Friday, May 27, 2011

No Accounting for Taste

I have discovered that if I hate my story, it's more likely to sell. >.<

I wrote a story to a theme submission that needed a word count less than five thousand. Where I was planning on going with it would have ended up three or four thousand words past the limit, so I stopped the story at what I thought was an odd place. Problem was, I discovered the deadline was in Eastern Standard Time and I'm in Alaska. I was pushing to get it in on time, so I rooted through the story real quick, cut some stuff to get it down to the five, and just skimmed it hoping to catch as many errors as possible. Then I sent it on its way.

I thought there was no chance of it getting accepted, that it was going to need some major overhaul. I thought the typos would be enough to turn any publisher off. (No matter how careful I proof, there are always some that get by. This particular story only received a cursory glance!)

I didn't receive the customary "we got your submission email," which they state should be received within forty-eight hours. So today, six days later, I sent an email asking for confirmation. I've gotten automatic response emails before where they hadn't received my submission, though. I thought it wouldn't hurt to double check.

I went karaoke-ing with friends this evening and didn't check my email again until late (it's midnight as I write this.) I got an email from the publisher that they accepted my story, despite all my misgivings and negative thoughts about it!

However, in this case I think I just got lucky. Perhaps this publisher isn't as picky as others, thinking that the story is important and all else can be fixed later. I would never suggest anyone send in anything the way that I did. Stories that have had time to settle a bit, that have had some polishing and reworking would do better in the long run, I'm sure.

I usually do one editing session for my short stories. This is to counteract my obsession with getting things absolutely right, which of course changes every time I read the story. Consequently, I would never submit anything ever. So I set this extreme limit for myself for a reason. If a story can't seem to find a home, then I will consider another rewrite.

Perhaps the universe felt I needed this little kick in the pants to continue the journey. I've been extremely lax and haven't kept up with the schedule for Write 1 Sub 1 very well. My spreadsheet shows me as still being in April as far as number of stories written and submitted this year. While it's not as important to me to get something written and submitted every week to the minute, I do want to have fifty-two stories and submissions by the end of the year. Why do I feel this way? Who knows? But that's my goal. I'm probably even going to skip Nanowrimo this year to reach it. (Or maybe I'll do a series of stories as though for my own personal anthology.) I'm sure I'll go through Nano withdrawals if I do, though.

Another thing that came out of this little experience. I ended the story a lot sooner than I'd planned. I didn't know how it was going to end. Would the MC get killed b the curse, or would the witch's spell to guard her work after all? But word count constraints made me end it a couple of scenes before then end. It was the scene that makes the MC seek out the witch to get the protection spell. She accepts that she's cursed.

I thought it was very odd ending it there. Not knowing what happens to her after that, whether the curse kills her or not. But then I realized after pondering it that it changed the meaning of what became the last sentence. Indeed, she was cursed, but not the one she thought. By changing the ending, I changed the tone of the story.

Seems to me that if a story's ending is not working for you, try ending it somewhere you don't expect. Then go back and read it later. Maybe it will suddenly make sense and seem like the right place to end after all.

This journey into the mad, mad writing world has amazed me every day. If you've ever thought about writing, join Nanowrimo or Write 1 Sub 1 or some other similar group. Lots of support from other crazy people doing the exact same thing. Love your rejections as well as your acceptances. I hope you find the journey amazing too.

Now I'm going to publish this post without really proofreading it. Because it's late, because I'm sleepy, and because I can. :)


Matthew said...

Funny you should say that. As I was reading your post, I thought, "But wouldn't cutting it off early change the whole tenor of the story?" It's an interesting thought.
Myself, I find many books and stories *start* too early rather than end too early. Lots of pages spent introducing the characters and describing their lives and nothing really happens until 30, 40 pages in.

Matthew said...

It's almost like the author wants to tell you what you should think about the characters rather than let you, the reader, get to know them yourself. (Sorry, comment posted too early.)

Sparklecat said...

Funny you should mention starting too early and ending too early. (Heeheehee.) Hubby and I watched a movie called "Skyline" (I think). Just when I thought it was finally getting good, the movie suddenly ended. I sat there with my mouth hanging open in shock. I felt totally cheated.

I've read a lot of writing books that try to counteract that problem by recommending writers start the story when the action is already going. Problem is, I've read too many books where you're plunged in and don't really have a clue what's going on. If it's an author you already love, or it's a subject you're really interested in, you might hang on until you figure some stuff out, but sadly that's not always the case.

As usual, it seems to be a matter of balance: starting with the action, but giving us little hints along the way so we're not frantically trying to keep up.

Anonymous said...

First of all, congrats! And second of all, seeing W1S1 in the same sentence with NaNoWriMo just made me feel like a proud papa. =]

Also: "By changing the ending, I changed the tone of the story." I did the same thing with one of mine that couldn't find a home, and it was accepted shortly thereafter. Maybe there's something to that...

And third of all, I made the mistake of seeing Skyline in the theater. SO glad it was a bargain matinee.

Sparklecat said...

Thanks, Milo!