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, 16 February 2013

Short Story Shambles?

Anyone who writes short stories and had most of them rejected will relate to this post. I've been writing them for a while now and although I've had some success with them. I am still falling far too short of the mark. Other writers who write for the women's mag market talk of having the letters 'SR' pencilled in the corner of their rejected stories, indicating they've gone to a Second Reader. Well, like many of us, I've not experienced that little pleasure yet - how great would that be to know that your story had got past the first gatekeeper and had been deemed worthy enough to be passed on the the SR?!  It has to give the writers that do see that a big boost. Even if, subsequently, their story is still rejected.

There are many reasons why a short story is rejected, we are told. A lot of the time it might not be that our stories are crap, but, I fear, a lot of the time, talking about my own, of course, I fear that is the case! When a story is rejected it means that it does not have all the ingredients to make the cake. There's been a misjudgement in the measuring of the flour, or too many eggs have been added. Our stories don't have that show stopper sparkle that has grabbed the editor's attention.  But, like with any recipe - we can improve. Practise makes perfect - every time.

The more we write, the more we learn about how short stories work and we can hone our own writing to add that sparkle that gladdens editors' hearts so they want to snap our stories up! I must have read hundreds of short stories in all of the women's mags that take fiction: Take A Break Fiction Feast, The Weekly News (not technically a womag as caters for men folk too remember), That's Life Fast Fiction in Australia, Woman's Weekly, but not My Weekly since they banned writers like me from subbing stories to them because we hadn't been published by them before (their loss is another more forward thinking magazine's gain, it has to be said), but I have still to be published in two of them.

I had Fiction Feast and Women's Weekly Fiction Specials arrive via the post man this week and with a heavy heart, it has to be said, I opened the pages to start the same process I have undertaken many times before - story research: Where am I going wrong? Why have they published the stories they have and not mine? What were my missing ingredients this time? What can I do to improve my stories to get the editors' attention in a good way?  :0) It's not easy.

When you open the pages of these magazines you see several, well established, womag writers' names in there all the time. Sometimes they have two or three stories in the same edition! Fair? Unfair? Fairness doesn't come into it. These writers have gone through the same processes as we have. It's just that they have managed to key into what the editors of these mags want so they sell more stories to them. They also probably write and sub a lot more stories than the rest of us. They also receive rejections just like the rest of us.

So, if you're feeling fed up with your short stories not getting published and you're feeling like throwing the towel in, there's only one thing you can do: read the stories that got published - no matter how much of  a waste of time you feel it to be - and keep writing. For to give up is a waste of all that time and effort you have already put into it. If you read, write and sub short stories regularly you'll get published a whole lot quicker than those who don't. Yes we all hear stories of people who never read womags and yet who get their first story published, but this is a very rare thing and they are often one hit wonders because they can't sustain it.

Hard work, positivity, determination, tenacity and a thick skin are what's needed.

Happy writing

Julie xx


Frances Garrood said...

My biggest problem is that the stories (mine) that I think the best are often turned down, and the rather poor ones accepted. So although I seem to be doing something right, I'm still not exactly sure what! In a recent fiction special, there was a story that was so bad on every level (dull, predictable, plodding) that I've been scratching my head ever since! Of course, editors don't have time to give reasons (although a well-known mag has about four stock comments, which I suspect they just pull out of the bag at random, because some don't seem to fit at all), so writers are left wondering.

But of course we don't have to write...do we?

Wendy's Writing said...

Hi Julie - don't despair! I would say part of the secret of being published is keep sending, sending, sending. I am lucky that for some reason Fiction Feast seem to like my work. Today I had three stories accepted by them but I have had MANY more rejected by them. I just write more and with each acceptance am getting better at gauging what they want. By the way there is a new blog award for you over at mine!

Carole Anne Carr said...

The offer to help with your short story to try to discover why it hits the mark or doesn't is still there, Julie. Hugs... xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Frances,

No, we don't have to write - we need to! I too look at some of the stories in the mags and wonder how they got published! But then I'm not an editor of a women's mag that carrries fiction - it would be ineresting to see more readers ofering their opinions in the mags as to the stories that are published wouldn't it! I don't think you can predict what any editor wants - it's like writing in the dark sometimes - but we will keep calm and carry on writing!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

I'm working on about four diffferent stories for TAB FF at the moment, Wendy, and I'm reading lots of back issues as well as the current mag to try and better understand what they might like better in the stories I'm writing - so we'll see what happens this time. And thanks for the award, Wendy - I shall have a look now!
Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Carole,

Thank you!

Julie xx

Rena George said...

Sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with a story that gets rejected. It’s simply that the editor has either used, or is planning to use one with a similar theme/plot. And let’s not forget that what’s not right for today’s submissions’ editor may be just thing her successor is looking for, a few months along the line.
The thing that upsets me even more than rejections is that 3 – 6 months wait to find out…

Julie P said...

The wait is a pain isn't it, Rena! But, it's the nature of the business we are in so we'll carry on!
Julie xx

Julie P said...

The wait is a pain isn't it, Rena! But, it's the nature of the business we are in so we'll carry on!
Julie xx