Well, now I have to eat my words because I did get some feedback! Mmm, tasty words.
I didn’t get a ton of feedback, but a little bit of feed back is still feedback, so today I worked on applying it to the story.
And you know what?
It’s a better story.
Big shocker, I know.
I didn’t use all of the feedback, for two reasons. One, I wasn’t sure I agreed with part of it. The editor said a part of the story felt a bit rushed, and I rather liked the pacing of that section. Two, expanding that section would have taken up even more space in 2700-word story I am planning to submit to a journal that seeks stories of 3,000 words and under, and I wanted to expend those 300 additional words at the end of the story. The editor said the ending was rushed, and that, I definitely agreed with.
And I like this ending much, much better than my original ending.
So, I’m going to let it rest for a bit and submit it somewhere else soon. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe they’ll say the same thing, that the part I didn’t change was a bit rushed, or just reject it without giving a reason. Then I guess I’ll give that section another look.
I finished my book! I both hit my word count goal of 75,000 and actually managed to end the story satisfactorily.
Well, I say satisfactorily, but I’ve already made several notes to myself with plans for revision. Because I said the book is finished, but I didn’t say it was good.
Now, before you protest and say I’m being too hard on myself, just stop. While I do certainly suffer from my share of imposter syndrome and am often unreasonably harsh on my own writing, that is not what’s happening here.
What’s happening, is a first draft. And sometimes to finally finish a first draft, you have to do some weird things. Like completely change a side character’s occupation and backstory, and maybe even delete a character because they weren’t really serving the story. Like add in new aspects of your protagonist’s motivation that didn’t exist in the first chapter that now need to be added in to the first, like, three quarters of the book.
So, when I say the book is bad, it’s more like, the book is a hot mess.
But that’s okay. It’s not going to stay that way, at least not forever. It is going to stay that way for a couple of weeks while I focus my pen elsewhere.
That’s really what this blog post is about.
I stopped doing just about any other writing for a few weeks because I realized that if I focused all of my energies on the book, I could be finished with the first draft by Halloween, and that realization proved to be an extremely strong source of motivation for me. But now it’s time to get back to other projects.
The problem is, I’m feeling a bit torn on how to prioritize my attention.
As a fledgling fiction writer in the 21st century, I’m unsure what the most strategic path to publication is for me. Back when I was in college (2004 – 2008), the path to fiction publication was to write a book and then query agents and/or publishers. If, when you wrote said query, you could add in a list of fiction you had published in respected literary or genre magazines, you were more likely to get a positive response. So a crucial early step to publishing your book was to write and seek publication for short stories.
This is still a path to publication, and unless you’re magic, it’s the only path to traditional publication.
But is it?
Part of the reason for including your short story publications in your queries to potential agents or publishers is so that they can see that other professionals have invested in you before. Agents and publishers are essentially making a financial decision. They want to know if your work will sell. If it has an audience.
But literary and genre magazines are not the only pathways to building an audience anymore. They’re a good pathway, certainly a well-respected pathway, but not the only pathway.
Roughly one post per (waking) hour, every single day. Roughly ten to twelve posts a day, maybe a hundred posts a week.
I read that, and my heart just sank. Chris said he spends roughly one to two hours per day on the WAW facebook page, planning and scheduling posts. And that’s not counting the blog posts he shares, either, if I remember correctly. Combined with the time he spends writing for his blog, writing on other projects, and doing his other non-writing jobs, he works at least 50 – 60 hours per week.
That’s… a lot. More than I can do and maintain my current levels of mental and physical health. So, uh, I’m… not going to do that.
But I could certainly up my blog and social media output.
But any time I spend on social is time I spend away from writing. And I have one story that needs to be revised and resubmitted (for an early December submission window), one story that needs to be finished and submitted somewhere (no deadline), and one story that I’m thinking of writing for an upcoming short story contest with a mid-November deadline.
And that’s not even to mention the research, plotting, and world building I’d like to begin for my next book.
Or the bit of freelance writing/SEO work I’ve got on my plate this week.
Or, of course, revising my finished book.
So, yeah, I’m a little uncertain where to turn my attention just now.
What about you? What’s your ratio of writing to blogging/social-media-ing? Do you spend more time writing on spec for lit/genre magazines? Or do you find the wide, digital world of self-publishing to be more strategic? Let me know in the comments below!
I got two short story rejections two days in a row. One of those rejections wasn’t even emailed to me–I had to go to the online submission portal to check on the story, where I found that actually, it had been rejected two and a half months ago, two days after I’d submitted it. If I did get an email, it got eaten by my spam folder. So that was fun.
Rejections suck. I know all the platitudes–not every story is right for every journal, the market is super saturated, part of the trick is finding the right fit, persistence is key, et cetera. These platitudes abound in academia, too, where I spent the last decade of my life.
I could write a lot of words about how the platitudes work in academia, but I won’t, because I don’t want to put myself in too bad of a mood. But one thing that academia has that the short story fiction market doesn’t is built-in peer reviews.
In academia, when you submit an article for publication, the editor may reject it outright. But most often, the article gets sent out to two separate reviewers, who read and critique your work and provide a recommendation to the editor regarding the article’s potential for publication. These recommendations usually comprise four options: reject, revise and resubmit, accept with minor revisions, and accept.
When your work comes back with a revise and resubmit, you receive comments on your work from each reviewer, and in some cases, an additional set of comments from the editor synthesizing the reviewers’ concerns and making specific suggestions for where to focus your revision efforts.
You don’t get that with short story submissions.
If you’re lucky, you might get some feedback on your story, but I haven’t seen any yet. Then again, I haven’t been actively submitting my short fiction for very long.
I’m not saying that the academic peer review process is perfect. There are a number of reasons why it’s not, but I’m not going to go into them here. It’s just that I wish the fiction writing… world… had a better mechanism for giving and receiving constructive criticism of your work.
I know these mechanisms exist. There are sites like Scribophile, which I have used and like, for the most part. And there are people you can pay to provide feedback on your writing. Most of the writing coaches I’ve found, though, focus on critiquing book-length manuscripts and perfecting your query letters and pitches to editors. And they’re expensive.
As they should be. I know first-hand that providing quality, detailed, useful feedback on people’s writing is difficult, time-intensive labor. I’ve done it. I did it for ten years. On academic writing, but still.
However, paying for critique services is an investment I don’t currently have the finances to do. Especially when I’m writing on spec, as much of/most fiction writers do. Every story you put out into the world, every minute you spend writing and revising and submitting and resubmitting is a financial risk. When do you decide to throw in the towel on a particular story and start with something fresh?
So that’s why my current strategy amounts a bit more to receive rejection, immediately resubmit to next venue. Don’t revise, just keep submitting. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. And then get back to writing.
So this week, I received two story rejections, but I submitted three stories.
I resubmitted the two rejected stories at different venues, and then I ended up writing an entirely new piece based on a new journal I’d found that none of my current finished pieces fit. I needed something shorter, so I wrote something shorter. And submitted it.
“The Wrackspurt Infestation” is my Harry Potter fanfic delving into Ginny’s life immediately following the events of the Chamber of Secrets. In this chapter, Ginny expresses some frustration in therapy and apologizes to Hermione for a second time.