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2016 Write-a-thon Week 3 report: the second step

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My simple goal, to send out that one story to at least one place, became a quest to devise a plan for how to send out stories, period. I put some time into thinking about the process of submitting short fiction at a meta level. What is it? Is there an art to it? How many steps does it take?

I realized there are, practically speaking, three steps:

  1. Match a story with a market.
  2. Polish the story for that market.
  3. Perform whatever clerical work (making printouts, etc.) is required to actually send the thing off to the editor.

I think I’m pretty good at Step 1 and Step 2. My ability to identify a story as “perfect” for a particular anthology or magazine, and have the editor agree, is why I have any publications at all. So, where am I failing?

Well, that’s obvious. There’s another step:

4. Repeat

If it gets rejected by the perfect place, I have to have a plan to send it off to another, less perfect place. And that’s the part I’ve never really gotten a handle on.

Less perfect. Wait a minute…

DING!DING!DING!DING!DING!

That’s the epiphany bell going off.

I just realized why nearly every story of mine that gets sent anywhere at all, gets sent exactly one place. The ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ place. The place I have carefully selected above all others. And if the editor fails to agree, what then? I’m supposed to send it to a less ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ place? After the ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ place already rejected it? What’s the point? If the ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ place didn’t want it, nobody else will. Obviously. It’s just not a story anyone is going to publish. A practice story. Disappointing, but, oh, well. I guess I’ll have to try again, the next time I have the ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ market for something.

Now that I think about it, my trunk stories — mostly complete stories that have never been sent anywhere at all — stay in that virtual trunk because I never came up with the ☆♥PERFECT☆♥ market for them. There was never an anthology that called for just those elements, or an open market that seemed to be looking for precisely the sort of sub-genre or mood that I deemed my story to have.

I realize now that I have been going about this all wrong. I have to stop sending stories to the perfect place, and start sending them to an appropriate place, in descending order not of perfection, but of some less esoteric quality. Money, for example. Nothing is less esoteric than money.

Armed with my new insights, my submission to-do list looks more like:

  1. Match a story with a list of potential markets.
  2. Identify the first market.
  3. Polish the story for that market.
  4. Perform necessary clerical work to submit.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 as necessary.

I choose to call it progress!

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2 Comments

  1. cjo cjo

    When you say, ‘polish the story for that market,’ what do you mean? Are you revising a story significantly every time you choose a new market?

    • “Polish for market” can mean a complete edit, but usually only if I haven’t touched the story in a long time. Otherwise, it would be something more like verifying that the formatting fits the instructions.

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