Part of my re-dedication to my creative path is to write and submit short stories. And the first thing that I learned was that I have no idea what I’m doing. I wrote a story called Sirens that came in at about 8500 words (which makes you thankful for the relative brevity of these posts, doesn’t it). After several rounds of editing, and input from some trusted friends, I decided that the only way to get over my fear of submission and rejection was to actually do it. So like the big boy I wasn’t I signed up for Duotrope (website database of places accepting submissions) and got to work. Turns out my story is considered long, and only eleven places accepted horror stories of that length, and only five of those were a fit on further research.
I still haven’t heard back from any of them. That was two months ago. I guess it’s not called ghosting if it’s completely one-sided.
In an effort not to be discouraged, I immediately began work on a second short story. It’s called Power’s Out and it is much shorter than my first offering. In my opinion it is better in some ways but worse in others. I plan on submitting it nonetheless. As such, I plugged the parameters into Duotrope with the reduced word count and all of a sudden there are one hundred and thirty-two options that fit. That is twelve fucking times as many options.
That is insane to me. Lesson one, don’t ignore the short in short stories.
That first story was actually the first time I sent anything to others to read since college. I still have nightmares about those workshops. For those of you who have never had your work submitted to a writers’ group for their critique, medieval torture has nothing on that. Seriously, it’s like getting kicked in the balls repeatedly by someone wearing steel-toed cowboy boots. The pointy kind.
But it did make me a better writer. Both by being critiqued by them about what worked and what didn’t. And by reading their work, critiquing it and learning from them as well. There was also a sense of “we are all in this together” with each group.
Getting critiqued is part of being a writer. So is submitting to unknown editors who don’t know you or your talent or your potential outside of what they see on a page. Part of that process is getting comfortable with the fear of putting yourself out there (it never goes away, and is also the motivation for this blog). I’ll never stop writing for myself, but knowing I am going to put it out there for other people to consume makes me want to sharpen my A game.