So I did it again. I got cocky. Flush with the victory of yet another culinary triumph, I decided to jump to the boss level. After all, I’ve been successfully making delicious fresh and aged cheeses for years. None of which I can eat. So how hard could making a dairy-free cheese be? Um… yeah. Let’s just say that the taste of puke in the back of my throat was an improvement on the taste of that “cheese”.
As rockin’ as I think I am in the kitchen, I’m just as arrogant when it comes to writing sometimes. Several months ago, I had a pretty good track record on getting short stories published. It was almost easy. Of course, giving away free content is pretty easy, so I figured it was time to up my game. At this point, a reasonable person would graduate up into a slightly higher pay bracket. But I’m pretty terrible at gradations. I jumped straight to the big game, expecting hundreds of dollars to start flowing in immediately.
Yeah. I went months without selling anything. It got so bad that I stopped writing short stories altogether, so sure I was of their imminent failure.
I tend to think about my failings often. Usually, it’s just indulgent self-loathing that serves no purpose beyond building up a nice thick angst cloud that my hubby can spent the next several weeks trying to air out of the house. Keeps us entertained. But sometimes, I’m able to glean little nuggets of usefulness instead. And here’s what I’ve learned from trying to jump ranks in the short story realm.
Set Attainable Goals I told myself I was going to make hundreds of dollars. Then I could pay to go down to a writer’s conference, and maybe get a better computer. And maybe buy a house! (Okay, I wasn’t quite that optimistic.) I made it my goal to only sell to top-tier magazines, and to do it quick. And that just wasn’t viable. Failing to meet my goals, or to even adjust them, just sent me further into a writing funk.
Edit, Edit, Edit One of the nice things about publishing your work in smaller presses that nobody’s heard of is that they’re pretty accepting of your content. Especially if they’re not paying you for it. I’m not saying that small indie e-zines can’t put out some stellar content, because a lot of them do. But for me, I got really lazy about the things I was submitting. Most of it was checked over for typos, but not much more. So when I tried to sell that sort of stuff to more illustrious titles, I got laughed right off the website.
Practice Your Craft I stopped producing new stories. I just recycled all the old stuff that I couldn’t sell and wouldn’t improve. It was shocking how nobody wanted my sloppy seconds. And I got so out of practice at writing a tight, compelling short story that I couldn’t even see the flaws anymore.
Don’t Stop at No A problem with submitting to mega-famous well-paying magazines is that everyone else is. With such a large pool of talented writers to choose from, your odds of getting rejected are much higher. It’s just part of the game. But rather than reworking the stories, writing new ones, or submitting to less in-demand publications, I just gave up. I stopped completely. And what do you call a writer who’s not writing? A… uh… well, I don’t know. But not a writer, that’s for sure.
So, as was mentioned in my resolutions post, I’m trying to get back into short stories. Publications tag me as a professional, helping to build up my bio; with the proliferation of the internet and mobile devices that can access it, there’s more opportunity than ever to sell short stories; writing shorter stories, wherein readers expect a payoff and expect it quick, helps me keep my writing tuned up; and, with all our uber-tech and pathetic attention spans, short stories are more popular than ever.
It’s a new year and I am fully recommitted to short stories. At only a week and a half into the month, I’ve already started two new ones. So what’s holding you back? And will you instead commit to throat-punching that road-block into submission? 😀