I’ve been dipping my toe into the very scary world of publishing, because writing is a funny thing. The more I meet other writers, both online and in person, the more I realize we are all different and all motivated by different things. (Not shocking, since we are all people, who are inherently different and motivated by different things.) In my heart of hearts, I put words on paper so other people can experience the stories and worlds I create. It turns out that other writers are happy to write just for the process of writing. This I find fascinating, even while I’m a little jealous, and a baffled by their opinion.
For the longest time — going on 3 years folks — this blog has served as a way to get my stuff read, but I’ve always known there were other works I wanted to get out there: the novel and a half I have moldering in my desk drawer; the four short stories in different phases of editing. I also know that I have a leaning toward traditional publishing. Even having heard all the horror stories I am a firm believer in the power of collaboration. In my dreams, I want an experienced team of publishing people behind me and my books. (Again, guess what? Not all writers feel this way. Some are passionate about publishing independently, and I watch their process eagerly, because as I learn I might change my mind.)
Therefore, to achieve my current goals, I need to build a portfolio of published works. I need to prove to myself and to editors, agents and publishing houses that what I write is worth reading. Many of these path-forward insights have come though:
- Reading books (Stephen King’s On Writing is still my favorite);
- Agent blogs and twitter feeds (I have learned so much from Mary C. Moore’s blog );
- Author’s sites and twitter feeds (Represented by Mary and Kimberley Cameron & Associates, Rati Mehrotra has a great WordPress blog and her first novel will be out January of 2018. I’m loving watching her go through the publishing process I’ve also learned from her, and have mined her past posts for potential places to target my short stories.)
To build my portfolio, I’ve started submitting my short stories to journals, and I’m starting to amass rejections. (Four so far.) I found out about my most recent submission site, PodCastle, through Rati’s blog. In September they were accepting submissions for their Artemis Rising event which celebrates women identified fantasy writers, so I took a deep breath, did some wordsmithing (my story was 1700 words and they wanted at least 2000) and I submit right before the deadline.
Then Twitter provided me with some really amazing facts, because you see, I follow PodCastle and their parent organization Escape Artists Inc. Here’s what I learned about the Artemis Rising submission process:
Whoa, I’ve got to say, I love this type of information, and appreciate that Escape Artists provided it. It’s way easier to look at stats like this and accept that your story might be good, but still be rejected. Then layer on that for PodCastle, which I submit to, there were over 200 submissions for 4 fantasy slots: data also reported on Twitter. My odds abruptly went down to a less than 2% chance of acceptance. Then four days after I submit, my odds went down to 0% with a rejection.
“It’s an interesting story, but it didn’t quite come together for us and we’ve decided to pass on it.”
But that’s a fair rejection. I dumped 300 new words into what was a lean and mean story to try and make it meet the word-count requirements of Artemis Rising. In hindsight — now that it has been rejected — I wish I hadn’t submitted. I wish I would have waited until PodCastle opened back up for normal submissions, so I could have submitted the shorter version of the story I worked really hard to tune and tone. But the twitter thread from Artemis Rising continued.
Isn’t that sweet of them. They made me proud of me, and inspired me. And you know what? The rejection note continued too:
“We appreciate your interest in our podcast; thanks again for giving us the chance to look at your story.”
That’s when my epiphany happened. Someone read my story. Sure, they read my story and decided that it wasn’t in the top 2%, but they read it. And if you remember way back at the top, I said, “I put words on paper so other people can experience the stories and worlds I create.” Well, someone experienced my story and said it was interesting. Sure, it wasn’t the most interesting, but that’s okay. My first goal is to get a rejection that has some specific direction to how I can improve my work. My next goal is to get an acceptance. But the only way either of those will happen is if I keep letting people read my stories. Which is great. Because I want people to read my stories. So I’ll keep submitting and editing and hoping my work finds a good fit.
(Of course, I’m not a total Pollyanna. The rejections hurt, and it would be so much better if I got published, because then even MORE people will get to read my stories, but one step at a time. This writing stuff is a process, and while I #amwriting, I also #amlearning, and that’s fun too.)