Getting the rust out of my submissions process

This summer has been a slower time for writing new stories and making new submissions. Over the past few weeks I started looking at what pieces still hadn’t been placed, and some of those items wound up getting posted to the blog.

Creative Non-Fiction pieces The Car of Your Dreams and Call Me Pookie were declined by 22 markets collectively and I decided, the heck with it, I’ll share the pieces with my known readers here rather than continue to wait and hope they get placed elsewhere. I’m glad I did because the responses on the blog were great and engaged people, lots of comments generated. It was all good.

Incidentally, Call Me Pookie was originally written in August 2011 and The Car of Your Dreams was born in January 2012. Yes, dear reader, those two blips on your radar that came across as blog posts were pieces under development for ages before you read them.

It can take a long time for a piece to get placed. Even short pieces, 200 words, 350 words…can take 6+ months to find a home, and their publishing date could be several more months after that. That’s why I try to keep a cache of stories on hand and circulating, once they are in good enough shape to get them out there. It’s an ongoing pipeline, where I’m creating and working on the stories, and when I feel the story is ready, I spend time figuring out which markets are most appropriate, send them out, wait for responses, and so forth. Many of you know this drill well.

Right now I have about 7 stories circulating in the pipeline. Only 3 of those were written early this year, 1 was written in 2009 (yep, still trying, re-writing, and re-trying) and another 3 are from 2011. (There is actually an 8th story that may be beyond repair, sitting on my list as “under revision” … but I think it might mean “not likely to re-emerge from revision.”) Wait a second… I’m lying. There is a 9th story, a fairy tale I don’t keep on that list because it’s unique enough only to qualify for very selective submissions.

Oh, I have a pre-pipeline ideation phase too. I’ve got a bunch of ideas scrawled electronically in various files where I knew what I wanted to write about and started off with zeal and vigor, but for whatever reason did not continue working on the piece. These are not “under revision” as the sad case above, these are …hmmm, let’s call them “under development.” Ideas which are funny, or poignant, or dramatic, but mostly still in my head.

In order for me to replenish my pipeline of completed stories, I’ll need to go back to my pre-pipeline works, or start from scratch and apply more discipline to the time spent on getting it all done.

The nice thing about blog posts is I can talk all day long about the hypothetical stories I’m planning to finish, and I get a zing of pleasure at the thought. Hey, I’m completing a blog post along the way, so, hooray for me. 🙂

But I’m left wondering if my lull represents a future gap in acceptances because I allowed my pipeline process to lapse? In the days when I was flush with stories, I’d swagger around knowing I had 4o+ submissions out simultaneously on 15 or more stories awaiting their homes. Lately I’ve been lucky to achieve 20 submissions sent on my diminishing pipeline. And of those 20 submissions, 14 of them were sent out in April of this year or earlier.

And while all this navel gazing about my rusty pipeline might make for an interesting read for fellow writers (at least I hope pulling back the veil on my process is interesting, helpful, or at a minimum amusing) the reality remains: just do it.

Get it done.

Ice cold diet cola beverage of choice at the ready, butt in chair, laptop humming, fingers tapping.

What is your writing process? Do you have a pipeline of stories or poems, or a pre-pipeline? How do you ensure you have enough material circulating or in development?

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14 Responses

  1. I should have a better pipeline! I’m relatively new to this submissions process. My first was in late April of this year. Looking back I’ve submitted pieces that weren’t ready. I’m so eager to get something out there. Also I’ve sent pieces to the wrong niche. I’m learning now. by the way the July issue of dogzplot is up! Check out my piece “A Loving Apoptosis.” Thanks for this blogpost. It really helped me in realizing how involved the submissions process can be.

    • You’re welcome Lem. Everybody is different and has their own way of generating their stories and getting them out there. There is no right or wrong way, but yeah, I guess I’ve got my own complex machine which I oil regularly. 🙂

      Some writers I know only submit their work about once a quarter and in between they are working on their pieces and taking more time to make them publishing ready. Polish, polish, polish.

      Like you, I often feel the urge to send out a story and get it into the world, but it’s better to let a piece rest for a bit and go back later. When I do, I make plenty of changes again.

      But even if I think a story is ready and I send it out, and editors A, B and C give me feedback… I take that in too and can make tweaks based on their comments, as long as I agree with them. (Everybody has their own pet peeves, even editors and you have to consider what comments are specific to an editorial vision for a journal vs. what comments are directed toward the story holistically.)

      In any case, thanks for your comments!

  2. Great post Carol, think my tap is on dribble compared to your pipeline, inspiring indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing your work flow through the pipeline. I usually don’t do any stories without having been assigned beforehand (those are journalistic pieces for magazines and papers), but over the last couple of years I have almost finished a novel and been working on a couple of others, so soon now it’s time for me to find my own pipelines and get those pieces out to potential publishers. Good luck with getting your work accepted.

    • Hi Otto, it’s nice to see you here. I’ve been looking at your recent posts and you continue to amaze me with the incredible photographs you consistently post to your blog. I really enjoy them.

      I had no idea you were working on a novel. This is wonderful news! Of course, finding an agent, or a publisher, or both, is a real challenge for first time novelists…. I am sure I don’t need to tell you that.

      The wait times for writers awaiting responses from potential agents can be lengthy from what I understand – and that is BEFORE anyone has agreed to publish the work.

      Some folks go directly to independent press publishers to see if that is a possibility, others consider self-publishing, and still others go the traditional route of attempting to find an agent to represent them, although I suspect the latter is slowly dying off.

      Whatever you decide to do I hope you will share more about it on your blog. I’m so curious to know the subject of your first novel, please feel free to share it here if you would like to do so.

      Thanks for your kind comment.

      • Thanks for elaborating on the submission process. The novel which is almost finished, is about life of course, but to be more specific about the negative impact of global economy on ordinary people’s life. Of course taken down to a level of person to person interaction. Where global economy is just the framework for the plot. It’s kind of hard to summarize a novel into a couple of sentences! Otherwise thanks for the nice words.

        • There’s no doubt the global economy has affected millions of people in a very negative way, especially over the past 4 years since the banking crisis hit. The cost of goods, especially food and gas, has gone up exponentially and I am sure that this topic will resonate strongly with readers Otto.

          Did you write the novel in English? Just curious…

          Thanks for sharing your “2 sentence summary”!

        • Unfortunately it’s written in Norwegian. I don’t feel I have enough control with the English language – which of course limits the potential readership.

        • Even Stieg Larsson had to start somewhere, and he started in Swedish. Don’t worry about that, if the book is meant for a wide audience it will find one. 🙂

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