I read this article over at From Sarah, With Joy which asks six questions on submitting to literary magazines.  The questions were:

  • How do you keep track of what you've submitted where and when?
  • How do you find new magazines to submit to?
  • How do you tell which magazines tend towards your type of work? [something more efficient though perhaps less effective than the obvious answer of reading the magazine.]
  • What do you put in the cover letter when they ask you to write a cover letter.
  • How do you know when a piece is ready to submit?
  • How do you know when to give up on a piece, and what do you do with it then?

These are all questions I have been struggling with myself as of late, and while I don't have all the answers, here's what I have come up with:
  1. Keeping track. I keep track of what I've submitted via email. Why? It's just evolved that way. Gmail uses color coded stars that I have assigned a meaning to (blue for submitted, red for rejected, green for accepted, etc.) I email most submissions but the ones that use an online form still send me a confirmation email which I then assign a color.
  2. Finding publications. I find places to submit the same ways Sarah mentioned in her post. Duotroupe.com is probably my main one. Sometimes I run across others mentioned via Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, and I bookmark them in a folder in my browser.
  3. Which magazines get my submission? I usually read the publications description and submission guidelines, then go with my gut. Admittedly, it's not very efficient.
  4. Cover Letter. My cover letter usually includes (not necessarily in this order):
    • My author bio
    • Anything they've specifically asked for (word count, page number, etc)
    • The website, blog, etc where I heard about them
    • The title of the story I'm submitting
    • Most important– A thanks for reviewing my work
  5. Done? I never get to the point where I think a story is ready for submission, but there is a "good enough". It occurs 3 to 5 rewrites after several people critique it. Many times I just get impatient and start submitting to places while I'm still editing it (just being honest).
  6. Giving up. I've never actually given up on a piece (maybe I'm still too new at this). I have set stories aside for future use.  If I run across a place I think may like it, I try to resubmit it again (after revising it again too). However, I know writers who have used Smashwords.com for works that weren't publishable. Offer the story for free and see what reviews come your way.  Maybe you'll learn what worked and didn't work about the piece for future reference.

What other suggestions/answers can you come up with?

What I Learned from #NaNoWriMo

5:41 AM Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This is my "Better Late Then Never" NaNoWriMo Post.

What I learned from NaNoWriMo this year:

  1. Don't be afraid to start without an outline. I spent many months last year trying to outline my entire novel so I knew what I was going to do. Complete. Waste. Of. Time. I never got an outline done before NaNo started so I was forced to start without it. It was a good thing to. Many of the things I thought I would end up writing, never went into the book. As I wrote, the story took on a life of it's own and told me where it was going. Chapter after chapter, I became free to explore the world I had created and enjoy it as much or as little as I chose. It was liberating! Great way to keep it real.
  2. Be flexible. Like I mentioned above, things didn't happen in my storyline as I thought they would. That turned out to be a great thing. I changed many significant ideas making for a better story then I had hoped for. But more than just being flexible in my story, I learned to be more flexible with my writing time. I found time to write where/when I previously thought I couldn't. It's amazing how much you can accomplish in ten minutes!
  3. Word count matters...to an extent. Having a word count goal each day (or month, or week) can be a great motivator. It forces you to get your ideas down on paper and make progress. However, I think words for the sake of words, it not a great idea. Quite frankly, there were days I was writing crap just to reach that word count. Is that a good idea? I don't really know. I suppose it's what you do with all those word in the editing and revising process that follows.
  4. Write daily. Let me first say that I am a busy woman. I have 5 kids, a self-employed husband, and a part time job. Time is precious. Before attempting NaNoWriMo, I didn't write daily. Maybe I'd have a good week and get some things down. Maybe my keyboard would be silent for a few days. It was sporadic at best. I am far from perfect now, but at least I am closer to taking that time each day to write. Sometimes, I still can't get to the computer, but those days my thoughts are never far from my writing.
  5. Diet Coke/Coke Zero is my friend. Really... I should by stock!

25,155  words later, I'm better at this then I was before, but I have to admit, the thought of editing all those words is a bit daunting...

Wow! After three months away, here I am again. I think that NaNoWriMo and the holiday season hit me a bit harder than I expected this year. January has been particularly brutal with it's gray color and no holidays to look forward too.

I've been in a bad, bad place with my writing.   Two weeks ago, I even went so far as to decide to quit writing all together.

GASP!

It's true.  After a year of trying unsuccessfully to publish, I decided that it was time to hang up my keyboard for a while. So what changed? I got some wonderful news that rekindled my writing flame.

I"M GETTING PUBLISHED!

Now, before I begin to make you think this is something bigger than it is, I will disclose that it is not an epic novel or future New York Times Bestseller. It is a flash fiction piece I wrote last year that has found it's way into an Australian publication. It is due out in May, so I will save any more details for another time.

Even though the piece is small and will go almost completely unnoticed in the global writing community, it is amazing it has lifted my spirits! I now feel a renewed validation that maybe everything I write isn't complete crap. Maybe, just maybe, I write things that other people want to read.  It's a good feeling.

Now I'm left with a couple of questions.

First, is one year about the right time to be working at this before getting something published?  What is the average for flash fiction? Novels? Novellas?

Secondly, I wonder how many authors out there are about to quit before getting the good news? Are there others out there like me? Or are there more that quit before they get to that point?

Just some points to ponder.