Submission Dilemma III

I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.

More Shameless Self Promotion

It finally happened. The Virginia Writers Club got its act together and posted not only the winners of the 2018 Golden Nib Writing Contest but also the winning entries. The collected winners can be found here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I took third place in the nonfiction category. I was happy to get that. I had written my short essay (under 1000 words) for another market, which didn’t accept it, and only put it in for consideration in last year’s contest on a lark. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Having focused on speculative fiction, I’m not sure what other nonfiction markets are out there for this type of essay.

Now as the 2019 president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the club, I’m excluded from participating in this year’s contest. I’m not terribly upset by this, though I am pleased that winners going forward will finally be announced and their works posted, which was supposed to be a selling point of the contest from the start.

Peruse the other winners and see what you think. You can let me know what you think about mine as well. I can take it.

Post #45 – Award Winning Author

11/1/18

I received a call last month informing me I won third place in the Virginia Writers Club‘s Golden Nib contest. The club will officially announce the winners tomorrow night at its annual meeting, which I already planned to attend. Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I spilled the beans early.

I’ve written about this contest before in Posts 8 & 29. Submitting a short story to last year’s contest was one of the reasons I joined the Northern Virginia chapter of the Club.

This year I skipped submitting a piece in the fiction category but submitted pieces in the nonfiction and poetry categories. The nonfiction work is the one that placed third.

I chose not to submit a fiction piece because I considered that a waste. For one, I didn’t want a story tied up for three months while I awaited the results. I also didn’t want to give up first publication rights to anything I have available. I’d rather retain those rights in the hope a pro or semi-pro market wants to buy the story. Lastly, I didn’t really have anything available to submit.

If I remember correctly, at the deadline, all of my fiction stories were out at other markets. I pretty much chose not to withhold anything earlier in the year in anticipation of submitting to the Golden Nib, and instead kept sending out stories to new markets immediately after each rejection.

But I didn’t feel the same way about my nonfiction and poetry. I’ve only written two in the former category and one in the latter. I didn’t have markets in mind for either the nonfiction piece or poem, so submitting them to the Golden Nib contest seemed appropriate.

Now I’m an award winning author! But is that a thing? Third place in the VWC Golden Nib contest isn’t quite on par with the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust. Win those and you truly are an award winning author.

I know other authors tout their award winning status, but I’m not sure I feel the need to do so in this context. I’m not sure it gets me anywhere. It doesn’t help me reach my goal of three pro sales for SFWA membership.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I win first place next year. Or maybe when I win the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust.

Let me know in the comments when you think it’s worth trumpeting an award as an author.

Photo credit: 3dman_eu via Pixabay

Post #41 – 3Q18 Update

10/4/18

The third quarter is in the books, and below are my stats.

Words written = 13,400

Submissions = 26

Rejections = 23

Acceptances = 0

Publications = 1

It was an interesting quarter. I spent July feverishly trying to finish a novella in time for Tor’s submission window, which closed mid-August, only to realize it wouldn’t happen. The novella had grown beyond my original intended ending, and there wasn’t time to develop a new proper ending. This project remains ongoing. I still haven’t figured out what that proper ending is yet.

August was bookended by a business trip the first week and vacation the last week, both of which offered opportunities to be productive, and I took them. During the business trip, I wrote a new children’s picture book manuscript, which I’m really excited about, added on to an in progress short story and started a flash fiction story. On vacation I finished that short story and flash fiction story, started a new flash fiction piece, and added 1000 words to the novella.

I was disappointed not to receive an acceptance this quarter. That broke my (admittedly short) streak of one acceptance a quarter this year. However, that was buoyed by the publication of my first accepted work in the Fall 2018 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine. Technically, that issue was not published until October 1, but I’m counting it because the issue was available for pre-order in September.

I’m comfortably on track to hit my 50,000 word goal by the end of the year. For the final quarter of 2018, in addition to the never ending cycle of submissions, I’d like to finish the novella and the new flash fiction piece. I’d also like to start and finish a new children’s picture book manuscript. In fact, my new goal is to do that every quarter. My list of ideas for children’s books isn’t getting any shorter.

The open question is what to do about NaNoWriMo. Do I attempt it? If so, with what? Do I try to hit the 50,000 words using a series of short stories, or do I finally work on my novel?

I doubt I’ll try either way. I still don’t have the time needed to devote to that challenge, so the pressure would just annoy me. I may devote the month to my novel anyway. I’m intrigued to see what progress I can make. A post last month on A Writers Path advocated writing 300-500 words a day for a year. Writing 300 words six days a week for 50 weeks comes to a respectable +90,000 words in a year, i.e. a novel. (Ironically, I’m excluding two weeks for vacation, which is one of my more productive times.) If I try that approach over the 30 days in November, I’ll at least net 9,000 words.

Let me know in the comments how productive your last three months were and how you plan to finish out the year. Do you plan on tackling NaNoWriMo?

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Post #34 -Novella Submission

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