Why word count matters when submitting a story

Word Count for stories

I used to think that putting the word count on a submission wasn’t that big of a deal, as you can look it up in Microsoft Word as soon as you have the document open.

Once I started read slush for an online e-zine, I realized why having the word count was important to Editors; they need to know how much time to set aside to read the story.

Having a word count on the upper part of the first page tells them this right away. If you have it on the cover page (or wherever their submission page asks for it) then you are probably fine.

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Exposure!

Exposure

A blog post from this very site has been picked up by Allegory.  Ironically, Cracking the code, the first piece that I have ever gotten published, is a rant about not getting published.

Thank goodness the editor has a sense of humor.

 

-James

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Keeping track of writing submissions

As soon as I began submitting two stories going at a time, I started losing track of when I had sent them, and to where. I am not sure what other writers do to keep track of submissions, but I made an Excel sheet for the task.

The main tab is a chronological list of the each submission.

Chronological writing submissions

I also have tabs for each of the individual stories to see the chronological history of where they have been submitted.  I see on the tab below that I did submit this story to the same place twice, which is really a no-no, but it was after some editing, a name change to the story and after almost four years had elapsed. Unfortunately, they still didn’t like it.

Writing submissions by story

 

I have another tab  that automatically adjusts so I can tell from a quick glance which stories are available to be submitted. I am not sure if there is actually a “sub-type” category for writing. I just do that for my own reference, because, yes, sometimes I do forget what my own stories are about.

Stories that are able to be submitted

If this is something you feel may be useful, feel free to comment with your e-mail and I will send you the template.

 

-James

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VALIDATION!

Validate

It has happened.

Here are excerpts from a recent series of exciting e-mails:

3/29/2014
“I’m writing to let you know that your story has made it past the initial reading by 3 randomly selected associate editors and is being advanced for further review to a full editorial board.”
4/10/2014

“Your story is one of the top contenders for inclusion into the book”

4/15/2014
“I’d like to officially accept your story for inclusion in UFO3!”

 

And just like that, Little green Fonzie, now called The right answer,  has been accepted for publication in an anthology of humorous science fiction.

Apparently the recipe for getting published is to try really hard for a while, then give up for four years, get married, have a baby, then try again. On the third submission, someone will buy your stuff.

Or it could be that I decided to contact an Editor and hire her to help me clean up my writing.

It may not be hard to guess, but UFO Publishing is one of my favorite online sites now.
-James

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Getting Creative

Image

 

It’s not like riding a bike.

The creative juices just don’t flow as easily after you have been away for a while. The hamster wheel has a harder time turning and when it does there is this awful squeaking sound every time it goes around.

I have been going through my old idea pile. I am pleased with what I am finding, yet I am unable to pick up where I left off. It seems I am better at doing a rewrite of something finished, polishing the existing rather than creating anew.  Part of it is that the house now has four people in it instead of just me, but I know in my heart, most of it is of my own lack of volition.

 

Here are some sites with articles I enjoyed on how to get the creative juices flowing:

goinswriter.com

Just creative

how-to-write-a-novel.net

 

 

 

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Renewal

 

Horse

For some reason I let four years slip by since my last Blog post. In that time all writing and submitting went on hiatus.  How could I let that happen?  Well here are some of the life changers that have been going on since that last post. Please do not construe these as excuses. I have no excuse.

1) I got married

2) I changed jobs

3) We had a baby

The good news is that I am back in the game and have, as of last month, already received two rejection letters.  I am in the process of reconstructing a few of my stories.  The one advantage of being away from your writing for that long is that it gives you a fresh perspective.

I am also excited because a story I submitted to UFO Publishing has advanced past the initial rounds. I received this via e-mail:

Hi James,
I’m writing to let you know that your story has made it past the initial reading by 3 randomly selected associate editors and is being advanced for further review to a full editorial board.
Please expect another e-mail from me in a few days, at which point we will either release the story back to you, or hold it in the “final consideration” pile until I’m ready to make final decisions, sometime in early to mid- April.
Thanks,
Alex

 

Even if it goes no further, it was exciting to know that a few strangers liked it enough to give it a thumbs up and move it up the ladder.

Now that I am getting back on the horse, my time away has also reminded of Mark Twain, who, at one point, put down The adventures of Huckleberry Finn and didn’t return to it until seven years later.  Please note that this “fact” is a faint recollection of something my 9th grade English teacher told us.  I am certain of the author, but hazy as to whether I have the right book. I also couldn’t find any reference to this lapse in writing anywhere online.

Back in high school seven years seemed like an eternity. It was forever to walk away and then come back to a story.  I now understand how easily that can happen. I have a batch of stories that I wrote back in 1991 on an apple II. They are complete crap. I get a real bittersweet visceral sensation when reading those. I enjoy seeing how creative I could be at times, but I am frightened by the naivety and illiteracy that twenty year old had at the time.

At least I am not as naive anymore.

 

 

 

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Getting a bead on Stanley Schmidt

Getting a bead on Stan.

Stanley is the Editor of Analog Magazine.

As you may or may not know, I have been reading some of Stanley Schmidt’s work in order to get a feel for what he might like in a Sci-Fi story.   My theory is that all things being equal, learning about the man’s interest and style of writing could help me to tailor my stories toward something he has an interest in.

The biggest thing I have learned about Stanley is that he is really just looking for a good story.  My assumption is that there are a lot of those, so I need to hedge my chances by writing in a style and maybe even including content that will catch his fancy.

Here is what I have learned so far:

1) Stanley like music. He includes it as a trait of the Kyyra (Alien race) it in his book “The Sins of the Fathers”. Reading online about Stanley and Analog showed me that Analog magazine employees have also formed an informal band.

2) Stan loves to end a chapter with a hook or cliffhanger for the next chapter.

3) He does a lot of telling in his writing.  I am basing this on “The Sins of the fathers” which was written in 1975, so his writing style may have changed a bit since then.  But it’s good to know that he probably doesn’t consider telling ( as opposed to showing) as much of a mortal sin as some fiction aficionados do.

I had recently read Issac Asimov’s “Foundation” prior to reading Stan’s book. It could just be the temporal proximity of the two rattling around in my brain, but it seems that Stan’s writing style is very similar to Asimov. It made me think that  Asimov may be a mentor of sorts for him. There is also mention of a “Foundation “ in ‘Sins of the fathers” which seemed an awful lot like Stanley’s way of tipping his hat to Asimov.

4) Stanley has a degree of inefficiency in his writing. I think we all do, but the one sentence I really keyed off of was when he used a phrase that was something to the effect of  “He changed the subject”, then went on to show the changing of subject in the dialogue.  If you show the action happening, you really don’t need to tell about it beforehand.

What I gathered from this is that Stanley should be pretty forgiving if I inadvertently do something like that.

I am sure there is a lot more to learn about this man, but I am probably better off just working on perfecting the stories I have to tell, and not worrying so much about tailoring my stories to please one editor.

James

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