Post #34 -Novella Submission

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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  Followers of this blog know I’ve worked most of the summer on combining three of my unpublished stories into a single novella.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.

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Post #32 – Submission Dilemma 2

8/2/18

I have another submission dilemma. I’ve talked for weeks here about the novella I’m writing for a Tor call for submissions. The submission window closes in mid-August.

The novella consists of three linked stories I wrote over the past year, the last of which I greatly expanded to meet the call’s minimum word count. Before combining and expanding these stories, I had submitted each to various markets. None were accepted.  That’s part of why I decided to go the novella route.

When I made that decision, I stopped submitting those three stories to markets as a rejection came in. The problem is one of the three is still under consideration at a market. It’s been there since the first week of May.

My experience with this market’s response time varies. Twice, this market rejected my submission in under a week, but another time this market took just shy of three months to reject my submission. Was the latter story held for further consideration? I’d like to think so, but the eventual rejection was not a higher tier one according to Rejectionwiki. Now I’m approaching the same three month mark with the story I submitted in May. The Submission Grinder says this market typically has a 24 day response time. (If that’s true, then my stories rejected in under a week must have had something wrong with them. Either they were terrible, or I didn’t follow the submission guidelines.)

Neither the market this short story is at or Tor accepts simultaneous submissions. What do I do if I don’t receive the missing rejection? Do I submit the novella to Tor on the assumption the short story will be rejected? Do I hold off on submitting to Tor and hope it has another call for novellas in the future? Do I submit to Tor and if the short story rejection turns out to be an acceptance, do I withdraw my submission from Tor or hope the short story’s rights revert to me before Tor publishes the novella (which assumes Tor accepts the novella)? In that case, is the novella a reprint? Does it even matter when the short story is about 5500 words of a 21,000 word novella?

Let me know in the comments what you think is my best course of action.

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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.

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Post #30 – Writer’s Guilt

7/19/18

A recent post on The Writer’s Path discussed the guilt the author felt when carving out time for writing.  The thinking was guilt arose because the time used to write was time not spent with family and friends and therefore was selfish.

I have the opposite problem. I feel guilty when I don’t write. The truth is I have plenty of excuses not to write. Writing is not my day job. Well, I actually spend the majority of my day job writing, but emails and memos and revising contracts isn’t the fun type of writing. So the day job gets in the way, and then life gets in the way. That’s how it goes. I accept I have responsibilities that often take precedence over my writing, but I still feel guilty about it.

Like any guilt, it eats at me until I do something about it. For traditional guilt, that’s usually making amends in some manner. For my writer’s guilt, the only way for me to get over it is to write something.

In the past, I’ve said I try to do at least one writing related activity a day. If that’s not actually writing, it’s adding to my spreadsheet of submission markets, or submitting a rejected story to the next market, or editing a finished story, or reading about the craft of writing. When I’m feeling the writer’s guilt, these tasks only take the edge off. The fix still has to come from writing.

The odd thing is I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t seriously focus on writing until about this time last year. Before that, I never experienced writer’s guilt. If I gave up writing, which I have no intention to, would the guilt fade or would it continue to build? Let’s hope I don’t have to find out.

Let me know in the comments whether you’ve experienced writer’s guilt and in what form.

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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.

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