit and submitted my YA novel for the Ampersand Project. I’m proud of the novel and hope that my enthusiasm shows in my writing. I guess the next two or three months will let me know.

This novel writing process was pretty intense, if it wasn’t for all the lists around the place (on my computer screen, the fridge, my bedside wall) I don’t know that I would have been able to complete it on time. Knowing exactly where I needed to be with the word count and the edit meant I hit all my due dates. And that was without knowing what the storyline was going to be.

In true me style, I tracked everything about the novel. I know how much time I spent actually writing the story as compared to just sitting at the desk thinking about it, how many words I averaged each sitting and how many days of writing per week gave me my best per-hour output.

There was one thing I did not measure; chocolate intake. I know I started the process with a pile about six blocks high in the pantry. I also know that I bought a few more along the way, and by a few I mean a lot. The cupboard is now empty.

So perhaps my writing spreadsheet needs an extra column added? Then again, maybe it is best not to know. I am so pleased I managed to get this finished on time and submitted that I really don’t care about the chocolate.

Fear

If there is one thing that my penchant for self-help books has taught me, it is that fear does not need to be of the heart-rate-increasing variety. Some fears do not spark your adrenalin or send your skin clammy. In fact some fear does not show itself at all. Why, because it is so ingrained that you know you will never let yourself face it, so your body does not get worried.

One that falls into this category is the fear of failure. Different people are afraid of failing at different things. For writers there are lots of failures we worry about. The story won’t come out on the page as perfectly as it looks in our heads, so we don’t write it. People won’t like the story when we finish writing it, so we don’t show it to anyone. Publishers will tell us that we have no skill and we should quit now, so we don’t submit our story. Academically we know these things probably won’t be issues, but it doesn’t stop the fear from getting in.

A lot of self-help gurus preach that you should do one thing a day that scares you. I think this is actually really good advice. It trains you to a) look for fears and be aware of them, and b) know that you can survive facing them. It is very easy for us to let our sub-conscious mind go about making our decisions so we don’t even know what we are afraid of, keeping us in a little, secure, safety-bubble.

But that won’t help you to become the best that you can be. Facing your fears is how you grow. That is how you learn what you are capable of, and it gets you to stretch beyond the familiar to the possible.

I think my fears have been holding back my submissions this year. I’ve subbed only two things, and one of those got accepted. Not a bad hit rate, but it is a terrible submission rate. So with what is left of the last two months of this year I’m going to face that fear. Let’s see what is possible.

A marathon, not a sprint

Writing is such a slow process that you can’t help but want to speed things up a bit sometimes. Earlier in my writing career I made the mistake of sending out my stories too soon. After bleeding over them to get them finished, the moment I typed ‘the end’ I was so flushed with relief and excitement that I wanted to send them out straight away. Which is what I did, over and over again.

I have a soft spot for my first novel Paragon, but when I finished it the closest I got to editing it was converting some of the hand written pages into Word files. Then I systematically sent it off to some of the biggest publishing houses in Australia. They all said no.

Eventually I realised something might be wrong with the magnum opus, so I thought an edit might be necessary. I was shocked at the number of typos, incorrect words and even transposed names that were in the manuscript. And I had sent this out!?!

After the first edit I sent it off again, and amazingly got some interest from the last remaining big publishing house that I had not already burned with my typo-laden manuscript. After some time, and a breathtakingly close call, they passed on it and Paragon went to the bottom drawer.

Since then I have learned all sorts of things about point of view slips, excess gerunds and exposition that I have now corrected in the story (thank you writers groups). But I cannot send this to any of the major publishing houses now. They said no to Paragon and generally, unless they invite you to resubmit, there is no second chance.

If Paragon had been in the shape it is in now when I first sent it off, instead of being my learning novel, it might have been my debut novel. I was trying to sprint to the end too soon.

So the lesson I have learned, rather painfully, over more than ten years, is that writing is not a sprint, it is a marathon. You have to be prepared to pace yourself and give things time, and you can only make it to the finish line if you take all the steps to get there.

No submission

For the last three months I’ve been working on my YA comic fantasy to try and pull it into shape for the Strange Chemistry call for un-agented submissions. I got my first 10,000 words looking pretty tidy (a big thanks goes to my writers group), and this was all I needed to submit. It is the rest of the novel that has been giving me grief.

For starters it wants to be too long. I keep going to write a chapter to get them closer to the climax, and suddenly the characters go off and weave another tangled web. They give me enough hints for me to see what they are planning, and I like it, but I can’t fit it all in and still keep it under 100,000 words.

This is leading to the other problem of not having finished the first draft. In theory, if the Strange Chemistry people like the story they could then ask to see the whole manuscript. That might be in six months time, but it could happen the day after I submit the first 10,000 words. As it stands now I’ve only written the first half, and I’m getting less and less confident that it is actually as much as a half!

So after much anxiety, and trying to force my characters in directions they didn’t want to go, I’m throwing up my hands in defeat. This novel will not be going in for the Strange Chemistry submission this year. The last thing I would want to do is submit a great first four chapters and then submit a sub-standard first draft when they asked to see more, assuming I could even submit a completed draft at all.

I don’t know if it is age or experience that has taught me that it is better to wait for a year and do something properly rather than rush into certain defeat, or maybe I am just so attached to this story that I want to give it the best chance it can have at being published. Either way it isn’t going to be ready for the October 31st deadline, and I’m okay with that.