Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Short Story Samba

I feel like I've finally got my groove back with writing short stories. It's been so long since I last attempted to write one I've been a little scared to try again. When you've had 40 odd of them rejected in the past it does leave one wondering:

 a) Whether one has the ability to write a short story that editors want.
 b) Is the market saturated with stories written by people who are just better writers than me that I'm just banging my head against brick wall?
 c) Is there any point in even trying again?

The first point, I think the answer is yes. The second point I think is both a yes and a no; yes I see the same  familiar names month in and month out in the women's magazines but I also catch a glimpse of new names out there too - so there is hope. The third point is most definitely a loud and unshakable YES! There is always a point in trying to get our short stories published - if we take the negative attitude that it can't be done, that there are hundreds of far better writers out there, that we've had so many rejections and seem stuck in the mud and can't move forward, then we never will move on and we'll still be sitting there moaning that so-and-so got umpteen short stories in such-and-such magazine last month and we couldn't get one in!

What The Moaners don't realise is that while they are sitting there bemoaning their lack of short story sales, so-and-so who did get the sales - The Published -  is sitting there writing more! And they forget that so-and-so worked hard on their short stories and weren't 'overnight' successes - they had and will continue to have just as many rejections as everyone else. There is one important difference between The Moaners and The Published: The Moaners sit about not writing - they just poison their own minds, and the minds of anyone else who has the misfortune to have to listen to them - with their own negativity and jealousy, which doesn't get the story written! The Published embrace rejection, learn from it, move on, keep writing and keep submitting. I know which one I'd rather be. Which one are you?

On the short story front  -  I don't have much to report. I've written the first draft of two short stories: one destined for The Weekly News and the other for possibly TAB. I intend to write another story - first draft tonight (definitely a spine chiller for TAB Fiction Feast!) and then I shall spend next week editing them and probably sub them the week after. When that's done I'll start writing up the other four or so short story ideas I've got and keep the cycle going until I've run out of ideas or lost the will to live ;0)

My current batch of short stories I'm keeping under 1000 words and I've been studying the shorter short stories of around this length in past issues and the current issue of TAB and TAB Fiction Feast and feel confident that I am capable of doing it - it will just take a lot more time and hard work on my part. I love the stories in the current issue and I'm learning from them. I need to take my time and ask myself this:

1) Is what I've written actually a short story with a clear beginning, middle and satisfying end and not merely a sequence of events with no focus? Is there a conflict/problem for the main character to resolve?
2) Are my characters believable and well rounded/interesting enough for readers to care about and want to read on?
3) Is the story set in the right place at the right time and have I started the story at the right point - right slap-bang in the action - or am I waffling too much at the start and boring the readers as well as myself?
4) Does the dialogue actually move the story along and tell it to it's best advantage or is it just wishy washy and serving no useful purpose?
5) When I read the story through and read it out loud,  does it flow or jar? Is the tone and language appropriate?  Is the resolution of the story satisfying and make sense - or has it just come out of nowhere - with no reasonable explanation, leaving the reader and me flummoxed!

Good luck with your short stories and keep the news of your successes and near misses coming in. It's encouraging for writers to know when other writers do well and also when things don't go to plan as it shows that rejection is all part of the process and does not neccesarily mean that you are a bad writer. So to those out there who are in the April issue of TAB Fiction Feast we salute you - well done! And to those of us who are not - make it your mission to be in there before the year is out! Visualise your name and story in there; read the magazine for style and story pace/popular themes and length etc and try to write something  to fit. You won't get your story in there if you don't keep trying. Remember the three Ps:


Happy short story writing!

Julie xx


Kath said...

Hi, Julie, thanks for your blog which, as always, is helpful and to the point. I too have decided to target FF this year, plus Woman's Weekly as they do seem to be looking for more stories for their specials. I've given up on My Weekly despite still having stuff with them. I submitted a story every month last year and I think some of them were pretty good (of course!) but who's to know if they've even read them when you never hear anything back? I'm also going to try Candis. I've joined online to read some back copies and I like their style. Good luck to all of us, I say.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Kath.

I think I went a bit mad with the highlighter, though! Have just discovered this new toy - the urge to highlight everything will soon wear off.

I often wonder that with the magazines - do they actually read each and every one of the thousands they get in? It must be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I know the odds of writing a story good enough for publication that the editor of the mag likes are not very good - but we still try don't we!

Good luck with FF and Candis - I think we all need a visit from the good luck fairy don't we! It's alright trying to write the perfect story but getting a story on the right theme at the right time in the right wordage must help alot too!

Upwards and onwards - if anyone has any advice on the subject of getting a short story published please do comment!

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

You've described the dangers of negative thinking very well, Julie. We have to keep a positive attitude or we would give up. And yes, it is scary when you think of all the other writers all trying to get published (and the internet has made us all so much more visible).

I think we just have to keep trying. Hopefully there will be an upward surge in short story markets - once everyone gets fed up of reading about true life stories and celebrity gossip.

As Kath said - good luck to us all.

Diane Perry said...

A great post Julie, you have certainly inspired me! It's full of advice and positivity. I admit I gave up after 4 short stories were rejected which is quite feeble. Your determination is wonderful. Good luck with your stories, I am sure you will get one in soon.

Martin H. said...

You're right, Julie. You've got to be in it to win it, so to speak.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Suzanne!

Once you get yourself into that negative mindset about your writing it can quickly become a downward spiral. So you are right - we have to remain positive and not dwell on the fact that there are many writers out there all trying to do the same as us! If I think about it too much it stops me from writing.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Di! And get writing those short stories again! We can both do it - wouldn't it be great to have a magazine full of stories written by Wrekin Writers and Bloggers!

Come on everyone - lets show 'em what we're made of!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Too right, Martin! It's the only way!

Julie xx

Sue Ross said...

I sent out loads last year and also heard nothing from My Weekly or Prima. I did receive an email from the editor at the Weekly News, explaining why my story wasn't accepted. Oh, and I have to hold the record for a rejection from People's Friend. I think it must have barely touched the ground before it was posted straight back, but at least I knew they'd taken the time to look at it by the comments they'd made.

Keep at it.With such persistence as yours it will happen. Good luck Julie.

Olivia Ryan said...

Great post, Julie - as always I love your positive attitude and the way you analyse your own thoughts and determine to push ahead. You deserve loads more success and you're right - every one of those Successful Published Writers started off at the same place (admiring the previous lot of S.P.Writers!). Good luck with your new stories and keep us posted.