It didn’t take very long for me to get ticked off at paying for submissions

Yeah, I have to admit.  The first month I decided to try it, I spent $73, most on entering three contests, which do tend to be pricey, but the rest on those $3 Submittable submission fees.  And after doing it, I didn’t feel as good as I hoped. 

The stats on the paid for subs aren’t really promising, yet, either, although I have yet to hear from most of them: 

Paid subs:  8, one rejection, 7 still out.  That’s 13% rejection, and 87% still in submission. 

Unpaid subs:  28, 5 rejections, one requested manuscript, 22 still out.  That would be:  17% rejection, 4% acceptance (count manuscript request as acceptance) and 79% still in submission. 

The contests still haven’t been called, and they could be a big deal, or no deal, but at this point, the pay-for-subs plan is still unproven.

As for my emotional response to putting almost my whole allowance in the submission payments pile, well, that’s just one more hurdle faced by being a writer.  As is Monday morning ennui. 

Need to get up and go to the library. 

Submissions challenge: I hit the wall about how many simultaneous subs you can make with one manuscript

Submission Tracker 2I 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).


Premise: All fiction really comes from somewhere called “The Mystery Box”

It’s a TED talk.

In order to explain I need to back up.  This discovery started with the idea that one has to read literary magazines in order to get ideas of who or what might publish one’s writing.  I was reading the submissions page of a journal called Bourbon Penn, trying to find out if a surreal story I’d written concerning some women who were attending a 12-step group for SUV addicts might be a fit. As I read the description of what they were looking for, I was intrigued.

“We are looking for highly imaginative stories with a healthy dose of the odd.,” the page stated.  Yeah, me too, but what would that look like? I mused.

That’s where I found they had helpfully included a link to The Mystery Box TED talk.  In it, J.J. Abrams tells us simply:  “It’s as if the blank page is a magic box.”  And it’s a writer’s job to put a mystery inside for the reader to find.

I wrote the following notes on how to put a worthwhile mystery box on the blank page:

1. The big question that animates the story is the mystery box.  Why would the reader keep reading?  To find out the answer to the mystery.

2. Abrams notes the practice of withholding information intentionally; referring to Jaws and Alien.  This corresponds, of course, to Hemingway’s iceberg theory.  The goal is to increase the sense of mystery.

3. Abrams then points out that often, in a story, what you think you’re getting is not exactly what you’re really getting.  E.T. is not really about aliens, he claims, it’s about a family going through a divorce.  More mystery:  what you see is not what you get.

4. And finally, he tells us:  we may still be thinking of plot, but really, character is what’s inside the box.  The mystery is answered when we find out about the hero’s character.

Here’s the TED talk itself: