Sunday, December 23, 2012

Writing and Getting Published

Let me say a short thank you to my two dozen or so devoted readers.  I originally started this blog as a way to share my military-related writing, but it has assumed its own direction.  I've called myself a writer since early 2008, but thus far I have never published.  I have been paid for writing a pamphlet for a bank about how pre-paid credit cards work, a job I found online.  I was paid $15, and I didn't receive any credit or byline.  I've made a few dollars each quarter from Yahoo, but nothing I ever wrote went viral.  The most popular piece I have online is an educational article about uterine fibroid tumors on Yahoo that has been read almost 8,000 times.

Just before Thanksgiving, I decided to explore a whim, and I wrote a short-short fictional piece.  For those non-writers, a short-short, or micro-short, does not have anything to do with Daisy Duke, although I suppose it could.  In such stories, the author has less than 1,000 words to set a scene and try to make a point.  There isn't much time for the type of explanation and exposition that the first paragraph of this blog contains, for instance.

I was immediately faced with two challenges.  First, I don't normally write fiction, and I certainly have never tried horror or suspense.  Scary movies make me laugh, and I've seen enough real-world carnage that it would be pretty hard for me to be suspenseful.

Secondly, unlike a research paper, writing less is actually more difficult.  I had no time to introduce the reader to the character, set themes, and build anticipation.  The outlet that I had chosen for my piece has a strict word limit of 666 words (yes, it's a horror publication), and the outline for my first story exceeded that.  So I went back and revised the story, changing it to a single scene, with just enough background to make it work.  My 100-word outline for this story quickly expanded to 500, so I cut things out as I put things in, sort of my own personal fiscal-cliff negotiation with myself.  As I reached the limit, I went back and eliminated any phrase with more than one adjective, and slicing off every piece of small fat. 

I added one or two pieces back, and ended up with exactly 666 words, a fact I thought might please this particular publisher.

The website I had chosen from the 2012 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, a heavy paperback commonly accepted as the place to look when one is ready to sell a work.  I had dutifully read some of the published work, and I thought haughtily, "I can write better than that."  I still believe this to be true.  Since the site accepts about 50% of what they receive, I was hopeful as I sent my presh-isss to their editor to be considered.  Since they promised a reply within a week, I checked my inbox daily.

Thirteen days later, I eagerly clicked on the incoming e-mail, but my giddiness was doused with a small bucket of "Your submission doesn't meet our needs."  They didn't write it quite like that - in my recent memory I seem to think it was more like, "We think your story sucks."  Hey, I'll remember things the way I want.

For some reason, I didn't stop.  I opened the guide again, and saw another website that published monthly.  They receive 100-200 submissions/month and publish about a dozen.  After browsing their guidelines, they made it very clear that they had enough material for the next year.  I wasn't hopeful, but off it went again to another editor.  This one promised a 3 month response time, so I forgot about it.

This time it only took six days.  I opened my inbox and did click.  The reply was equally short.

"Your story has been selected for publication in the October 2013 issue."

The publication is called Ascent Aspirations, an e-zine published in Canada.  I'm not being paid, but that's not why I want to be a writer.  There are plenty of more efficient ways to be paid.

I want to be read.

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