How long should my story be? Who should I send it to? What do I put in the cover letter? I don’t have any credits, what now?
Do these questions go through your mind as you sit down to write a story? If so, then read on.
As the former Grand Poobah of the Science Fiction Forum at Inkspot, I dealt with many new, and not so new, writers. The questions they asked have revealed a common thread among them, fear.
If you’re one of these writers, let me give you a word of advice. Relax!
First of all, don’t concern yourself about submission guidelines, story length, chapter length, precise genre typing of your story and all the other technical stuff. Especially if you haven’t even started writing your story. Until your story is finished, these questions, and other related topics, are basically irrelevant.
Just write your story. Stories take on a life of their own and create their own length and flow.
After writing, edit without mercy. Make each word count.
Be sure your scenes and characters are clear, alive and interesting. Include at least one conflict, and have that conflict resolved by the end of the story.
When your story is done, that’s when you research markets and follow their guidelines. Even guidelines have some flexibility.
Word count can be a “little” above or below what they say. If your word count is well above what they state, query the publication to see if they ever serialize stories.
After your research is done, mail off your manuscript and forget about it. Focus on the new story you’re working on. You’re working on a new story aren’t you?
If your story is rejected, just file the rejection letter, or throw it away and submit the manuscript to the next publication on your list. Don’t take the rejection personally, because it’s not.
There are more reasons for rejection than I can count. The publication is full, a story like yours was just published or will soon be published, for some personal reason the publisher didn’t like it, your name is similar to the name of someone the publisher doesn’t like, he read a story like yours a year ago and didn’t like it and so on.
But don’t let this discourage you. If your story is good, and you know it is, it will be published.
Your job as a writer is not to sweat the details, but to write and get published. Stay focused on the story, and don’t confuse writing with the research you must do to be published.
So focus on the joy of writing, do the job of submitting and have fun.
Jeff Colburn is a freelance writer who specializes in business writing, articles and genre fiction. His books, The Writer’s Dictionary Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mythology and The Youngest Ninja, can be purchased from his site, The Creative Cauldron. The Creative Cauldron is a site filled with information for writers, photographers, artists and other creative people.