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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Writing Life

Isn't anything like I thought it would be. I suppose I had this romanticized picture in my mind of curling up in front of my computer and turning out, well, stuff. That part has come true. I do write stories--and novels, too. And I truly love that part. There's nothing better than being lost in the creative process where characters are alive in my head and the other world--the real one--fades into insignificance.

There are all those other parts, though. The ones I really didn't know all that much about. I've taught myself to be a better self-editor. And I've gotten better at researching markets for my short stories. Not much point in sending a sci fi short to a market that publishes predominantly horror. Also not much point sending high fantasy to a market that wants an urban slant.
    
The short story markets are interesting. In many ways it's like trying to hit a moving target with no feedback. If you send them something that looks a lot like what they publish, they often figure there's too much sameness in their stories. "Yes, we want swords and sorcery, but we've had too many stories with ______________ (fill in the blank). We want something else now. Surprise us." Sometimes I'm amazed I've had as many shorts published as I have. The next one will be lucky number thirteen. I'm really interested to see which story ends up in that dubious position.
    
Probably a low point was one of my stories that made it to the finals for a particular publication. I did get feedback on that one: a very nice note from the editor telling me it was a good story. That there was "nothing wrong with it". But he wasn't going to use it because it was too long. Even though the publication had a published 10K word limit, they apparently prefer stories half that length. Now some magazines will tell you that up front. I'm nothing if not an inveterate direction follower, so I went back to that magazine's website and searched for clues as to preferred length. Didn't find a thing outside the "send us your stories up to ten thousand words". And so it goes.
    
Whether I'm writing, editing or researching markets, I'm pretty happy all in all. The part of things I am far less fond of is marketing. For one thing I don't feel I understand it very well. That's not surprising since practically anything I pick up to read to educate myself says something different. Some books say to develop a social media presence. Others say it doesn't matter. And that's true for any marketing strategy including advertising. So, I do FB and Twitter. A friend taught me how to link Twitter to Linked-In. And I'm trying to remember Google+ when I post things.
    
From what I've seen, it seems to me that the publishing industry is like any other. It's not what you know, or even how well you write. It's who you know. If you know the right people, doors open. From that perspective, it seems to me the best strategy is to just keep on writing. The larger body of work I have available, the better the chance one of those "right" people will see something of mine. Maybe that's a pipe dream, but it's a nice one and I'm hanging onto it. At least for now.
   
I've said this before here. With the advent of self publishing, there are over 900 new books released each day. The challenge is how to make yours stand out and get noticed.

If any of you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

2 comments:

  1. Nice post, Ann! I agree with the comments on researching short story markets. It's tough to keep up on the different publications and which type of stories they prefer. But it's also hard enough to get something published, so it's extra important to make sure you don't eliminate it yourself by submitting to a market that doesn't fit the genre or length.

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    1. You're so right, Clare. It doesn't seem like a webzine or magazine would remember a single submission that they turned down, but I'm sure they do.Back when I was struggling with a cover for Psyche's Search I had a very bad experience with an illustrator who shall remain nameless. He didn't give me a chance to review his work and refused to change it when I didn't like it. In a snit, I posted to Broad Universe to stay away from him. Teresa Crater set me straight. She told me she'd nearly gotten blackballed by the NY houses for something similar. I wisely withdrew my post. It's a small world, especially in genre fiction. I don't think any of us can afford to alienate anyone.
      Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment!

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