Saturday, February 20, 2016

Up Against Rule Number Five

Last week, I wrote about having found my writing process.  The manner in which I'll take an idea and turn into into a story I feel comfortable submitting for publication.  
Well, this week, I need to start working on the business side of the writing process.  This is because the first story I submitted this year, the one that helped me finalize the process I described last week, was rejected by the anthology I was invited to submit it to.  And now I'm facing the dreaded...
Fifth Rule.  
I'm referring to Robert Heinlein's Five Rules for Writers.  Anyone who is a science fiction writer, and I would think just about anyone who is a writer, period, will be familiar with them.  To make sure we're on the same page, they are: 
  1. You Must Write.
  2. You Must Finish what you Write.
  3. You Must Refrain from Rewriting (EXCEPT to Editorial Order).
  4. You Must Submit what you Finish.  
  5. You Must Keep Submitting what you Finished UNTIL it is Sold.  
These rules are about the writing business more than they are about the process.  Rule number 3 touches on process to a degree, but I've interpreted it to mean that you don't keep tinkering with a story forever and ever.  Once the story is done (and learning to recognize that IS a big step in developing one's process) then stop playing around and send it out.  
Revision is often a way of keeping from facing the rejection one can see coming.  I understand that.  You have to get it out and move on to something else.  
But...  When it's rejected, what then?  
The short answer, which I've heard more experienced writers give me in panels, via their blogs and in the books on writing I've read over the years, is to put the story into a new envelope and send it off someplace else.  Simple.  Neat.  Easy to do.  You could probably even keep a stack of envelopes, with stamps affixed, already addressed to the magazines you want to submit to.  
Only, it doesn't work that way for me.  Once a story gets rejected, I have a very hard time sending it out someplace else.  And here are my reasons...
  1. There's a part of me that doesn't believe a story rejected once will be accepted anywhere.  This comes from a suspicion, or maybe belief is a better word, that I've had since before I sold anything that any story "really" good enough to be accepted one place will be accepted wherever it is submitted.  
I'm not talking about a murder mystery being rejected by a publisher specializing in young adult romance fiction.  But if I send a science fiction story to an outlet that publishes science fiction stories, and if it's good enough, it should sell.  Simply.  
I know that's simplistic.  But it remains my gut feeling to this day.
Reinforcing this belief is...
  1. Every story or comic book I've had published has been published on the first submission.  My experience has taught me that, if a story or script has been rejected, it'll keep getting rejected by every other publisher.  If something is going to be published, it'll be published by the very first editor that sees it. 
There is only one exception to this experience of mine, but it is one that kinda proves the rule.  The story I had published in Analog last year, Robot Boss, was one that I intended to submit to them from the moment I started working on it.  It "felt" like an Analog story to me.  When I had it ready to send, though, I already had a story under consideration by them.  Since their guidelines said they only wanted to consider one story at a time from writers, but I really, really wanted to send it out, I decided to send it to another magazine.  
"I'll send it to 'This Magazine' (name withheld to protect the innocent).  By the time they reject it, Analog will have decided on the other story.  I then send it to Analog and they'll accept and publish it."  
That was my thought process.  And that's pretty much what happened.  And I didn't send it to some publication complete wrong for the story.  I very much felt it was suited for the pages of Analog and figured it would just end up there.  
  1. The "Market" these days is confusing to me.  I'm told I should read the stories published in a magazine or outlet before submitting to them, but I barely have time to get my stories written.  And when I check the submission guidelines, I always find that my stories are too big or long for ninety-nine percent of the places out there.  How can I "Keep Submitting" if the listings I have only show one, two or three places that'll accept a story as long as I normally write.  
This is something I have to deal with, but it is a frustration of mine.  My average story comes in around six to seven thousand words.  Most guidelines I've checked out want stories less than five thousand words, and some even specify word counts of three, or even two thousand words or less.  
I do try to make my stories as compact as I can.  And I sometimes will try to cut a story down just to fit it in under a word count, but I'm never pleased with the output.  Does my natural pace of writing a story cut me out of the majority of outlets or publication?  Should I ignore word counts and submit anyway, thinking that if the "really like it," they'll ignore their own guidelines?  That doesn't sound like a recipe for success either.  
But just lamenting about it isn't a pathway to success either.  I think what I'll do is wait for the moment.  I'm schedule to have a new story ready to submit by the end of February.  When I submit that one, I send the rejected story off to...  The most likely place I can find.  I will do what I can to find a suitable magazine and figure out the business side of writing as I've tried to figure out the process side.
If anyone can find me a missing Rule Number Six that might be of any help, let me know.  


Post a Comment

<< Home