Post #34 -Novella Submission

Featured

8/16/18

This was the week.  Monday, August 13 was Tor’s deadline for novella submissions.  Followers of this blog know I’ve worked most of the summer on combining three of my unpublished stories into a single novella.  This involved expanding the third such story from a flash fiction piece to a significantly lengthier piece to meet Tor’s minimum length requirement of 20,000 words.  While working on this project, I encountered two issues, which I detailed in Post #31 (involving not submitting my best work) and Post #32 (involving a submissions dilemma).

Well, I resolved both issues by not submitting the novella.  This was a difficult decision, but I believe the right one.  Because of the looming deadline, I sent the finished novella to my beta readers with not much turnaround time.  Two managed to get through the 21,100 words, and both had the same comment—the ending didn’t resolve anything.  In other words, it wasn’t an ending at all.

The interesting part is, I had the same critique.  Often, I need a beta reader to point out a flaw in a work.  This time, I knew the flaw going in.  In order to meet the minimum word count, I had added a scene beyond the ending of the original third story.  I like the added scene, but it opened up an entirely new avenue of the story, which I then didn’t explore.  I was rushing to finish the story, so I’d have time to edit it and send it out to my beta readers.  So the story has no proper ending; it just stops, and my beta readers were left unsatisfied. If they felt that way, there’s no way the editors at Tor would accept it.

That’s when I decided not to submit the novella.  I already had qualms about not submitting my best work, and my beta readers’ comments only solidified those qualms.  This is my longest work to date, and I want to do it right.  I want to have the best chance at cracking the pinnacle of sci-fi publishing.

So, I have a new plan.  Initially, I’ll chop off the first of the three stories.  As I expanded the end of the novella, I realized the first part no longer fit.  The story had morphed into something different.  With the first story separated from its sequels, I’ll start submitting that story to markets again as a stand alone piece.

Then, I’ll continue to take the novella wherever the last scene leads.  I haven’t figured out what that entails yet, but I’m excited to find out.  Once I’ve written a proper ending, I’ll see if my beta readers agree.  Hopefully, Tor or another market will be open at that time for novella submissions because mine will be ready to head out the door.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever purposely failed at a writing goal because you knew it was the better way to proceed.

Photo credit: typographyimages via Pixabay

Post #31 – Not Submitting Your Best Work

7/26/18

Have you ever submitted something that was not your best work? Maybe you were in a rush to meet a submission deadline. Maybe you knew a piece wasn’t working, but you didn’t want to spend the time to fix it. Or you didn’t know how to fix it then and didn’t want to put it aside for too long. Maybe you needed to meet a word count minimum and added unnecessary fluff to a piece to reach it. Or the opposite is true – you wanted to meet a word count maximum and cut prose vital to the piece.

I’m likely guilty of most of those.  I’ve rushed stories out the door before they were ready to meet a submission deadline.  I’ve cut words to meet the maximum word count for a writing contest.  I’ve sent a story out I knew needed its exposition rewritten to avoid the dreaded info dump.

I soon may be guilty of sending out a story that is not my best because I’m attempting to meet a word count minimum. As mentioned in Post #28 and #29, I’m working on a novella for a Tor call for submissions. The minimum word count is 20,000. I don’t have any one story that length. I did have three interrelated stories totally about 11,000. The last of the three was a flash fiction piece of only 1000 words. I decided to combine the three and flesh that last story out in the hopes of adding another 9,000 words to meet Tor’s minimum requirement.

I succeeded. The first draft of that fleshed out story came to 9,800 words. I’m currently editing the entire piece, and so far have only added, not subtracted, words. I expect the final version to be in the 21,000-22,000 range.

Here’s the kicker. When going back through the piece, I don’t think it’s my best work. I think the piece is better without the first of the three stories included. However, if I cut that part out, it eliminates 3,500 words, putting me under the word minimum.

What should I do? I could cut the first part and try to add a scene somewhere else to make up the difference. Trouble is I don’t have anything in mind, and the deadline is looming.

I could put off submitting, giving me time to devise further scenes, and hope Tor has another call for novellas in the future. Tor already stopped accepting short stories, so I wonder how much longer it will have calls for novellas.

Or I could submit what I have. I’ve submitted the three stories independently to various markets, all of which sent rejections. I’m not overly optimistic Tor will accept the combined work either. If it doesn’t, I may continue to submit the first part as a stand-alone story and the next two parts as a single story. Given the length of the latter, the available markets will be few. However, as I edit the combined piece, I’ve realized it’s not that bad. I think it will find a home somewhere, even if it’s not my best work.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve submitted something that wasn’t your best work.

Photo credit: blickpixel via Pixabay

Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?

7/12/18

The 2018 Golden Nib contest of the Virginia Writers Club is upon us. Chapter level entries were due by June 30. The winners from each chapter are judged and sent on to the state level by August 13, with the winners announced at the annual meeting in November.

As mentioned in Post #8, I question the rationale for submitting to this contest. On the one hand, there is the chance of being dubbed an “award winning author.” On the other hand, winning means I can’t submit that story to another market, unless the market accepts reprints, because the Virginia Writers Club asks for first publication rights. The problem is the Club hasn’t published the winning stories in years, not even as a PDF on the Club’s website.

One of the reasons I joined the Club last year when I did was to submit to this contest. I feel I’ve gained so much more by joining the Club while the contest has diminished in importance. I’m reluctant to give up first publication rights when there is no guarantee of publication.

When I addressed this issue previously, I noted becoming an award winning author doesn’t get me closer to my goal of being a member of the SFWA. If that truly is my goal, then other possible accolades are irrelevant.

An additional factor to weigh when submitting is the story length. The limit for the Golden Nib contest is 3500 words. That’s fairly short for the stories I write. One thought I had was to write the story I mentioned in Post #22 that fit a specific call for submissions, the deadline for which was the end of June. If I could have hammered that out in June, I expected it to be 3500 or less. That story likely is too specific to the call for submissions to submit to other markets. While I had the story idea, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write it. I focused on my novella instead.

The contest has three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Club member may submit one work in each. So what did I do?

First, I submitted a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve written since high school, and I’ve never submitted it anywhere.

Next, I submitted a nonfiction piece, again, my only one to this point. I’ve submitted this piece a couple of times and received the corresponding rejections. It’s currently out at a market that accepts simultaneous submission, so I decided to submit it to the contest as well. If it’s selected by either venue, I’ll withdraw from the other.

What about the fiction category? I decided not to submit. The choice was made easy for two reasons. I either didn’t have a story short enough to fit, or for those that were short enough, they currently are under consideration at markets that do not accept simultaneous submission. As I mentioned in Post #24, read and reread the submission guidelines.

Let me know in the comments if you think I should have tried harder to submit a fiction piece (i.e. write a specific story for the contest), publication rights be damned.

Photo credit: qimono via Pixabay

Post #28 – 2Q18 Update

7/5/18

Unlike last quarter, I always intended this quarterly recap post to have a positive tone. That’s attributable to my having made my first paid sale! Details are below, but first here are my numbers for the second quarter of 2018.

Words written = 9550

Submissions = 43

Rejections = 40

Acceptances = 1!

I already updated the Publications page of this site, but I never officially announced my first sale from last quarter. My middle grade story “Cramping Your Style” will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine. This is a non-paying market, but it now holds a special place for me as my first ever acceptance.

As for this quarter’s paid acceptance, my story “Temporally Out of Service” will appear in the January 2019 issue of Broadswords and Blasters. This also is a semi-pro market.

Regardless, I am ecstatic these stories found a home. “Temporally Out of Service” was the first story I ever started writing, though the second story I ever finished. After several rejections, I revised it to account for the many things I’d learned about writing in the interim. I think those changes made it a better story and lead to its acceptance at Broadswords and Blasters.

“Cramping Your Style” was the first middle grade story I attempted. The idea came to me one early morning while on a run, which is when I do a lot of the plotting for my stories.

Now that I’ve patted myself on the back, I should talk about my other numbers for the quarter. I didn’t have quite as productive a quarter based on word count. My goal still was 12,500 words to remain on pace to write 50,000 words for the year. Luckily, since I exceeded my goal in the first quarter, I’m still ahead overall for the first half of the year at 26,950 words.

The submissions and rejections were about twice that of last quarter. The market’s I submitted to had fast response times, and I had three new stories in circulation.

At the same time, I stopped submitting four stories. One, obviously, because it was accepted. The other three are tied together, so much so I plan to combine them into one novella. Tor has a call for 20,000-40,000 word novellas starting at the end of this month. My three stories combined originally equaled only about 11,000 words. However, the third of the trilogy was a 1000 flash fiction piece, my first ever one of those. The feedback from my beta readers on that one was the idea was good, but it was all exposition. They weren’t wrong, so I decided to expand that piece into a fully developed story in hopes of reaching the 20,000 word minimum.

That’s where the majority of my words this quarter wound up. Indeed, 7500 words went to that story whereas the rest were spread across two flash fiction pieces and one nonfiction (essay) piece. I didn’t start writing those 7500 words until Memorial Day weekend, but I got them out over the next month. I’ll try to stop back loading my quarters to take the pressure off.

For this coming quarter, I’m debating how to proceed. I have a story idea that met a call for submission, but that call ended June 30. The story is based on one of the flash fiction pieces I began submitting this past quarter. Do I still write it and see if another market will take it?

The other short story idea I have is one I’d like to collaborate on with one of my beta readers. I plan to take the first stab at it but haven’t started. I think that’s what I’ll attempt next.

Then, if I don’t get distracted by one or more calls for submissions, I think I’ll turn back to children’s manuscripts. It’s been awhile since I wrote one of those, and the ideas are piling up.

And, of course, I need to edit the story for Tor and send it to my beta readers. That story stands at 18,500 words currently. I’m hoping during the first edit I can eat up most of the remaining 1,500 words needed to get to Tor’s minimum.

A big thanks to all my followers who are along with me on this journey. My first paid sale is a huge milestone. Next up is my first professional sale. Hopefully, that’s sooner rather than later.

Photo credit: geralt via Pixabay

Post #19 – Help, I Need Inspiration!

5/3/18

This is what I feared when setting my writing goal this year. I’d run out of ideas. That was part of the reason I set a goal of 50,000 words for 2018 instead of doubling that.  After a very productive first quarter, I’ve written all of 1250 words in April. I’ll need to average 5625 words each for May and June to stay on track, but inspiration is lacking.

That is not to belittle those 1250 words. I’m proud of them. Next week I will discuss how I wrote the last 650 under unusual circumstances on April 29. For the first 600 words, I received inspiration one morning from the title of a song I heard at work while listening to Google Play. During the walk back from a haircut at lunch that day, I ironed out the plot details. I then hammered out the story that afternoon. It must have been a slow day at work. I already finalized and submitted that story to a new market for me, one that only publishes flash fiction of 750 words or fewer.

If it weren’t for that flash of inspiration (pun intended) and the unusual circumstances on the 29th, I’d have written nothing the entire month.

I’ve kept up my submissions though. In addition to the 600 word story above, I submitted three other stories in April for the first time. I also revised two existing stories. The first was an flash fiction piece, which was a sequel to another story. Both stories have been rejected on their own a couple times, so I decided to make the flash story the last chapter of its predecessor. One of my beta readers felt the sequel wasn’t working on its own as a stand alone story, too much exposition to catch the reader up on the events of the predecessor, especially for a flash piece. By combining the two, I cut much of that exposition. I already submitted the combi-story for the first time and am hoping for more favorable results.

I also revised a story written in response to a call for submissions with a very specific theme. That market rejected the story. However, I am proud of that story too. It’s a humor piece I really enjoyed writing, and my beta readers all said it was funny. A couple also said a certain element did not go in the direction they anticipated, and they enjoyed that surprise. In anticipation of sending this story to other markets, I changed many of the details specific to that theme. I’m also including several revisions suggested by one of my beta readers, who was not able to review the story before I submitted it to meet the call’s deadline.

Now I must decide when to submit that story. In Clarkesworld‘s submission guidelines, the editor, Neil Clarke, has a list of hard sells, one of which is “stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue.” Everyone will be circulating those to other markets, so he suggests waiting a while. But how long is a while? It pains me to have a story finished and not submitted somewhere.

Unfortunately, these revisions don’t add to my word totals. If anything, they subtract from those totals since they usually involve cuts. Next week I also will discuss where I plan to find inspiration.