The fourth month’s challenge, in which I decided to submit 30 stories in 30 days, was the most intense of all the challenges yet. I can now report the stats:
I submitted 21 pieces to journals of various types.
Also, I submitted my novel query to 11 agents.
One literary journal acceptance! Also: one agent request for a full of my manuscript.
Nine rejections, four with kind notes or invitations to resubmit. Twenty items from the challenge remain in submission, along with a dozen or more previous subs. The full of my manuscript was rejected after two weeks. However, the agent gave me some helpful advice and was quite cordial.
How do I feel? I feel like I’m getting somewhere.
I went back and read my entire #submissionschallenge thread. Seeing that I’ve gotten faster and stronger on submitting is really encouraging. Important learnings in the last four months:
4) Editors and agents are real people and they love literature as much as you do. And yes, they arereading what you send them. Perhaps the best introduction you can give as a new writer is that you know of theirwork and respect it. I found this out by including what I appreciated about the literary magazines I was researching and by including details gleaned largely from @twitter in manuscript queries, particularly the #MSWL thread.
Since I started querying my novel last week, I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends on twitter and everywhere else too about the querying process, when you should send out you book, how many people should you query at a time, how long might it take, how will you feel, and how will you know if this is the final edit, the final agent, etc … it’s left me with the feeling Whitney Houston sings about in her famous song: How Will I Know?
All right, if you don’t have something to do this weekend, and you’re interested in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction, or you just want to listen to some very cool and inspirational writing videos by some knowledgeable and admirably-published writers, MFA teachers, and industry insiders, here’s your gig. And you don’t even have to pay for it. Unbelievable.
Just when I thought it was smooth sailing to get starting on pitching agents about my novel, I realized that there was one step I had so far skipped: rewriting the synopsis. My heart fell to my very shoes. Dusting off my old synopsis for this WIP, I quickly realized it wasn’t very good. So, off to the blogs: Thank God, my writer colleagues were there waiting to help me. And they’re there for you too, if you’re so inclined.
1. How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel I put Graeme Shimmin’s post about writing a synopsis first because he gets it with humor: this writing thing is as emotionally fraught as it is all-consuming. Finding out that after you’ve finished your novel that you’ve got to write a synopsis is not just bad news, it’s downright painful. His linked blog on archetypes, based on the famous writer’s tome Hero’s Journey, is also useful reading.
2. Jane Friedman is building on all that: The synopsis is probably the single most despised document you might be asked to prepare. Make sure you detail the character’s motives and emotions. This is what really drives your story. She gives a detailed list of what to include and what to avoid. And a list of links on how to write the synopsis, including to Miss Snark’s 100 synopsis archive.
3. How to Write a Novel Synopsis with An Example. Jericho Writers. Well this has some indispensable formatting nuts and bolts, such as: Bold your character name. Write your synopsis from the bones up, from the novel’s structure. Tell what plot developments mean for your protag, what’s at stake, people! Comes with Agent Submissions Builder pop-up, which I can’t vouch for because I didn’t do it. You might take these people a little more seriously if I told you: They’re from Oxford, UK. Real deep intellectual country.
5. How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel by Glen C. Strathy. (OMG he spells his name the same as my ex husband, but I’ll put his blog in here anyway.) Go ahead and rush past the intro to the meat of this blog post, which details various elements including plot, character, relationship, and theme that your synopsis must have, and then continues to tell how to make a set of index cards which will, if not write your synopsis for you, make it significantly easier.
6. How to Write a Novel Synopsis According to novelist Pearl Luke, ” what you present must be a stirring distillation that leaves readers eager for more.” Okay, I look at my own personal synopsis and think, I may not be there yet. But there’s hope. Luke provides you with a very detailed plan, including writing a “major synopsis” (my term) 20 pages long that she says will be useful later in the marketing of your book, before whittling to a “minor synopsis” of less than five pages. Also includes detailed formatting notes. If you refer to this one and number 3 above you should have a pretty sound idea of how to format.
7. Learn how to write a synopsis like a pro by Courtney Carpenter. No roundup of blogs about how to do anything writing would be complete without an entry from the venerable Writer’s Digest, which has been advising writers since before print went decisively digital. This brief blog will give you critical synopsis vocabulary, and also a quick list of what to avoid. Unfortunately, just before they actually tell you how to write the synopsis, they instead recommend you buy a course for $79, by Jane Friedman, to get the pertinent details. Jane Friedman’s blog post on the same topic, of course, is #2 on this list. Having read quite a bit of Jane’s blog, I admit I would wholeheartedly like to see that webinar. But given that my budget for writing development for November would be wholly subsumed in the purchase, and would leave nothing left for Submittable.com and contest entry fees, I will have to mortify my curiosity, and just write my synopsis based on the blog posts I’ve summarized.
By the end of the month, I had run through my budget for submitting and was only submitting to free markets.
It is now that I begin to see the real hard work of writing. I mean, in order to get 22 submissions in 30 days, I had to pretty much work on the submissions challenge every weekend day and some nights. Kindof like grad school.
Actually, it was grad school which made me believe I could do this. It was clear from finishing grad school that if I was disciplined, I could carve a good 15 to 20 hours of writing/reading/thinking time out of the average work week, with short bursts of up to 40 to 50 hours in seven days. Deciding to apply that kind of work load to writing was just the next step.
This month I have made 22 submissions. I received two “warmer” rejections, each with an invitation to resubmit, from literary magazines. I received five “stone cold” rejections, with one flash fiction piece getting a quick rejection twice. I wrote “what’s wrong with this story” on its line on the submission tracker and stopped submitting it for the moment.
I did not get a request of any type from any of the four #pitchwars mentors I queried. Although I’m sure I’m not alone, it was a disappointment. Made me feel like back when I was in 7th grade, and I wasn’t one of the popular girls. Perhaps I will try again next year. To the organization’s credit, they didn’t charge me or any other contestant anything, which given some of the other contest fees could be seen as quite generous.
Last month I wrote that I was willing to pay to make submissions and enter contests. I spent $73 submitting stories this month, mostly for three contests. In addition, I paid $8.50 for the Literistic List of the Month, which was pretty helpful. During the second half of the month, I saw several more contests I might have entered. But it just cost too much. By the end of the month, I had run through my budget for submitting and was only submitting to free markets. We get paid on the first of the month around here. I had to cut back.
So, to sum up the stats: 9/22 to 10/22
Personal or warmer rejections: 2
Stone Cold rejections: 9, including the four from #pitchwars
Still in submission: 23, including six emailed and website-form submissions and 17 with Submittable.
Next month’s goal will be the original first month goal again: 30 submissions in 30 days.
And no, I am not doing NaNoWriMo. I’m doing my submissions challenge until I get an agent or enough street cred that I’ve got editors who’ll just look at my work.
I have gotten 11 submissions done so far this month, entered three contests, and I can’t seem to decide what to do next. My novel is almost ready to submit, I could just start sending query letters to agents, but if I did, I would have to really rush through its final read-through if it got requested. And if it’s not ready to go out, why would I start submitting just to fly into a panicked editing rush if someone wants to see it?
Then there’s my short submissions. I can’t seem to simultaneously submit them without feeling this strange anxiety. I know that this is what lots of successful writers do. So why can’t I just do it?
Meanwhile, the ‘full’ of my memoir is still out with an agent in New York. It’s time for a response but I am afraid to write and ask about it, because I know that the answer is overwhelmingly likely to be “yeah, sorry, but we’re going to pass.”
I wonder if this happens to anyone else, unable to move forward because they’re unable to check on a manuscript?
So I have just the short fiction and memoir pieces. I read somewhere that you should not do simultaneous submissions that are not evenly matched — where if the less exclusive magazine accepts, you’ll be disappointed to take the manuscript out from the more-prestigious.
Meanwhile, yeah, that image is my submission tracker. The colors stand for such things as completed/not complete ms., submitted (green) accepted, rejected, rejected with note, and suggested submission that I haven’t done yet (that’s yellow).
I was reading along a Google search thread which I generated in my quest to find out how much it actually costs to use Submittable if you’re a literary journal (best info: $180 to $1100 a year, depending on how many subs you get) where I turned up this really thought-provoking blog by Jane Friedman, which builds on mine of last week, when I admitted to become willing to pay for subs. The essence of Jane’s blog post is:
You totally should read this. In fact, if you haven’t, probably a lot of the questions you’re asking yourself and the writing universe are answered on this well-developed blog by a magazine and book publishing insider (worked at both Writer’s Digest and Virginia Quarterly Review). Talk about working both sides of the fence.
Jane also offers a writer’s coaching service that looks pretty reputable, and the charges are right there in digital print, no request form needed. Best blog find of the week, perhaps month. Thank you Jane.