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

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Something Special

How do you make your short story stand out from the hundreds of  submissions magazine editors receive? What is it that editors actually want? These are two questions that I've been pondering over the last few days. I've read hundreds of short stories from a variety of magazines since I started writing but I've yet to put my finger on the essence of why some short stories make it into print, but the majority of mine and a fair few other write's stories don't!

I get the theory behind it:

*A dynamic beginning.
*Start slap bang in the middle of the action.
*Use dialogue that shows who your characters are and that pushes the story forward.
*Don't use seven words when two will do!
*Have some form of conflict that the character has to resolve  -   the resolution comes from within the character's own resources and is not contrived by outside forces. Don't have a knight in shining armour charging in to the rescue!
*Have a beginning, a middle and an end.
*Don't under or over write.
*Look at the magazine's short story guidelines and follow them.
*Read the stories in the magazines you want to be published in.
*Tie up loose ends but allow the reader some imagination.
*Show, don't tell  -  let the reader figure things out for themselves.........................

........etc, etc, etc!

But why is it, when I try and transfer the knowledge I have of how short stories are supposed to work, do I find it so hard to do? I must have written getting on for sixty or more short stories but have only ever had two published! Where am I going wrong? Or am I going wrong? I think it helps writers to stop and instead of bemoaning the fact our sales figures are poor we should look at the bigger picture and celebrate that we are actually writing anything at all. Writing a short story, whether you submit it or not, is an achievement in itself and we should be proud of that.

It's essential to keep writing short stories, even when you have had several rejections and the rejection demon is niggling at the back of your mind trying to make you stop writing. The more you write the more you will learn about short stories and the better you will become. The more short stories you read the better your own will become. There's been many a time I've been sitting down staring at the short stories in magazines and then looking at my own and my eyes have glazed over, my brain switched onto stand-by mode and I've wondered why the hell I'm bothering to do all this reading and writing when all that happens is I send the stories off and they get rejected! That's the frame of mind our rejection demons want us to be in. If we listen to our demon we will get nowhere.It's incredibly hard to keep going when you get rejection after rejection. But what's the alternative? You give up. How do you know that the next story you would have written wasn't going to be the one that made it through? Will you always be left wondering if only?

Other people get their short stories published and so can we! Granted, the market is shrinking, there are lots of talented writers out there who are  also trying to get their stories published, but we shouldn't use this as an excuse to give up on our own attempts.

This pep talk is as much for me as everyone else! I've had a bit of a downer on writing recently and needed a huge kick to knock myself out of it.Think positive. Think positive. Think positive! Doctor heal thyself  -  Writer pick up thy pen/computer and write/type.
Let's see how we many of us  -  if we really try hard enough - can get a short story or two published! Now there's a challenge. There is one advantage to the nights beginning to draw in  -  close the curtains, shut the dark, cold world out, get cosy and get writing!

Happy writing!

Julie xx


Diane Perry said...

Come on Julie, remember YOU have had two published - which is a lot more than most of us. I admit to giving up after 11 were rejected not like you. Do you ever analyse your own stories that HAVE been published? You are doing something right to get them accepted, I think sometimes it could be just luck at someone reading it that likes the subject. Keep on, you will do it again and you will inspire all us non-published short story writers to keep on too!

HelenMHunt said...

I still think you've done really well with the short stories you have already had published - not to mention all the articles! And I have to say, even though I've had a few stories published now, I still have no idea what makes some hits and others not. You're right though - the only thing to do is keep writing and keep sending out.

Julie P said...

Hi, Di,

Yes I do anaylise the stories I've had published but it's so difficult to work out why they got published but the others didn't!

The first one I got published (inspired by your lovely chickens) I didn't think was going to get published but it did! Other stories I liked didn't get published. I think you may be right,though. A lot of it could be down to the theme of the story and submitting it to the right editor at the right time. It could also be, however, that the story just isn't good enough. But it's hard to know which is the case as editors don't generally give feed back.

But just because one editor doesn't want your story doesn't mean another one won't. So I am trying to revamp the rejected stories and send them elsewhere. But you have to have the right attitude - it's ruddy soul destroying when you get rejection after rejection but it's like a moth to a flame with me - I have to keep heading towards the short story publication light!

See you on Saturday if you're going to the workshop.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Helen

I think we'd drive ourselves crazy if we kept on trying to figure out why some short stories get published whilst others don't! Like you, I haven't a clue. It's one of life's great mysteries.

I'm proud of my achievements - particularly my articles, but I'd dearly love to get a short story published in the UK. The only way that's going to happen is if I keep on reading and writing short stories and submitting them. You can't get published what you don't send out.

It also helps having support from the blogging writer's community too who know what we go through.

I'm not ready to give up, not just yet! I enjoy writing them too much.

Julie xx

Carole Anne Carr said...

Good luck with the writing and cosy evenings, and I'll say the same boring old thing, learn Mr. Swain by heart and you'll romp home. Hugs..

Mike said...

You're an inspiration, Julie, and that's worth a lot!

Mike xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Statistics are a funny thing, if I said to you I sold 31 stories in one year, you might think that was reasonable, but if I then told you that in that year I also had 118 rejects and a further 74 stories that didn't get a reply yet (and most are probably rejects as well) then the stats don't look good at all do they? So statistically speaking, you're not doing too bad at all. I write because I love writing, I will continue to write no matter what the 'stats' say.
Good luck, you will sell more if you keep getting them out there.

Julie P said...

Mr Swain has been invaluable and so very helpful. Thank you for introducing us, Carole! It just takes a long, long time for it all to sink in!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thank you, Mike!

Your comments are so very kind (I'll pay you later - a tenner wasn't it?!)

I like to try and encourage other writers to get their work out there and to not despair. I find it motivating that there are so many good writers out there being published. It provides me with a challenge to keep writing.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thank you anon for being so honest and sharing your stats with us. I think writers need to see the reality of what being a published writer is. They still get rejections and it's still a hard slog! Mind you, your stats put my output to shame! You've well and trully thrown the gauntlet down now - the challenge is on!

Julie xx

Olivia Ryan said...

Hi Julie

I really sympathise, and can only say how much I admire you for keeping on trying. I know how hard it is, and like Anon - (although I'm not quite in his/her league, with regard to the number of submissions!)- I get a few acceptances every now and then, but I also get just as many rejections, or probably more. I haven't counted recently - when I do, I'll probably feel depressed!

But the most important thing you said is that you're going to re-work and resubmit some rejected stories. This is always a good idea. I can't tell you how often it works for me. In tweeking the story to fit the length and requirements of a different market,I find I also end up improving it, sometimes to my own surprise, and giving it a much better chance of acceptance. I've just had a Christmas story accepted that was previously rejected by two other mags - but I've made it a much better, tighter story by reducing the word count to fit the mag it's now been accepted for.

Good luck; you really deserve some more success and I'm sure it will come.

Nari said...

Hi Julie,

I completely empathise with the struggle - it seems that these days the industry is even tougher. But, like you say, I think you should take real encouragement from the fact that, despite all the rejections, you are still writing. That not only deserves a pat on the back, but also a nod to the fact that you are clearly passionate about your writing. This is something you want to do, not something you feel you ought to, otherwise you would have given up a long time ago.
So keep up the good work, and I admire you for your focus and determination! It can only pay off in the end, I'm sure :)

Julie P said...

Thanks, Olivia

It's so true that determination is the key to success. You have to keep going because what is the alternative? You give up doing one of the things you love, writing.

I'm determined to keep going. I know I've not been paying enough attention to my writing in recent weeks but that's about to change.

Congrats on the Christmas story sale. That's motivated me even more to get my old stories out to revamp and resend!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Nari

Yes, I think it's such a shame when writers give up because they've had rejection after rejection. But that's up to them and what's going on in their lives - every one's different. But I have a compulsion to carry on. The rejections really got to me when I first started out. But once I realiseD every writer gets rejections, and that it is all part of the process and very much the nature of the beast, it doesn't bother me so much. Just got to keep writing and sending them out.

Good luck!

Julie xx

Bernadette said...

You can never tell what's going to tickle an editor's fancy on a particular day. They have so many stories to choose from that there will be lots of really good stories that just don't make it. Just keep doing what you're doing. You already know that you can write publishable stories, as you've been published, and I'm sure there will be more to come. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie

Can you be contacted by email? pmazefield@gmail.com

Julie P said...

Thanks, Bernadette,

I'm quite excited about getting back into writing more short stories!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Anon

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunatley I don't give out my private e-mail to people I don't know, or who are anonymous - for obvious reasons! Not that I'm saying anything about your character! If you de-cloak yourself, maybe!

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

Terrific post, Julie. And I agree with everyone who pointed out that you've done very well with your writing.