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Posts tagged ‘Short Stories’

How Important is Your Time?

I’ve come across a few articles in the last few weeks about managing your time better. Most talk about how we waste time on unimportant tasks and not enough on what we care about. For example, I watched Avengers Endgame again last night instead of, say, writing more of my novel. I had a busy day doing all the adulting things we need to do and when I got home, I just couldn’t muster the energy to focus and write. It happens. I let it go and this morning I was back at it searching for markets to submit to and writing more.

But it also go me thinking about how much time I waste submitting to literary journals. Most doing respond quickly and a story can sit for months, if not years, with no response. Yes I’ve done the simultaneous submission route, but still I feel like my time is being wasted.

To be honest – I’m tired of the treadmill.

Round and round my stories go. Sometimes they find a great place, but most have been sitting waiting for (more than likely) a rejection. I don’t blame the journals. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to comb through and little time and man power to do it. That’s is the nature of the business. There is a lot of competition. I know this and accepted it.

Maybe this is a repercussion from my layoff, but I’ve been taking a hard look at my career (both of them) and asking myself, “What do I want?” Is this part of the dream to keep submitting, or do I want to move forward in a different way? Like limiting the number of submissions and then, self-publishing them myself. Or should I let go of stories and lean harder into my novel? I love short story writing, but sometimes I think I use it as an excuse not to take on an ambitious work. I shy away from something longer, because I have other stories that I can finish and submit right away.

Something has to change. I’m unhappy with my progress as a writer and I want to shake things up. Focusing on my novel, would consume more of my time, but I would have something BIG at the end. Over a decade ago, I wrote a novel and it never went anywhere. I’m glad it didn’t get published, because I’m a better writer today. Through the practice of craft and classes I’ve taken, I’ve grown into a better writer than my twenty-something self could ever imagine. I think it is time to go all in.

As for my short stories, I like the idea of a limited submissions. Maybe 5-10. If nothing happens, I’m going to self-publishing them and call it a day. All I really want is for people to read and enjoy my stuff. Having journals and magazines publish me is always a treat, but I am not going to chase this need to be a worthy writer. That’s for others, who want it more than me.

I’m going to spend my time in better ways.

Should I Submit to Non-Paying Markets?

This is a dilemma many writers have. Should you only submit to places that pay, or do you widen your search to everywhere no matter if they pay or not?

My stance for the past few years has been to submit only to places that pay. My initial publications were at places that didn’t offer payment, but now that I have a few publication credits, I’ve only been focused on paying markets. Problem is, I think I may be missing out. Am I limiting myself by only going for markets that pay? Or is it a disservice to myself and my work by going for markets no matter if they pay or not?

I see the refrain of many successful writers. Never work for free. Money should flow toward the writer.

But a lot of writers feel that when you first start out, and you don’t have any credits, you should submit anywhere. You don’t have the luxury of being picky. You submit everywhere that is appropriate for your work whether they pay or not. Once you have a few pieces out, build a following, and get some experience, then you can start submitting to the big leagues.

Then, I’ve read some writers that say start at the top paying markets and then work your way down. Swing for the fences first and when those markets are exhausted, you move down the list.

And then there are writers who say the only places you should be submitting are ones that pay. Anything else is a waste of time. I don’t necessarily agree with this notion. There are a few places I really like and would love to be published in print (like Conjunctions). Also I think that if you are getting something you believe is beneficial to your career from the publication(maybe lots of eyes on the piece, or listed on Amazon with other writers, or for charity), then it may be worth it to submit.

For now, I’m in the second camp. I submit my stories to the best places first. Once they get rejected, I move on to the second rung journals, and so forth. This way, if a story gets published I don’t have the regret of saying, “Maybe I should’ve submitted to ______ first.” There is a lot more competition for the higher paid places, but moving away from those, I’ve noticed there are more places that I thought that pay semi-pro rates (.03-.05 cents/word) or token payments. Nobody is getting rich, but still feels good to get fifty bucks or so for a story.

I guess there is no one way to get it right. Maybe some of the amazing, non-paying markets offer great opportunities that I am missing. However, I can’t get over the fact that I want to be paid. I don’t work at my day job for free, so why would I be okay with my writing career? And other writers may disagree and build an amazing career build on lot of non-paying credits. Each writer has to make the best decision for themselves.

I may revisit my feelings about this in a few years to see if my strategy worked or not. I’m sticking to my plan and working hard to make all my stories successful.

New Story Published at Four Star Stories

Look A New Story!      photo: Department of the Interior

 

My new story “Future Virtual Love” is now live at the Four Star Stories website. Click here to read it in full!

For all of my fellow writers, I wanted to give some background info on the evolution of the story.

The first version was written sometime in late 2012. I later revised it and added more (about 1500 or so more words). I then workshopped it twice. The first time in summer 2013 and then later in fall 2013. During summer 2013, my professor encouraged me to submit. I had held off submitting, because I wanted to focus just on craft while in grad school, but she said that the story was strong, and I should try. So off it went into the cycle of submissions and rejections.

During my thesis in Spring 2015, my advisor said that I should try submitting it with a significant portion cut. It wasn’t that the story was bad, in fact the whole story was part of my thesis and accepted. Honestly, her advice came from the feedback the story was getting from editors. “The story is good,” they would say, “but not quite for us.” It got quite a few personal rejections and, yes, that spurred me on, but also made me take second, or even third looks at my work. Then, my advisor suggested that I submit the shorter version instead.

3.5 years after that first workshop… 1 year after thesis… 18 rejections later… I submitted to Four Star Stories in July 2016. In September 2017, I got the acceptance e-mail.

Now in February 2018, the story is published.

Yay!

This experience taught me a lot, but there are TWO big lessons:

  1. Believe in your work. If you think your work is worth publishing, eventually others will as well. It may take time, but it will happen.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your writing and change it if YOU want to. (Don’t let anyone talk you into changing something you think is right and true.) No story is perfect, and don’t revise until the story is a mere shell, but do take a look at it and see if there is anything that can get better. As an artist, we should strive to be better at our craft then we were the day before.

Don’t stop learning.

Don’t stop growing.

Summer 100K Results & Beginning of Short Story September

I haven’t finished typing up everything I wrote for the months of July and August 2016, but as I said before, I didn’t hit 100K words. I still estimate that it will be closer to 10 – 11K in words. This is a huge feat when you consider I had barely 1, 000 words this year. Once I finish typing it all up, I’ll give the final results (hopefully this week). So what happened that kicked my productivity into overtime? Here are a few things:

Change of Routine

July chugged along and I didn’t have much success, so in August I threw the game plan out the window and radically changed my routine. Up until that time, I had been an evening writer. My routine was to wake up, have a breakfast, work (I work from home full-time now.), workout, shower, dinner, and then finally write. You know what? By the time I got my workout in, showered, and ate, the last thing I felt like doing was writing. I just wanted to turn my brain off and watch TV or surf the net.

I had tried working out in the morning, but I couldn’t do it. I’m an early riser, but I liked working out at the end of my day after sitting in front of my computer. I was used to writing in the evening, because that’s what I did when I went to an office. But once I started working from home, I had no evening commute. So I got lazy and pushed the time further and further back until I was writing at the same time some TV show was on that I didn’t want to miss. (Side note: I don’t have cable so no DVR.)

So I told myself starting in August I was going to write first thing in the morning. I woke up and before I got dressed, looked at the news, or ate any food, I would write. And it worked. The pages started to pile up. Chapters got finished. I no longer felt worn out or tired when I wrote. I also didn’t feel guilty about staring at the TV, or going out at night. Before I would beat myself up for not writing, but now I could say – I got some writing in this morning. I’m good.

Consistency

Not everyday was perfect. I missed 6 days in August. But today is the 22nd day in a row I have written some fiction. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to break the streak. That can be addictive. I would say to myself You’ve made it 10 days, why not go for 11? And I would pick up my notebook and get a few words down, happy as a clam that the streak was still alive. Some days I still had to write at night, but mostly these were morning writing words. They were the first things done before the rest of the world got moving.

Speed

I have accepted at this point in my writing life, I am not a fast writer. I don’t get 1,000 words written a day. I get closer to 200-300 words done. While I admire those that can churn out fast copy, it’s not me. Frankly, I’d rather be slow, but consistent. The words do add up. Maybe one day I will build up my speed, but right now, I just want to be consistent again. Once in a while, I will do a marathon day, but that will burn me out. Yesterday was Labor Day in the US, and a holiday for most. I spent about 5 hours or so finishing a story. I happy it’s done, but I don’t want to do that everyday.

Conclusion

I’m going to stick with this routine until it doesn’t work anymore. That’s the most valuable thing I learned. When your routine doesn’t serve your needs, it’s time to change it. You might have great success.

Also I want to make a note that it is time for my annual challenge to myself called Short Story September. I started in 2014 writing a new short story every week. Last year (2015) I tried writing a story everyday, with not so great results. So I’m back to a new story every week. I’ve already started the story for this week and hope to be done by Saturday. I’m also writing a novel, so I may switch things up and work on that this month too. Either way I want 4 new short stories and/or 4 new chapters.

Submissions are also chugging along. I’m at 55 rejections, and I have four currently out for consideration. Hope to have a few more by the end of the month.

Thanks everyone for reading. Happy Writing!

 

I Self-Published a Book!

Hypergraphia

 

My new chapbook of short stories – Hypergraphia and Other Odd Stories – is available to purchase!

Exactly one month ago, I sat hunched over my computer staring at the Amazon Kindle store screen. Most Decembers, I have almost half the month off and this time around I decided to take advantage of all my time off. I had been tossing around the idea of self-publishing and figured why not?

I did this to see if I COULD do it. Could I format a book and upload it to Amazon? Could I design my own book cover? It was a challenge to figure out. One I enjoyed.

I had the stories. These five were written over the past three years. Some written and worked in class. Some I written on my own. All of them fun and interesting (to me at least).

Right now the e-book is only available on Amazon, but I am working on formatting it through Smashwords for other places (Kobo, iBooks, Nook, etc.)

I’m sure if I spent more time and energy mailing them out, eventually they would’ve found homes in various markets, but in a way this was a nice to set them free by self-pubbing them. They are out in the world and now I am writing more stories.

I definitely think I will keep doing this. I hope to do another chapbook this summer.

Buy Hypergraphia and Other Odd Stories here.

End of 2015 – End of One Year One Hundred Rejections Challenge

Final tally for 2015:

Submissions: 5
Acceptances: 1
Rejections: 40

On one hand, I am happy I hit 40 by the end of the year. It’s no where close to l00, but that number is larger than 2014 and lets me know I’m getting my work out there.

On the other hand, technically I failed. Big time.

I can’t help but look back and think, What if I worked harder? Wrote more? How would my numbers look better?

But all these questions will drive me crazy. I’m going to let them go. New year, new start.

When I started this challenge, I only wanted to submit more. I felt I was slacking in this department, endlessly rewriting and not putting myself out there. And it worked, I feel like I really made an effort and will keep making the effort. Now that I’m not in school, I have much more time.

And time management is now an important aspect of my writing career. I have to get better at this. Spending a year focused on submitting took away from my other writing duties. (See my upcoming Goals for 2016 post for more.)

Here are some other takeaways from this challenge:

・    I write weird stuff. I need to get better at finding places that like those stories. I have lists upon lists of journals and magazines, but I need to get better at knowing my markets. This year I found a whole new group that I hadn’t heard about.
・    Aim high. Not going to lie. I like getting paid for my work. Exposure is nice when you are first starting out, but really I aim for the paying markets first. This doesn’t mean that all unpaid markets are bad, but I have seen some places that are straight up scams. No I’m not going to sell all my rights to this story forever and ever for an on-line posting. No I’m not going to pay you (a stupid large amount of money) to read my story. I don’t pay any fees at all, but I don’t have anything against small, struggling places who charge a dollar (or so) reading fee. My issues is with the well funded places that charge a fee and then don’t pay the writer! That’s wrong.
・    Social media can be so helpful! Because of Twitter/Facebook Groups/E-mail lists I know when places are open/taking submissions.
・    When rejections come in, it’s best to mail them right back out… unless you have a place in mind and they don’t open for a couple of days or so.

So, I will continue to submit, but not post the numbers every month (but I will be sure to make a note when I hit 100). I really enjoyed this challenge and urge anyone who is shy about submitting to try it. Once they start to pile up, you start to get more and more efficient. It becomes a process and your stories stop being your “precious babies” and instead are just your stories. Fun, well-written, stories that you want to share. The depersonalization helps get you working. And this important point is the BEST (to me) reason to do this challenge.

GET TO WORK.

Thanks for sticking with me this year. Let’s see what new adventures and challenges I find in 2016.