Saturday, April 13, 2013

Submission: Why the Price to Submit is Worth It

After 6 months of dragging my feet, I finally submitted a short story to a magazine contest. It was relatively painless considering how anxious I'd become over the endeavor.

The reality is at worst, I lost my entry fee. At best, I get a little money along with a publication credit (which I could really use because frankly, it helps boost everything).

Now I have to remember why I was dragging my feet...and the answer seems silly.

I used to think writing short fiction was difficult. The reality is, it's easy. It just requires a shift in perspective. The story arc is shorter, and therefore I have to come to a conclusion much sooner, which took some doing. Historically, I have been drawn to series of books rather than stand-alone novels, and I hardly ever picked up an anthology of short stories.

As a writer, I never thought of writing shorts. I was always thinking about what would come next for my characters. So when I found myself editing down this particular entry to 1000 words, I couldn't help remembering a moment in my 3 week orientation/writing workshop at Bard College (I don't know if they still do this, but it was an excellent exercise.).

The exercise was one of length. My instructor had us write a poem. Then we were to stretch it out - as long as we could without detracting from the piece. There may have been a word count requirement for this part, though I can't recall. Then we brought it down to 100 words...then 50. We might have shortened it even further. I can't recall exactly how many iterations of the same poem we made, but the thing I learned about this exercise is that cutting - severely - can strengthen a piece of work. Sentences get more punchy. Words are sharpened. Substitutions are made that enrich meaning.

This is the process my entry underwent. It is probably the most time I have spent editing a story, and I think it was the most effective.

So whether my entry is published or not, I am glad for the experience. I paid for it. It was worth it, despite the contest results. After all, publishing is a subjective field. I can try to appeal to the judge of the contest or the editor of a magazine, or an agent, or a publisher, but in the end, something about my writing just has to speak to them. Beyond making my writing as good as it can get, I can do nothing. I just have to hope the piece speaks in a voice strong enough to call above the din.

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