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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Ready for Publishing?

Author Topic: Ready for Publishing?
Member # 10041

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I'm finally starting to consider entering the professional market. However, I'm a little uneasy. Part of me thinks that I'm still not good enough. Another part of me thinks that I'll never be good enough if I don't start trying now. As these thoughts torment me, once again I turn to you, my companions at the treehouse.

I'm interested in hearing your first publishing attempts. When did you decide the story was ready to submit? Did you regret it? Did your story suddenly become riddled with errors the moment you mailed it?

And for those of you who've been aiming to get published for a while now: where's the finish line? At what point do you decide that a story is as ready as it's ever going to be before you send it out?

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Member # 8714

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When starting out, I recommend making sure you've gotten feedback from a couple of sources, just to make sure you're not deluding yourself, then, once you're happy with the final product, send it out. Expect rejection and don't take it personally. They're rejecting the story, not you, and there are a million reasons why good stories get passed over.

Also understand that there are tiered form rejections at many publications. Phrasing like, 'didn't win me over' usually means they finished the story but didn't choose it while, 'didn't grab me' means they only got a little ways in before stopping. I mention the tiers because it can help decode form rejections. If you're getting higher tier forms that's a good sign.

Another thing, if you're lucky enough to get a personal rejection, don't forget to listen to the good part of it, not just the bad. And on this note, don't feel you have to revise the story based on the comments of every editor who rejects it. Only make changes if you truly believe they'll improve the story. What one editor didn't like another may love.

Be prepared for the lumps. Rejections slips are a writer's fuel, though sometimes they sting. But if you want to be a writer you might as well jump in the pool sooner rather than later. I made my first submission when I was eleven years old and yes, it was stupid, but at least I gave it a shot.

One more bit of advice - submit to your first choice markets right off. Don't undersell yourself by starting with token markets. It might be easier to get a publishing cred, but a low market isn't something you can put on your cover letter and then you'll always wonder if that story might have been good enough for Asimov's, or Analog. I highly recommend a top-down approach to submitting. It's a harder road, but when you make it it will be much more satisfying.

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Member # 8501

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I agree with Genevive. Get some outside feedback. Make sure you've gotten every spelling and grammatical error that you can out of the manuscript. Remember that no one has ever written a perfect story or novel, just good ones. Don't succumb to the paralysis of analysis. Get the story to a point where YOU are happy with it. Submit and move on to the next.

No one keeps score on how many times you submit, just how many times you publish.

If you're going to self-publish, read how to do it right. There are plenty of articles. Good grammar, good cover, good blurbs.

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Member # 9757

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Editing and proofreading are critical. Beta readers are worth their weight in silver for structural and content editing. But I also recommend printing out a hard copy and going over it at least twice for spelling and grammar slips. Maybe try front to back, then back to front. Varying the approach seems to help me see new things.

Ultimately it's like a job interview, or learning to swim. You can't get anywhere until you dive in. Figure it this way, the worst that can happen is that nobody reads it. Is anyone reading it now?

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Jeff Ambrose
Member # 9437

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All your doubts are coming from your critical voice. You can't listen to them.

If I could go back and start my writing career over -- and this would take me all the way back to 2001 -- I'd following Heinlein's "rules" to a T"

1. Write
2. Finish.
3. Don't rewrite unless an editor is willing to look at the story again after the rewrite.
4. Put story on market.
5. Keep it on the market.

As to #3. "Rewriting" is neither editing nor proofreading. Rewriting is reworking your material. Editing is fixing inconstancies (Hero has blue shirt on page 3 but a red shirt on page 6) and proofing is looking for spelling/grammar mistakes.

Don't rework your material. Write your story. Fix the mistakes. Put it on the market. Repeat.

Once you finish a story, always look forward to the next story.

And add an additional goal: Do this once a week!

Right now, you're critical voice is telling you why you aren't ready. Well ... guess what ... you'll NEVER be ready. At best, you have to be ready to go against what your critical voice is telling you. Best way to do that is to follow Heinlein's rules.

Hope this helps.

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Member # 8019

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Doubt, I know thy name. I don't know so much about thee that I am able to defeat thee. I learned to use thee, instead, to my best advantage. Rejection is thee's boon companion.

Doubt and worries about doubt are both the grind and the impetus of creative writing. We writers create ideally new expression that we invest emotionally great resources into. How well our creations are received worries us. Our worries about doubt are aesthetic hunches as often something's not quite as expressive as intended as something's missing.

Method of expression, context and texture, content and organization, and audience appeal, these are the intersections of doubt.

Do you use scene methods mostly instead of narrator summary and explanation to express the story? Are the voices apropos of their persona portraits? Do you anticipate and answer every question your narrative raises for your audience? Is the flow credible, logical, and authentic but not telegraphed so much that the ending is predictable? Do the narrative's subjects matter to your audience?

Those are questions I ask when I've completed a rough draft. If any answer is no, now, I revise.

"When did you decide the story was ready to submit?"

When I'd applied every method and feature I knew how to use.

"Did you regret it?"

Yes. I spoiled a few stories to potential markets by submitting prematurely. Most markets won't reconsider even a substantially revised work. Too many writers resubmit too soon after making only minor adjustments to fundamentally flawed writing. Thankfully, screeners are generally transient, though. On the other hand, I do not regret dress rehearsing the process. And my narratives now are far better crafted as a direct consequence of rejection's compulsions.

"Did your story suddenly become riddled with errors the moment you mailed it?"

Yes. I consoled myself with the probablity that if they wanted the narrative regardless of its shortcomings they'd work with me to edit it to acceptably publishable quality. Though many houses don't or can't work with writers anymore.

"And for those of you who've been aiming to get published for a while now: where's the finish line?"

Again, when I've done all in my power to express what I intend. As pertains to a lifetime or career benchmark finish line, there is only the one bitter end. Struggles along a Poet's Journey are constant. The journey is the reward. When will I know I have arrived on the publishing culture scene? When word-of-mouth buzz about my work reaches my ear.

"At what point do you decide that a story is as ready as it's ever going to be before you send it out?"

Never. Though, again, when I've done all in my power to express what I intend, I will submit, at least as a way of testing my work in the marketplace. If, after rejection at one house, I've developed a stronger way to express what I intend, I will revise, reconsider, and submit again elsewhere. Sometimes a story that has languished for years I may suddenly realize its shortcomings that I can rework into strengths.

[ September 16, 2013, 08:21 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Member # 8714

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One more thing, it's good to read a story out loud. If you stumble over words when speaking, the reader will probably stumble over them in reading. You can do this with a crit partner if you have a trusted one in-person, even if they've already read the story, or you can do it yourself, but don't just mumble it to yourself. A partner can help you find rough spots in your prose. My bf is legally blind and I have to read everything to him. It is immensely helpful.
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