Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

turnaround2I got another story back a few days ago. No surprise. I had sent it to a top market where there’s a ton of competition from big name authors. Nevertheless it’s always worth a try. (Well, almost always.) Within days of the rejection, I had that story out to another publication. This is one case where I know the advice from successful writers is spot on, and I act on it as conscientiously as I can. Know the markets, keep your best work circulating and keep good records of where stories have been. It’s about increasing your chances of acceptance. It’s about keeping hope alive.


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gratitude (2)I got a story turned down a few days ago. Instead of feeling the normal sting of rejection, I felt a profound relief. Truth is, it wasn’t a story I was proud of. I was, and am, very proud of the writing, of the setting and the characters. But there was always something about the story itself that never quite jelled. There were no comments attached to the rejection email, but who cares? I didn’t need them. I know in my heart that the story had a major weakness, which I could never quite pinpoint, but which was nevertheless unsettling. If I had been honest with myself from the get-go, I never would have tried to market the story. I’m grateful for all the fine editors out there who, intentionally or not, end up protecting me from myself.


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thIFFW6ZP3A few weeks ago, I described a 30 year journey of one story from creation to publication in The 30 Year Story. Not long after that, Sarah M. Chen wrote a related guest post about perseverance and resubmitting one’s work on the Do Some Damage blog. Lest we leave you with a dismal view of the writing life, I hurry to say, it’s not always that hard. Last year, I placed two stories on the second try for each of them. I had written the first one for a contest in January. It failed to win, but, being familiar with the markets, esp. the online markets, I sent it off again in Feb., and it appeared in the April issue of Mysterical-e. You can read it here.

The second one was written for a June contest. When it went nowhere, I saw a notice for a new market, cut the story to fit, and it was published in Oct. in BJ Bourg’s new flash fiction zine, Flash Bang Mysteries. You can read that one here.

No surprise, the takeaways are the same. Write and polish a good story, be aware of a wide range of markets, and keep trying. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes, it’s easy (well, easier), but it’s all part of the life we have chosen as writers.





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In my last post, I told of the 30 year journey to publication of a short story. In that post, I posed the question: why did I hang on to and keep trying to place this story, when I had discarded so many others over the years as not having legs. It’s easier to answer the second part of the query first. When I periodically go through old work, I’m sometimes appalled at the crap I’ve written. It now seems boring, turgid, didactic, lifeless. I have new sympathy and respect for my long time writing teacher who had to slog through it all, yet always found something positive to say, even if it was just to praise one small phrase.  But, each time I make a pass through the old files, some stories still appeal to me, however badly they may have been written in the first place. And that was true of “All Creatures Great and Small.” But why? What was different?

The first thing that strikes me is that I liked the characters. I also liked their struggles and their situation. But I still hadn’t quite nailed down why I thought the story was viable. Then, a few days ago, I read another story to my husband. I write a lot of crime fiction and this story was especially grim and scary. He liked the story, but then he said, “It sounds like you had fun writing it.” Bingo. I think he hit on something important. That no matter how dark a story may be, if the writer has had fun in the writing, that quality will come across to the reader. This doesn’t mean, of course, that every time we write, it’s gonna be a laugh-a-thon. There are many different kinds of fun. I think it just means, your heart is in it. There are many quotes about following your heart that could apply here, e.g. Pascal’s “We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” I’m sure you can supply your own favorite quote.

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The 30-Year Story

th[2]A looong time ago, I wrote a 4500-word light romance. Back then, there were a number of print magazines that published that sort of thing. I worked on it till it was polished, then sent it off. It didn’t sell. I sent it to another market. Same result. Over the next few years, every time I spotted a new market, I sent it off. It never sold, but I kept it in inventory. As time went by, print markets for popular fiction began to shrink. So did the story length they wanted. Each time, I revised the story downward. It went from 4500 words to 3500, to 3000, then to 2500 and finally to 2000. The last time out, it had shrunk to 1500 words.

Meanwhile, I was having some success with other things: confessions, short articles and essays, a newspaper column for a year and a half, and dozens of academic papers written in the course of earning two master’s degrees. The years continued to pile up, accompanied by another development, the rise of the Internet, followed by a proliferation of online magazines. Now there are hundreds, if not thousands of markets for every possible form of fiction.

In an online forum, I saw a call for submissions for an online newsletter, Seeds, edited by Michael Bracken. The story fit the market, but he only wanted 1000 words. Really? From 4500 words down to 1000? Yes. In this case, the market rules. Cutting the story still further was hard, but not all that hard. I sent it off.

Michael responded that he had gotten such a response from his call for submissions that he was now overstocked. Would he mind if he held on to the story till the next year. (He only prints fiction in the January issues of the newsletter.) Sure, what the heck. Truth to tell, I thought this was an editor’s version of “I’ll call you.”

But, no, Michael was a straight shooter, and last October, he sent an email asking if the story was still available. What I really thought was, “Oh, yeah, after 30 years, ya think?” But I try to be professional in these communications, so I affirmed that it was.

Michael has published the story, called “All Creatures Great and Small” and you can read it here. (You’ll have to scroll down.)

keep goingtry againThere’s no need for me to spell out the first takeaway from this account. All writers, or at least the ones that get published already know it. But it reinforced some other principles I believe in. First, connections matter. I would never have seen the call for submissions if I weren’t a part of the online writing community. Second, any story can always be made better. In the case of this story, cutting, cutting and more cutting saved it from oblivion.

But there is another thing to ponder. Why did I hang on to that story? I had discarded many others over the years that I knew were dead ends. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

If you are a writer, especially of genre fiction, and you aren’t familiar with Michael Bracken, I urge you to follow his blog and/or read this interview with him. He is smart, hard-working, generous to fellow writers.


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