I recently submitted an original story (one that hasn’t appeared on this blog) to a website that publishes flash fiction of a thousand words or less. Wow! Less than a thousand words for an entire story. That was a challenge.
I took a creative writing class in high school (back at the dawn of time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth), and we called those kinds of stories “short shorts”. You start writing a story as close to the ending as possible.
Anyway, I cranked out my story and it came out to just a few words shy of a thousand in the final draft.
I’ve noticed that when I write something for (potential) publication on another person’s site, I really have to go over the story again and again to shake out all the flaws. I’m a tad more lax when I’m posting my wee tales here on “Robots,” probably because I’m impatient and hey — I’m the site owner. I just want to write and press the “Publish” button.
So, I went over “Killing Juliet” repeatedly until I thought I had it in really good shape. Then I followed the publication instructions laid out on the publishing site I had found and sent it in.
Part of the instructions said it would take up to thirty days for a response, so I figured I wouldn’t hear back from anyone until the end of August.
When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to see an email from the publisher. Basically it was “interesting concept but not a good fit for us.”
I clicked “Reply,” typed the one word response “thanks,” and hit “Send.”
But I couldn’t leave it alone.
A few hours later, I went back into my Gmail inbox and saw, among other things, an author interview. In this case, it was an interview with Calvin Demmer at Theme of Absence. It’s a short interview so I consumed it in a minute or so.
There were two questions and responses that seemed particularly relevant to my recent experience:
What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Don’t give up. The more you write, the better you get. If I look back at some of the first stories I wrote and compare them to what I write now, the improvement is clear. I look forward to keep on working at the craft, and I am excited to see what I will come up with next.
How do you deal with rejections?
I find that having more than one project/story on the go is the best way of dealing with rejections. That way when you get one, you just go back to the story you were busy with, until you feel like looking at the one rejected so you can send it out again.
Based on that, I decided to email the fellow I’d submitted “Killing Juliet” to and ask what a good fit would be like. I also told him not to be afraid to tell me my writing sucks, if that’s what he thinks (I used more polite wording).
I figure I’ll never get any better if I don’t look at my writing objectively. So far, the people who have chosen to comment on this blog have generally been complementary of my writing, and if I’ve been criticized here, it’s been more for my political and social opinions rather than my writing style and ability.
I also have to remind myself that it takes time for a blogspot to gain traction.
When I launched Morning Meditations over five years ago, I already had a built-in readership, not only from a prior blogspot (which I no longer maintain), but from my personal and “religious” life.
While there have been many times I’ve wanted to quit, make the “Meditations” blogspot private, or even completely delete it because of the strife involved in the “religious blogging” space, I’ve hung in there, and, just being me and expressing my own little opinions, the blog has become relatively successful.
I created The Old Man’s Gym eighteen months ago, and I thought it would never get off the ground. I started that blog when I decided to ramp up my workout regime, primarily by switching from bodybuilding style lifting to strength training, eventually settling on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.
I tried to blend the chronicle of my personal journey as an older lifter with interesting topics that targeted people like me (and there are a lot of us out there). The most popular blog posts have to do with building muscle and strength if you’re over age 60.
Not a lot of people comment, but slowly, the readership has built up and for an amateur blog, it’s getting a respectable amount of unique hits each day, occasionally surpassing “Meditations.”
So here I am at “Powered by Robots.” I launched “Robots” about two-and-a-half months ago, which isn’t terribly long. I read a statistic once that said there are some 141 million blogs on the web, which is a lot. I own three of them that I currently maintain.
I have no idea how many of those blogs are fiction writing platforms, and of those, how many drill down into the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
But I’m just one more, and frankly, there’s no objective reason to think that I should attract any attention.
Whether it’s submitting stories to other sites or writing fiction here and hoping someone will read and comment, I have two choices. Either I can give up, close up shop, and go find something else to do with my time, or I can keep going and see what happens.
I’ve come to enjoy fiction writing, but it’s a different kind of writing than anything I’ve done in the past.
In theory, what Demmer said in his interview about “The more you write, the better you get” is true, but given that fiction writing is as much art as technique, practice only goes so far. You also have to possess talent.
If I were to start taking piano lessons, practice might get me somewhere past “chopsticks,” but without talent, no one would ever want to hear me play (don’t worry, I don’t plan on delving into music). I suppose the same is true of fiction writing.
That’s one of the reasons why I like lifting weights. Practice actually does make me better, and it doesn’t take any real talent to deadlift a 260 pound barbell off the floor. Just time and effort.
Oh, I do have another submission pending at a different site. That one publishes flash fiction of 100 words or less (Oy!). I’m also in the final stages of editing a story for yet another site, one with a very particular theme.
Being the “chatty-cathy” that I am, you can count on me letting you know how it goes.
I have no clue what I’m going to do with “Killing Juliet”. So many sites that publish fiction online require an original story that’s never appeared anywhere previously, so if I have any hope of “Juliet” seeing the light of day, I’ll have to keep it under wraps for now.
One last thing. I found out that a ball flattens at the moment of impact. I’m attempting to “unflatten” and bounce back up.
“Remember, a writer writes, always.”
-Larry (Billy Crystal)
from the film Throw Momma from the Train