Post #7 – Submission Dilemma



I have a submission dilemma.  Electric Ethenaeum has a call for submissions with a deadline of February 15.  The anthology’s theme is For Future Generations and is about generation starships establishing new colonies.  I have a story that’s perfect.  It falls squarely within the theme and within the required length.  And it’s a story dear to me because it’s the first one I ever began.  (It ended up being the second I ever finished.)

My dilemma is Electric Ethenaeum does not pay a professional rate, which the SFWA defines as $.06/word.  If selected, I’d get 50GBP.  Factoring in currency exchange rates and my story’s word count, this would be the equivalent of $.01/word.  This makes Electric Ethenaeum a semi-professional market.

My original plan was to submit my story to Analog Science Fiction and Fact.  (I am in the final throws of editing the story.)  It falls more in the hard science fiction sub-genre, which Analog specializes in.  If rejected there, I have plenty of other professional market options.  But what if I don’t submit my story to Electric Ethenaeum, and it’s rejected by all the professional markets?  Did I squander a legitimate chance to be published, even by a semi-professional market?  Should I submit my story to Electric Ethenaeum and assume they will reject it, so I then could submit it elsewhere?  If I assume Electric Ethenaeum will reject my story, what does that say about its prospects with the professional markets?  If my goal is to have three stories published by SFWA-qualifying markets, should I even contemplate submitting to a semi-professional market?

Update: I submitted my story to Analog. Fingers crossed!

Post #3 – Rejection



Let’s talk about rejection.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve already been rejected as an author numerous times.  In fact, with the rejection I received today, everything I’ve submitted has been rejected at least once.  One short story has been rejected eight times!

How should I take that?  It depends on who you ask.  One author I’ve read (and I will talk about who I’ve been reading in a later post) stated if a story is rejected five or six times, it means the story is not good enough for publication; and the writer should move on to other stories and possibly other careers.  Another author advocated a writer keep submitting the story to different markets no matter the number of rejections.  This author’s take was that there is a lot of luck involved in finding the right editor at the right time who will accept a new writer’s work. Though I read this advice elsewhere, it actually is #5 of Heinlein’s Five Rules.

I adopted the latter approach.  Currently, there are around 35 SFWA-qualifying markets for short stories (generally not including anthologies). However, not all of these accept the same type of story or the same length of story, and not all are continuously open to unsolicited submissions.  In other words, the actual number of markets available for submission of a particular short story are much fewer at any one time.  And those markets likely are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions.  To paraphrase the reverse of the popular Hunger Games quote, the odds are forever not in my favor.

That is especially true when you understand that new writers don’t sell copies of an issue or subscriptions to that publication overall.  Established writers, those whose names appear on the cover, do.  New writers are lucky if there are a handful of slots in a year’s worth of publications reserved for their work.

The rejections haven’t been all bad.  One of my stories was selected in the initial round of a writing contest, though it did not place in the final round.  Another story received what I call a positive rejection.  That is still a form rejection, but instead of just saying we won’t publish your story, it says we liked your story but we won’t publish it.  And we encourage you to submit more stories for consideration.  The rejection received today was from the same market and was my first personalized rejection.  This rejection was the same as the position rejection, but it included an individual critique of the story from the editor.  With the volume of submissions these days, my understanding is individualized feedback from an editor is almost unheard of.  Needless to say, I plan to revise my story in response to that feedback before submitting it to another market.  (The editor did not ask for revisions and re-submission.  Maybe that will happen when I submit my next story to this market.)  If you’re interested in the topic of tiered form rejections, there is an interesting post here.

Where does this leave me?  To paraphrase another movie (and its predecessor play), always be writing and always be submitting.

Post #2 – 2017 Achievements; 2018 Goals



So did I achieve either of my goals set in 2017?  No.  Am I okay with that?  Yes!

For starters, I did not anticipate achieving my goal of selling three short stories to SFWA-qualifying markets in 2017.  That’s why it’s a long term goal.

When I set my short term goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the year, I wasn’t sure how realistic that was.  Then the words started flowing.  I ended up with about 42,600 words for the year.  Considering that several of my short stories are in the 6,000-7,000 word range, I look at it as being about one short story away from my goal.  I’ll take it.

Those 42,600 words break down as follows:

  • 5 completed short stories
  • 3 completed children’s picture book manuscripts
  • 4 incomplete short stories (drafted but not edited)
  • 1 poem
  • 1 silly series of stories featuring my daughters and their cousins

I submitted all five completed short stories and all three picture book manuscripts for publication.  Six of those have been rejected at least once and a couple several times, but I keep submitting.  I’ve read that one thing a new writer needs to learn is how to deal with rejection.  I’ve already taken care of that.  I plan to keep submitting until I run out of markets.  It could be a while.

My new short term goal is writing 50,000 words again in 2018.  I realize I should double it to have a real challenge, but hear me out.  Last year I had a backlog of story ideas because I had never written any down.  I worked through much of that backlog in 2017.  I still need to finish revising the four short stories listed above for which I have completed drafts.  I plan to do so but not count their words towards this year’s goal.

To help me along with this year’s word count goal, I keep of list of story ideas, which currently includes three short stories and eleven picture books.  If I estimate 6,000 words for each short story and 600 words for each picture book (both estimates are high), that only gets me to 24,600 words.  My experience in 2017 was that new story ideas would come to me as I wrote the stories for existing ideas, and I hope the same occurs again this year.  Even so, I would need to double the number of ideas in my current backlog.  That’s why I’m sticking with 50,000.  Hopefully, I prove myself wrong.

So what’s next?  Not included on the above list is my one idea for a novel.  Yes, I have an idea for a novel.  I am setting the writing of that novel as another long term goal.  I think the idea is a good one, but I also think it will take me a long time to put it on the page.  I want to do it right.  I want to outline the multiple plots and develop the major characters before I sit down and start writing chapters.  It’s good to have goals.


Post #1 – Introduction



Why am I starting a second career as a writer now as I approach (am already in?) middle age?  Good question Cherished Reader of this Website.  Unfortunately, I do not have a good answer.  I’ve always loved reading, mostly science fiction, but my writing was limited mostly to school and work.  (I dabbled with writing poetry in high school.  I feel extraordinarily lucky that none of those works survive.)

For years I’ve used writing stories in my head as a technique to fall asleep.  In the Fall of 2016, I made my first attempt at putting these stories on the page.  I wrote parts of two short stories and got stuck.  Or I failed to devote the time to finished them.  Or I used the former to justify the latter.

In May 2017, my family took a road trip to Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Ottawa.  This involved a lot of driving by yours truly.  In an effort to entertain and/or encourage our two young children to sleep in the car, this also involved my wife sitting in the back between the girls with me alone with my thoughts in the front seat.  Oddly, those thoughts turned to a completely new story.  I found I would work through scenes in my head while driving during the day and then put the words down on my lap top each night after the family went to bed.  To not disturb them, I spent a lot of quality time on hotel bathroom floors.  Oddly, those are not the most comfortable.

For whatever reason, that trip proved to be the motivation I needed to get the stories out of my head and onto the screen.  Since the words kept flowing, I set two goals.  My short term goal was to write 50,000 words in 2017.  Essentially, I expanded the time period to achieve the NaNoWriMo word count goal from just November to half a year.

My long term goal is to sell three short stories to publications that the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America designate as professional markets.  Three short story sales qualify a writer to apply as an Active Member of that association.

My next post will discuss where I stand with those goals.