Thursday, February 9, 2012
FINISHED! OKAY, NOW WHAT? Pt. 1
It began as a mere speck on the horizon. At first, you weren’t even sure that anything was there at all. It could have been your imagination, or a cruel trick played by the dim light on your tired eyes. But slowly, inexorably
Yes, I know. I used “inexorably” in my first article. But I wanted to see whether you were paying attention., it grew and took form, amorphous at first (not unlike the thing that appears following the completion of an incantation followed by the word, “Whoops!”), then vaguely cognizable, and finally complete and whole. At long last, the journey that began with a single typo is complete. The story is finished!
Okay, now what? Well ... that depends on a lot of different factors, including, inter alia, what the story is about and why you wrote it. Let’s assume that the story wasn’t written to fulfill a deadline or contractual obligation. If it was written solely for your amusement and perhaps that of your friends, then read it, show it off, and put it in a drawer. However, if the intent is to show the story to strangers, put it in the drawer anyway--at least for a day or two. Let the creative passions cool a bit before you send the story off. Give the tale a cold reading and see whether, however improbable, something in the tale might need a bit of tweaking.
Ignoring the advice that I just wrote, last fall (as my alter ego, Ken Charles) I saw a call for submissions that was ending in a couple of hours. I had a piece that I thought would fit the call very nicely, but it wasn’t quite finished. I still had to adapt a short story that I wrote into one of the chapters. I raced through the last couple of pages and finished with minutes to spare. I gave it a quick scan, shot together a quick synopsis, and sent the work off. Happily, it was accepted and under contract the next day (yes, the next day -- that was unbelievably lucky -- be prepared to wait the full time alloted for responses in the submission guidelines, and more). However, when I got back suggested edits, there were a number of sentences that had extra spaces between words and several missing articles (mostly “the”’s, but one or two “a”’s and “an”’s) or prepositions (mostly “of”’s). I suspected that they were lost in transmission. Regrettably, when I went back to the original submission, I found the varmints were missing in the original. I also failed to remove two important words from the short story when I integrated it into the rest of the chapter, taking off a pair of panties at the start of the chapter (from the short story) that is described as being removed again later (in the text of the longer work). Although the tale is now edited, it definitely would have benefitted from a cold reading.
All right (note--not “alright”-- American slang circa 1890's), the story has sat on your literary cooling rack long enough. You’ve read it over, inserted the missing words, closed the open quotations, and deemed it fit for submission. Whether the work is a haiku poem, or the sequel to War and Peace, make sure the work is appropriate for the target submission market. Read the submission guidelines carefully. If the guidelines expressly warn against non-consensual sex for purposes of stimulation, think twice before wasting everyone’s time by sending a “rape for titillation" story. If your story is a proper subject matter and an appropriate length, make sure it follows all of the technical guidelines. If the submission requires 12 point type, don’t use 20 point or 10 point. If the guidelines require left justified manuscripts, then do it. Whatever the particular quirks are of the target market, accept and follow them or send the story elsewhere. And yes, I have read submission guidelines that actually warn not use “alright”.
If the market does not accept simultaneous submissions, then don’t send the work to more than one place until you hear from the first market. Sure, the first market may never find out if you do send out simultaneous submissions. On the hand, it just might. Why saddle yourself with an undesirable reputation? If the respective markets will accept simultaneous submissions, then have the curtesy to keep the subsequent markets informed if you place the work with one of the others.