Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?



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 #26 – Submission Guidelines 2 – Waiting Periods and Hard Sells



In Post #24, I discussed my strong recommendation to read and reread a market’s submission guidelines each time before submitting.  I mainly focused on the issue of a market’s preferred formatting.  However, there are two other pieces of useful information often included in submission guidelines — waiting periods and hard sells.

Most markets do not except multiple submissions, meaning a writer may not have more than one work under review at that market at a time. Some, however, also have a post-decision waiting period. Even after these markets accept or more likely reject a story, the guidelines ask a writer not to submit a new story for consideration for a period of time, which varies.

Strange Horizons asks writers to wait 7 days after receiving a rejection before submitting again. That can feel like an eternity when a writer has a story ready to go. Strange Horizons has an added quirk. It only accepts submissions from noon Eastern on Mondays to noon Eastern on Tuesday. If it rejects a story any time after Monday, a writer must wait two weeks to submit again. I’ve had this happen. I consider it a minor inconvenience though since Strange Horizons at least is open to submissions every week, unlike some other markets with much less frequent submission windows.

The longest waiting period I encountered is for Grievous Angel.  The editors there ask writers not to make new submissions within 12 weeks/three months of a previous acceptance or rejection note. The rational is this helps the editors fight their backlog. That’s a serious backlog! Granted this is a flash fiction market, so there likely are a larger number of submissions. On the other hand, other flash fiction markets do not have similar waiting periods. It may be a matter of limited staff resources. Who knows? Rest assured, I have marked on my calendar when I can submit to this market next.

Then there are those submission guidelines containing a list of hard sells. As the name suggests, these are types of stories that are not likely to be accepted by that market. Clarkesworld Magazine has a lengthy list of hard sells. Strange Horizons also includes a hard sell list, though it cautions a prior editorial team generated this list, so it does not necessarily reflect the current editorial team’s tastes.

Because a story falls into one of the hard sell categories does not mean it shouldn’t be submitted or that if submitted, it will be rejected automatically. At least I hope not. I assume the hard sell list is meant to serve as a warning that such stories need to be exceptionally good and/or take an unusual approach to the subject matter to stand a chance at acceptance.

Again, I hope that’s correct. The first two stories I wrote both involved not only time travel but easy time travel. I realize that’s a well worn sci-fi trope, and it appears on at least one hard sell list I’ve encountered. However, the time travel component was not of any significance in either story. Time travel served as a means to set up a difficult decision for the characters in the stories. I hope editors pick up on that. I also hope editors read past the time travel incident, which both times appears early in the story, and don’t simply reject the story at that point.

I have a couple other stories involving common tropes — kids find something in the woods or kids discover a ghost — but my hope with all these is I wrote them well and unique enough to find the right market.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve wrestled with the waiting periods or hard sell lists in submission guidelines.

Photo credit: DanielCubas via Pixabay