Post #24 – Submission Guidelines

6/7/18

Aeryn Rudel addressed some of this on his Rejectomancy blog post titled New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep. Here are my thoughts.

For starters, I will echo the first thing most editors include in their submission guidelines: before submitting READ THESE GUIDELINES CAREFULLY. Do it. Don’t skim; read all the way through. Then go back and read them again.

Like the pebbles on the beach in this post’s featured image, every set of guidelines is different. Even if I’ve read them five times, I read them each time before I submit in case they’ve been updated. Then I read them again. On the second time through, I make each required formatting change to my story as it appears in the guidelines, just so I don’t miss any. For example:

Editor prefers Times New Roman. Check. Editor wants all identifying info removed (author name and address, byline, last name in page number header, author listed in the metadata). Check. Editor requires document saved as an .rtf or .doc file instead of .docx. Annoying but check. Editor accepts submissions only via email with “[New Submission]” in the title. Check.

There are too many permutations to remember when, like me, you’re submitting 15+ stories to a dozen or so markets.

I also recommend periodically double checking that the editor for a market hasn’t changed. It can’t look good if you address your cover letter to the editor who left the magazine two months ago. Editorial teams change, and submission guidelines often change with them.

Submission guidelines are a great resource. An editor is telling you exactly what he or she wants, which means your submission will have the best chance at acceptance. If you’re a salesperson, which we writers are, in what other industry are you able to know your customer’s personal preferences so as to market your product to them most efficiently? Okay, I’m choosing to ignore the new world of Facebook, Google, and Amazon where the sales companies know everything about us.

My only complaint is how much of a time suck reading and complying with the various guidelines is. I realize each editor has different preferences, so each editor’s guidelines will be different. But the time it takes to conform a story and submit it according to the guidelines is time I’m not writing or editing. Can’t they all agree to use the same guidelines, personal preferences be damned?

Many submission guidelines say to use a standard manuscript format.  Most cite Shunn’s manuscript format for short stories.  However, a few cite an alternate version posted on the SFWA website here.  They essentially are the same.  Luckily, the manuscript template in Microsoft Word follows these formats for the most part.  It’s when an editor deviates from the norm you must be careful.  That’s why you read the submission guidelines and then read them again.

Let me know in the comments your experiences with submission guidelines.

Photo credit: globenwein via Pixabay

Post #16 – How Much Do I Write?

4/12/18

Given my limited amount of writing time, I’m obsessed with productivity. I’m not alone. Most writers I’ve read, who talked about the craft of writing, discuss either how they track their output or their productivity goals.

Mike Resnick in The Science Fiction Professional states each night (remember he writes between 10p and 2a) he writes one chapter in a novel or one entire short story.

Stephen King in On Writing starts at 9a and keeps writing until he reaches 2000 words. Sometimes he is done by lunch; sometimes it takes him until dinner or longer.

Leah Cutter, author of The Healthy Professional Writer, says she tries to write 1000 words hour. She claims to be able to write 2000 words in an hour when the words are flowing.

M.L. Humphrey (Excel for Writers and Excel for Self-Publishers) advocates tracking productivity for each writing session using Excel, noting the time spent and word count. For me, comparing year-to-year writing metrics or shorter periods is a fun exercise. Humphrey believes it is a useful tool for the professional writer because it allows the writer to calculate potential writing income. In other words, if the writer knows s/he can write this many words in this amount of time and sell it for this amount, then their income will be this.

Aeryn Rudel, a fellow short story author and blogger, lately has tracked his weekly word count towards a novel in progress, as well as the number of his short story submissions, acceptances, and rejections both weekly and monthly.

I’ve only tracked two time periods of my productivity, last year’s and last quarter’s.  Last year, starting in June, I wrote 42-43,000 words with a goal of 50,000 words. I have the same goal this year. I have no official short term goals, though I wouldn’t be upset if I hit 12,500 words each quarter just to stay on track.

If the story is flowing, I usually get about 800 words an hour. I often hit 1000 words in one sitting when I have a little longer.  Problem is I’m not writing something new every sitting.  Most sittings are devoted to editing and submitting. I’ve complained about that before in Post #15, but it must be done. The alternative of only finishing rough drafts and never submitting is not attractive to me.

Since seeing Aeryn track his submissions, I included that tally in my 1Q18 update and plan to continue to do so in future updates. I can’t reach my ultimate goal of three short stories published in SFWA-qualifying markets if I don’t submit. And you can see how quickly I’ve had to accept rejection.

Let me know in the comments how much you write and how you track productivity.

Post #14 – When Do I Write?

3/29/18

I feel like I’m having a hard time finding opportunities to write. My productivity numbers for the first quarter of 2018, which I’ll review next week, say otherwise.

Before I get to when I typically write, let’s look at the writing habits of a couple profession authors. Stephen King states in On Writing that he starts writing each day at 9am and continues until he reaches his goal for the day, breaking of course for biological necessities. He appears to treat it like a job, which makes sense because it is his job.

Mike Resnick in The Science Fiction Professional states he is a night owl and does his writing from 10pm–2am. Last year after the birth of my second daughter, I saw those hours more than I cared too. Now I avoid being awake during that time at all costs.

King further relates the story of Anthony Trollope (an English Victorian writer) whose day job was as a clerk in the British Postal Department. He got up early each morning and wrote for 2.5 hours before leaving for work. It didn’t matter if he was in the middle of a sentence. He stopped and didn’t pick up writing again until the next day.

My ideal would be similar to King’s.  Get the kids off to daycare and start writing by 9am. In other words, treat it like a job. The problem is I have a day job, a good one that pays the bills, so my writing time is more like Trollope’s. I used to get about an hour or less each night. Then my oldest daughter started fighting bedtime, hard. My wife and I are early risers. This shortens the night, so my daughter’s late bedtime in conjunction with my early bedtime means writing in the evenings now is difficult.

I also used to have an opportunity to write during the girls’ nap time on the weekends.  Now that my oldest doesn’t take naps most days, my wife and I take turns entertaining her one afternoon each weekend. So my weekend writing time has been cut in half.

I typically get up early to exercise, before the kids awake. It’s the only time I have for that. If I wanted, I could sacrifice the work outs and use that time to write. However, those workouts are important to me. It’s also when I catch up on my Hulu and Netflix watching.

I’m trying a new approach. Two mornings a week I try to get up at the same time and write. I’ve followed this approach for several weeks, and it has worked well so far. I’m sacrificing my few sleep-in days, but it’s worth it. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’m able to get 1000 words to start the day.

The only issue I’ve encountered is when a rejection comes in over night. When I see that, I end up spending my morning writing time submitting the rejected story to the next market instead of putting new words on the screen. But there’s a simple fix. I stop checking my email when I get up.

Let me know in the comments when you write.