2016 A to Z Challenge Reflection

I’m back from my extended vacation after blogging from A to Z! I know you’ve been missing my stories. As soon as April ended, I fell into deep writer’s block. I committed myself to so many projects in April, not just the A to Z Challenge, and it completely drained me of inspiration — and motivation — to write. Hopefully, now that the hustle and bustle of April is complete, I can get back to my regularly scheduled blogging, coffee in hand.

So what can I say about the A to Z Challenge? This is only my second year participating, but I feel like a seasoned A to Z pro! I think I had more fun writing about Grandma’s 26 dead husbands than I did last year’s melodramatic novella, though, both stories ended up being quite popular, for which I am eternally grateful. It’s nice to know that I’m not talking to myself when I publish new blog posts. 😉

I wasn’t able to finish on time this round, and likewise, my reflection post is also late. The Schedule Post feature is the Holy Grail for bloggers who have lives outside of blogging, and my goal for next year is to actually USE IT! I tried to schedule ahead for this year’s challenge, but alas, my brain only functions when I’m procrastinating, apparently. I’ll work on that. I’ll work on it while I spend the rest of the year thinking of unique themes to use  next April.

Of course, I met a few new blogging friends along the way, whose stories I wish never ended. I like that the A to Z Challenge has become just as much a community as it is a writing challenge. While I wasn’t able to reply to everyone’s comment, I did read them all. So thank you to everyone who stuck around to the final letter, and to you who liked 26 Husbands — 26 Unusual Deaths so much you decided to follow me, I won’t let it be for nothing; new stories and poems are on the way!

A few of my blogging buddies suggested that I publish 26 Husbands — 26 Unusual Deaths as an e-book. Self-publishing has often crossed my mind, but I’ve always put it on the back burner, convincing myself that I have to actually write something first before I can publish it. Silly me for forgetting that I already have a ton of material right here on my blog! 26 Husbands — 26 Unusual Deaths, wouldn’t be the only story I’d publish, though. Last year’s A to Z story could possibly become an e-book, as well as a series I completed earlier in March, Buried. I don’t want to overcommit myself again, so I’d have to remember to pace myself — one at a time. We’ll see what happens. Who knows, one of these stories might be in a Kindle store near you this Christmas . . .

Well, that’s it for my 2016 A to Z Challenge reflection! Thanks for reading, as always. I’ll see you next year for another fun-filled April A to Z!

 

#WODW: Publication Triumphs

Write or Die Wednesday is a biweekly link-up where we’re provided a prompt, and we roll with it. The prompt for the next two weeks is:

june3

There have been many times that I’ve felt on top of the world, both literally and figuratively, but when I read this prompt, what immediately came to mind was the day I received my first acceptance letter from a literary magazine. I nearly erupted! I couldn’t believe it!

And it came at the perfect time, too. I was about to give up on my dreams of becoming a published writer. Although I’ve had a few articles published in online blogs, my goal was to have my stories and poetry published. My dream was to see my novels flying off the bookshelves. I wanted to be the next bestselling author whose books were made into movies.

My rising stack of rejection letters were really starting to get me down. Stories and poems that had always received praise in writing workshops, were being turned down left and right by various magazines. The cryptic rejection letters had me scrambling to figure out what about my story or poem the editors didn’t like. The non-responses from editors who, in my mind, felt they were too good to acknowledge the fact that I’d showed an interest in their publication made me want to crawl under a rock. What’s the point? I would ask myself. It’s not like I can make a living as a writer today anyway.

Then in January of this year, I got the most exciting news in an email…

It is with great pleasure that we accept ‘Full Court Drama’ for publication in Agave Magazine, Vol.2 Issue 3 {Winter 2015}.

What?! Really?! No Ashton nearby? Oh my god! YEEESSSS!!!

Since then, I’ve had two poems and another short story published, and just recently, I learned that my poem, “How to Cure the Flu,” has been accepted in the Recipes issue of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. I’m ecstatic!

This only motivates me to keep writing. I have to keep writing. I want my acceptance letter stack to one day surpass my stack of rejection letters. I want my dreams to one day become reality, and the only way to do that is to not let setbacks get me down. I’m a writer. No, I’m an author, dammit. And I’m a damn good one. And the world will soon find out because I’ll keep writing and submitting my work.

I’ll write or die.

Why You Keep Getting Rejected

Writing a book is hard. Getting it published is even harder. Nine times out of ten, your poem, short story, or manuscript will end up in the slush pile, the literary purgatory where most submissions go to die. When publishers (specifically the unfortunate assistants) go through these piles, they’re not looking for reasons why your piece is the greatest thing under the sun, or the new obsession for the reading American public like “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That would take them years, and let’s be honest, some writers, myself included, get impatient waiting three months to hear back from a publisher, let alone three years. Instead, these editors are looking for reasons to stop reading.  Unfortunately in this world, one strike, no matter how minuscule it may be to you, means you’re out. These people have lives too, and they are not going to waste their lives away reading a manuscript for a book they know will never sell, especially when the cover letter accompanying the manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors!

So what can you do to get out of the slush pile, move on to the second round, and avoid immediate rejection? Well I can’t teach you how to be a good writer. Some people just have the innate ability, and others can’t even produce the mental capacity to learn basic English grammar. However, I do have one piece of advice that could make a world of difference in the number of rejection letters you receive in the mail.

READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!

This is the easiest thing you could do, so why do writers make it look so hard? Are they so confident that the content of their submission will overshadow the fact that they completely disregarded the submission guidelines? I hate to be blunt (and overuse some adverbs), but it most certainly will not. If you want agents, publishers, editors, etc. to take the time to read your work, the least you could do is take the time to read their submission guidelines, and not only read them, but follow them as well. I don’t care if the guidelines are two pages long or twenty (though if it’s twenty pages long, don’t even bother submitting because it’s clear those guys are extremely picky and will probably only publish work submitted from someone like Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”). We are writers, which means we are also readers, which ultimately means it won’t hurt to read the damn guidelines first!

So, without further ado, for those writers who are guilty of skimming through and missing some important reminders, I have compiled a list of extra guidelines that you may not see in the submission guidelines for a literary magazine, but I assure you, they’re there . . . in between the lines:

  • If they prefer blind readings of submissions, don’t send them something that has your name, contact information, personal bio, and head shot on every page.
  • Electronic submission does not mean post your 5,000 word personal essay in the comments section of the submission guidelines.
  • A brief third person bio is simply that—BRIEF!
  • A resume and a third person bio are not the same thing.
  • If they want your name and the category of your piece (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, etc.) in the subject line of your email submission, ONLY put your name and category of your piece in the subject line of your email submission.
  • If they are asking for adult literary fiction, don’t send them a mix of science fiction and fantasy. I don’t care if it’s going to give “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” a run for their money, the editors won’t read it!
  • If they’re asking for 3-5 poems, don’t sent them a full manuscript.
  • Previously unpublished does not mean previously self-published, or forthcoming. It means previously unpublished, or better yet, NEW!
  • Unless they’re asking for experimental, don’t seen experimental.
  • “Read our previous issues to see what we like,” is NOT a suggestion.
  • Always proofread before you submit. Go as far as to read it out loud.
  • If you are sending five poems on five pages, make sure that it is five poems on five pages and not five poems on five pages plus fifty subsequent blank pages.
  • Fifteen words over the word limit is OK. 1500 words over is not.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. The above rules are frequently broken, but I’m sure there are more. Are you an agent or an editor of a literary magazine? What submissions have you seen come to your desk that drove you insane? Leave it in the comments.

Oh, and writers, I cannot stress this enough; READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES OR DON’T SUBMIT AT ALL!