Writing Process: You Can't Submit to All the Things...
One thing I'm struggling with as a new short story writer is the glut of awesome places to submit short stories. These past couple of months especially have been tricky since I moved, got a new job, and received more responsibility at my second job. I sadly had to delete a lot of upcoming submission calls from my list.
A lesson I've been learning is not to get too wrapped up in trying to submit to everything. The odds of getting accepted most places are low because of the sheer volume of submissions most publishers receive and how few of them they can accept. One strategy to get published is to saturate the market and count on the odds working out in your favour at least some of the time. This is tempting but, at least for me, it was leading me to burnout, frustration and lower quality work.
I thought for this week's post, I'd share a little about where I find places to submit and how I decide which ones to try for.
Step 1: Find the submission call.
I find a lot of calls on Horror Tree. I also follow several publishers and other writers on social media who will post their calls. I look for calls that relate to my interests (dark fiction, mythology, etc) or offer an opportunity for me to try something new and exciting. I am always trying to grow and learn.
I prioritize publishers I've worked with as well as Canadian markets. I also look at pay rates. I'm still pretty new, so I am happy to submit to token paying markets (markets that can't afford to pay what is considered the professional rate, but still offer something). I also will submit flash fiction to unpaid calls if they interest or inspire me.
You'll have to decide for yourself what pay rates you're willing to try for. I set my own parameters when I started submitting regularly and they may change one day, but for now it works for me. I think it's a personal decision for every author and not something I'm looking to get into too much in this post.
2. Develop an idea
I tend to do my brainstorming on paper. I use word maps, notes, looking at related images and other ideas. This is why I like themed submission calls--they are a great way to get me started on a new idea. There are times when I already have a story, or part of one that relates to a submission call, but most of the time I have been writing stories specifically aimed at those calls.
The bonus is even if they say "no thanks" - I still have a complete story that can either be reworked or sent somewhere else.
Lately, I've just started using Scapple. I find I'm really enjoying it and it's helped me start to organize my brainstorming.
3. Write that Story!
This is the hardest and best part! I take that idea and see if I can write a viable tale to the word length and within the given time. Those deadlines can come up pretty quick
Also, there is the matter of quality. Sometimes I write all or some of the story and realize that it's just not going to work. Maybe it needs more time. Maybe the idea isn't the right length for the word count or no longer reflects the theme once I start getting it on paper. There are many reasons why a story can fail.
But I don't delete anything. Those half-finished stories may stay that way forever, or they may become relevant again. I had a story idea that I wrote part of about 4-5 years ago. Then a recent submission call came up and it was perfect. It inspired me to find the ending the story lacked.
4. Edit and Submit
Definitely need time to edit. I prefer editing to the first draft. It's much easier to have something to work with. One thing I am struggling with, though, is being able to find someone to read it before I send it out. Sometimes I run out of time or I just don't have anyone available. It always helps to have a beta reader when I can. One site I use sometimes is Scribophile. It can take some time to build up the points to post my story, but I always get excellent feedback from there.
5. Don't get discouraged
This one is tricky. I definitely get more "no"s than "yes"s, especially for my longer fiction. It's hard sometimes not to feel like it's not worth it. I remind myself that even if they say no, I still have a newly finished story that I can send somewhere else, or rewrite and adapt further.
I don't post about my rejections because I don't find that helpful, but it does happen. I roll with most of them pretty well and understand that it's not necessarily me or the story that is bad, just that it might not fit. But, I am only human and rejection still stings even when I'm expecting it.
Anyway, if you're out there also sending your stories and struggling to get published, just keep working at it and honing your craft. I hope hearing about my process interested you or helped in some way.
Have a good week!