Thursday, September 24, 2009
ANYBODY SEEN MY SHORTS? - Michael Bracken
Professional short story markets are disappearing at an alarming rate. Soon there won’t be any professional publications left that publish short stories.
Sound familiar? I’ve been hearing variations of this refrain for several decades. Every generation of short story writers complains that the previous generation of writers had it easy.
Guess what? It’s never been easy. Yet short story writers with only a moderate amount of talent have been able to overcome the odds against them by applying a great deal of hard work and dogged determination to their efforts.
How do I know? I have only a moderate amount of talent, yet I’ve sold more than 800 short stories, and I’ve had one or more short stories published every month for the past 74 consecutive months.
Here’s how you can duplicate my success:
1. Develop an intimate relationship with the English language. You don’t need to become a grammarian, but you do need to know how to spell the words you use and how to punctuate the sentences you write.
2. Develop an understanding of what constitutes a story. Read widely and voraciously and study every story you read.
3. Don’t allow another writer’s blinders to become your blinders. If another writer convinces you that there are only a few markets for short stories in your genre, you won’t make an effort to find the hidden markets.
4. Don’t allow your love for a particular genre to limit you. Write in multiple genres and you may find, as I did, that you are more successful writing outside your favorite genre.
5. Volunteer to read submissions for a small press, literary publication, or Webzine so that you can see the manuscripts other writers are submitting, and learn why some of the best submissions are not accepted.
6. Develop a familiarity with the publishing process. Understand why submitting a Christmas story in December is a waste of everyone’s time.
7. Study the magazines to which you are submitting. Pay particular attention to the advertising because it will tell you a great deal about the magazine’s readers.
8. Always, always, always, look for new markets. If you see a magazine, pick it up and study it. Some of the best short story sales I’ve made were to publications that weren’t listed in Writer’s Market and didn’t post their submission requirements on their Web site.
9. Write. Write until your fingers bleed, then continue writing.
10. Submit. Keep submitting. If your short story manuscript is rejected, send it out again. And again. And again. One of my stories sold for $150 to the twenty-third editor to see it, 17 years after the first editor rejected it.
11. Stop fretting. Writers with a single manuscript under submission tend to obsess about that submission. Writers like me who have dozens of manuscripts under submissions often forget what’s where and are pleasantly surprised every time an editor responds.
12. Set a goal. Some writers advocate writing a set number of words or pages per day. I prefer a goal that advocates finished manuscripts. For example, some short story writers I know advocate the “Rule of 12.” That means having 12 short story manuscripts under submission at all times. During the first year, write one short story each month. That’s half-a-page a day or less. At the end of a year you’ll have 12 manuscripts making the rounds. If you sell a story or if you retire one to your filing cabinet, you must write and submit a new story. My goal is to write and sell a short story every week. That’s 52 short stories every year.
13. Keep good records. Know where your manuscripts are, when they were submitted, and what the editors’ responses were. Keep copies of all contracts you sign. Keep a copy of every publication containing one of your stories. If your career lasts as long as mine, you’ll have multiple opportunities to sell reprint rights and may even find a publisher to release one or more of your short story collections.
Follow my advice and you probably won’t become rich and famous. You will, however, have a long career as a short story writer.
Learn more about Michael Bracken at http://www.CrimeFictionWriter.com. Follow his progress and see if he meets his goal of writing and selling a story a week at http://crimefictionwriter.blogspot.com.
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