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

Sunday, 12 August 2012

When is a story not a story?

If you read the magazines that carry women's fiction (and you should be reading lots of them if you're wanting to write for them) you will see that they publish many different styles of stories. There's romance, thrillers, crime, spine chillers, historical, relationships of all kinds, stories about animals, stories about life, stories about death. The list is endless. There are many themes running through the stories too and each writer has approached them in a very different way. They have allowed their voice, their style to shine through to give their story that extra dusting of sparkle that pushed it past the finishing post and delighted the editor enough to publish it.

We might look at some of the stories that are published and not see what it is that made the editor want to publish it when they passed over the stories we subbed them. It can be very hard, sometimes, to see why our own stories have been rejected, yet others, less superior, in our eyes, in quality to the stories we have written were published. And there is no one straight answer to be given!

So when is a story not a story? When it is a sequence of events that just takes the reader from point A to B without any real conflict or reason why. The characters will be one dimensional, often indistinguishable from each other but by name and have no real interaction or purpose. We don't care about the characters because we don't know them well enough or identify with their plight because their motives and issues are unclear.

When is it a story, then? When the reader has a sense of place and can identify the conflict that is driving the characters. When the quirks of each character are allowed through and we see interaction and dialogue that reflects who the characters are, what they want, what is preventing them from getting what they want and that moves the story along to a satisfying conclusion.

But it isn't as easy as all that! There are obstacles in our way that are invisible to us. We cannot know, for instance, that Editor A has had twenty stories on the same theme this week and yours was number 21 but she's already chosen the one she thinks will suit her readers best. We cannot always get the balance right. What we think is a perfectly good story might still be rejected by Editor B because he doesn't think the ending is right.

Even though we have a blind spot we can work around this by doing our market research properly and taking heed of the submission guidelines that the magazines produce. The other thing we can do is keep writing short stories and lots of them! But we can't just keep mass producing stories without learning from our rejected stories. There has to be growth and a greater understanding of how short stories work and what doesn't. This brings us back to reading the stories that have been published. These are what the editors and the readers want to read and we would be well advised to look at this and try and give the editors and readers what they want. This takes time, patience, determination, persistence, perseverance and a lot of hard work with a splash of fun thrown in. You may as well enjoy what you do because you're going to be doing a lot of it!

So don't give up hope but keep writing with the lnowledge that each story you write and sub, each story that is rejected is taking you one step closer to publication.

Happy writing



susanjanejones said...

Hi Julie, not sure about the splash of fun, maybe that's my morning swim. It can be frustrating when a story comes back that we thought was great. Like you say, it can put me off if I think my other stories will be similar to the first one, as we may be making the same slip up over again. I find entering competitions in between helps as I do quite well in them sometimes, then we can be reminded that we're not writing in vain. Great post.

Julie P said...

It's so hard when a story comes back isn't it!But we must keep trying.

Julie xx