What’s the Slush Pile Like, Anyway? Part 2

I promised you a part two to this post last week and I finally got around to writing it. Yay!. We already talked about the submissions process, our file management system, and the types of stories we receive over at the Goldfish. So today, we’re going to take a look at the types of submitters we encounter. Who submits stories to us? What do they do right? What do they do wrong?

It’s time to get real about the slush pile.

The Submitters

The vast majority of people who submit to us are awesome. Really, they’re a cool lot just looking to get their stories out there. I can totally relate! However, there’s always a few bad eggs in the crate. Or wait, is it carton? What the heck do eggs come in again? I’m having a brain fart. Maybe “bad eggs” is a bad metaphor.

slush pile writing magazine

Source: Victor1558

What I’m trying to say is not everyone who submits to us has it all together. Maybe they’re new to the submissions process. Maybe they think they’re better than writer’s guidelines. Who knows? In general though (and I am being very, very general here), people who submit to our little magazine (and stand out for the wrong reasons) fall into these categories:

  • The Rapid Fire – He sends a story. Not five minutes after a form rejection hits his inbox, he sends another story. And another. And another. Until we call the Rapid Fire maneuver, “Pulling a INSERT NAME OF SUBMITTER HERE.”
  • The Beggar – She gets a form rejection and responds to it (mistake #1) asking for feedback on why the story was rejected (mistake #2). Listen, I know how hard it is to be rejected, but doing this will not cast you in a favorable light with any editor. I promise it’s not just use being big ‘ol meanies.
  • The “I Don’t Care Who You Are” – This submitter can’t be bothered with learning our names. I’m actually cool with “Dear Editors” because there are two editors to address here at Goldfish Grimm. Even so, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a magazine’s site well enough that you locate (and know) the editors’ names. It shows us you care. And we’re very needy people.
  • The Perpetual Confusion – Oh dear. This submitter is confused. Or maybe he or she just can’t be bothered to read the submission guidelines? Whatever the reason, the Perpetual Confusion sends in stories that are pasted into an email. They send us .docx files. They send stories outside of our word limits. Hell, they send us stories out of our genres. So confused!
  • The Plot Pointer – This one really irks me. Sending along a summary of a short story seems counterintuitive. The whole point of a short story is that you can read it all in one sitting. Providing a summary removes all the lead up and suspense to the final page. Don’t do it!
  • The Corporate Communicator – This submitter is professional as hell. She doesn’t just send in her short story (which, as her cover letter assures us, is of high quality), she sends in a résumé as well, listing out all of her credentials that in no way shape or form relate to being a short story writer. She also sends in a list of publication credits. Two or three would be fine here, but sending a list (mistake #1), as an attachment (mistake #2), that’s over two pages long (mistake #3) is just…no.

Have you ever found yourself in one of the above categories? Not to worry. Nearly every writer has at some point. But you can make a change. Be thorough when making your submissions. Be mindful. And most of all, respect that we editors are people, too.

Happy submitting!

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Confessions of a Submissions Slacker

Those of you who follow my blog (or read my ravings on Twitter) know it’s been a busy couple of months. Still, I’m not one for making excuses and I have a confession to make:

My submission numbers have been pretty poor, yo.

Last year, I was excellent at resubmitting stories. Rejection comes in? That sucks. Oh well. Off to the next market. But this year, rejected stories have been piling up on my harddrive. They sit there mocking me with their potential, erm, potential. “We are finished,” they cry, “no one is reading us!” they moan. “Nobody loves us,” they say in some other fashion.

And while I’m getting slightly better at resubmitting stories that are rejected, there’s still a whole slew of them sitting and waiting to find new markets. I have a backlog. The worst part is I know these stories aren’t doing me any good just sitting there. Finding time is difficult for researching new markets and organizing submissions. Like most writers I know, I use Duotrope to keep track of everything. Other than that, I use the post-it feature on my Mac’s Dashboard to note which stories are currently on submission and which ones still need to be sent out.

It may not be a perfect system, but it works for me. Well, it works for me when I actually use it. Still, I have 13 stories on submission right now and 7 I need to kick back out the door. It was worse last month, trust me. I also have 4 poems that need resubmitting.

*sigh* It’s easy to get overwhelmed with writer to-do lists. It never ends, really. Even blogging on a regular basis has eluded me.

What’s your strategy for keeping your submissions “out”? What do you do when you amass a backlog?

I’m off to go send out all the stories ever. Or, you know, try to resubmit one story before another rejection comes in. *hides from her inbox*

A Very W1S1 New Year: A Review

I realize this is late for a year-in-review post, but this is really more for my own amusement and record than anything else. Self-indulgent? Maybe. But here it goes anyway.

As a part of 2011, I joined the W1S1 effort. That is, I strived to write and submit a story each week. Though I started in June, I kept on track for quite a bit. I eventually dropped back to the monthly version of the challenge because I was trying to finish the draft of my novel. Still, I kept up with that version as well.

So, what’s the verdict?

The six months I participated in W1S1 in 2011, I wrote more stories than I ever had before in any previous year. Here’s some stats:

Drafted: 16 brand new stories

Revised: 12 stories

Submitted these 12 stories along with 7 others from 2010

Rejections: 99

Acceptances: 4

Pending: 14 (including 5 subs made in 2012)

I don’t like making new year’s resolutions, but I feel confident this year is going to be a good one for writing. Though it’s somewhat out of my control, I’d like to make several more sales this year, including to pro markets. I’d like to be able to join the SFWA by the end of the year.

Nothing’s guaranteed, but I know I won’t get anywhere unless I write. And write. And write some more. And once I’m done, I need to submit. And submit. And submit some more.

Here’s to a prosperous 2012 everyone!

W1S1 Update 02 – June Wrap Up

Write 1 Sub 1This is really the first month I’ve been doing this Write 1, Sub 1 thing and it’s been pretty great so far. The whole point is writing consistently and consistently sending out your work on a regular basis. I’ll post my sub stats as the end of this post, but I can tell you right now, the whole effort has been well worth it.

I have 12 stories on submission right now. Of those, I wrote 3 from the beginning this month and performed major rewrites on two. So, I guess I didn’t really accomplish the writing a story a week thing, but with all the rewrites I needed to do, it still feels like a major win to me.

Here’s all my sub stats for the month:

  • 16 story submissions
  • 2 poetry submissions
  • 5 rejections
  • 3 stories need major revisions

As if I need anymore on my plate, I’m working on my novel again, Dr. Fantastic’s Prodigious Prestidigitator. I got 1,188 words down today on it bringing the whole manuscript up to 37,401. I’m at the halfway point now, which in retrospect, makes sense why I got frustrated with it in January and set it aside for a while. But after a thorough reread and making some notes, I’m ready to jump back in, full steam ahead. And many other mixed metaphors.

I hope June made for much writing and submitting for you, too!

W1S1: Or, How to Go On and Be a Writer Already

So I recently found out about a little thing called Write 1 Sub 1 or W1S1 for short. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Your task, should you take on the challenge, is to write one story and submit one story within a time frame you choose (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc). I don’t know how closely I’ll be able to hold fast to this, but it’s a good motivator nonetheless and if the main blog where this all started isn’t enough motivation, there’s also an excellent (and very encouraging) community over at Absolute Write should you decide to join in the fray.

Write 1 Sub 1What I like most about this challenge is it’s helping me focus. I’ve written several stories that never ended up on submission because I felt they weren’t “there.” As I revisit them now, a tweak here and revision there is all they really needed. Perspective. I need more of it.

While some people can put pen to paper without external motivators, I find writing communities, contests, prompts and groups of people to hold you accountable extremely motivating. Presumably, you’re all in the same boat together, which is great when all you need is a little commiseration.

Since joining in on the fun, I have 4 older stories out on sub and I’ve written 3 new drafts. I likely won’t be able to keep up this pace, but I’m taking advantage of it now.

I’m off to write. Or edit. Or do something productive in the way of words. What are you working on right now? What writing groups, contests or challenges have you found motivating? Let me know in the comments!

Submitting After Rejection: Keeping Your Work Out There

Rejection is a part of this crazy writing business. I don’t need to tell anyone who has submitted anything to anyone that. What supposedly separates successful writers from those who never make it–besides being able to, uh, write–is persistence. That whole, getting up and dusting yourself off thing. This, my dear readers, is not something I’m very good at.

I am so alone in my rejection-induced melancholy. Or, something equally pathetic and emo.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not a delicate butterfly. I can take criticism, relish it, even. For a few months I will be such a go-getter about my writing career. Rejections will pour in, but it doesn’t phase me. “A rejection, you say? Onto the next market!” I celebrate rejections almost as much as the rare acceptance.

After three rejections on a single story, I’ll take a look at it again just to make sure there’s nothing glaringly wrong. If an editor has provided feedback, I’ll take that into consideration. Maybe I’ll even do a rewrite. Then that story is sent back out to the great beyond of slush piles.

I can manage this gusto for are of submission for a few months before something awful happens: I get tired.

I know it’s such a sad pitiful excuse. But you see, rejections tend to have a cumulative effect. One, two or three rejections don’t bother me. But when every single thing I’m sending out is coming back with the proverbial big red “NO” on it, it’s easy to step back and wonder why the heck you’re doing this. But more than the feeling of being rejected, it’s the act of submitted over and over that gets tiring.

And then life gets in the way. Or rather, I let it get in the way. I’ll feel guilty at first, but I’ll get so used to writing and not submitting that the act of non-writing becomes the rule rather than the exception. Suddenly, I don’t feel so guilty anymore.

I wish I had the solution to putting an end to this dreaded cycle, but I’ve yet to find it. In the meantime, I’ve submitted four of my short stories once more after giving each a good once over. Some are flash some are standard shorts, and all are delightfully speculative. Hopefully, they will find dear, nurturing homes that accept their absurdity.

And I guess it’s about time I wrote something new, huh?

How do you keep submitting (and submitting and submitting) even when nothing sticks? What motivates you? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Or, you know, you can always yell at me. That works, too.

Published

shapeimage_1SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 2009

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Okay, so that might be overstating things a bit. I can distinctly remember a period when I was fifteen or so when I didn’t want to be much of anything. However, when I was three, hadn’t a clue about letters, words or sentences and couldn’t read or write even one teenytinybit, I wanted to be a writer. My parents decked me out with tablets, pens, pencils and markers galore. I’d sit on the beige carpet in my bedroom, scribbling on the blank sheets with endless energy. I filled notebook after notebook. Sketch pad after sketch pad. Now, I know what you’re thinking: if I couldn’t write, then what was I writing anyway? The answer is simple. I drew lines. I drew squiggles. I made loopy cursive imitations that, in my just-past-toddler brain looked like my mom’s own cursive hand. I wasn’t quite ready for my dad’s all-capital print.

ct1-6_markersI sat on the floor next to the bench–yes, I had a bench in my bedroom–and scribbled away. Afternoons rolled by and so did the pages. If only writing came so easy, now. I’d speak the words I “wrote” aloud, telling myself the stories I knew I wasn’t committing to paper.

Before kindergarten, my parents guided me through the pre-school handbooks to prepare the new-to-school five-year-old for reading and mastering the ABC’s. I flew through the books. Amazing how young children pick up language. The letters were second nature. It was like I already knew them. They’d just needed to be given a name.

Once I could get through rudimentary books without the aid of an adult, I’d pronounce throughout the house, “I can read!” in a mocking, self-congratulatory tone not befitting of a proper young lady. My mom could no longer leave the Christmas shopping list out in plain view. She had a kindergarten spy on her hands that needed to be dealt with appropriately.

MV5BMTY0NzU0NjM0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTc1ODM2._V1._SX322_SY400_Throughout elementary school, I penned several stories that I’d rather forget. One had to do with a hot air balloon and a fire-breathing sandman. Another dealt with kids roaming a house where a woman was trapped in the walls. Yes, I’ve always had a fondness for the macabre and horrific. Blame my dad.

As I got older, writing and I weren’t always on the best of terms. I loathed school. I let the social pressures of middle and high school ruin what I’d always loved. Reading and writing became “have-to’s” instead of “want-to’s.” I did have a few teachers that encouraged me, always English instructors, that despite my awkwardness and inattentiveness made me feel like I had something to offer (I’m looking at you Ms. Lundberg, Ms. Fletcher and Ms. McCabe!).

College changed everything. All of a sudden, I loved school. The social crap didn’t matter. I could focus on what I loved: reading and writing. Still, most of my time was spent writing papers, essays and pouring over “have-to” texts. I soaked it up, desperately trying to make up for my high school slackerness. Creative writing classes brought me back to square one. I was the little girl sitting on the carpet scribbling images of words. The world of storytelling opened up to me.

slushI’ve dabbled with submitting my work since college. But the past month has proved fruitful. A fiction acceptance at Tweet the Meat, a Twitter horror-zine, and a poetry acceptance at Electric Velocipede have given me the encouragement (hell, I’ll admit it, the validation) I needed.

So what’s next? Several stories are in the slush piles of magazines that span the current spectrum of sci-fi and horror online and print publications. I await my rejections anxiously.

Most importantly, I realized if I want to be writer, I had better go ahead and be one. So that’s what I’m working on now–the act of being a writer. And for the first time, I think I can do it.