Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writing By the Numbers

I've been doing some number crunching. Okay, I had trouble falling asleep last night, and this was one thing going through my mind. Consequently, the numbers are a little rough.

I'd been doing some market research, and although some markets sounded like fun, they didn't pay much. Some didn't pay at all. And I've arrived at the conclusion that even though I can make an odd buck or two through freelancing and working assignments for temporary agencies, I'd rather spend my time writing. Not just any writing; I want to write fiction.

Still, making a few bucks for the occasional steak dinner would be a good thing.

So, I've got to start treating my writing as more of a job. Here's what last night's rough numbers told me. Let's say I aspire to make $10 an hour at my writing. If I'm selling to a market paying $0.01 per word, I can spend 1 hour per 1000 words. My short stories tend to be around 5000 words, so that's 5 hours I can spend on that story. Not a lot of time to compose, re-write, edit and polish. If I could sell that 5000-word story to a market paying $0.05 per word, I could spend 25 hours on it. That sounds a little more do-able. Therefore, I should concentrate my efforts on submitting to those higher paying markets. Consequently, this morning I have rearranged my market list from 'deadline' (useful for contests and anthologies) to 'pay rate'. Yes, writing about rabid, badass tumbleweeds does sound intriguing, but that particular market is now very low on my list, because the pay rate just doesn't make it worth the effort.

Of course, if none of those top-paying markets is interested in my 5000-word piece, then I would keep submitting down the line. Bringing in a few bucks is better than no bucks, and it would at least be a publishing credit, which I don't currently have. Since every market wants to know what else you've published and where, it is apparently important to them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Waiting So Far

I decided it was time to start submitting my shorts more consistently. Maybe I mentioned that before. About a week ago, I sent out a story that had sold once. Yes, I signed the contract and everything, but the market went belly-up before the story was published, so I never got paid and all rights reverted to me.

This story is a fantasy based in my Atlan universe. This one is about a BlackBird (ie, Warrior) who visits a well-known neighboring village and finds a sister Atlan from a lost tribe has been taken prisoner. This is a huge discovery, but will only amount to anything for her people if she can 1) rescue the prisoner and 2) keep the badly wounded woman alive long enough to get her to her home village.

So far, I like this market. It seems to have some empathy for the authors and the agony they go through as they wait for a response. When you submit to them, you are sent an acknowledging email that includes a reference number and a link to a webpage where you can check on the progress of your submission. When I submitted, my story was #186 in the Infamous Slush Pile. Five days later, it was #102.

This is nice. I wish other markets were this organized. Maybe it only works if the market accepts e-mail submissions. Certainly if this had to be done by hand for a market accepting only hard-copy submissions, it would require time, not to mention a person devoted to do that, and would slow down the process of getting through those submissions. But for those modern, computer-savvy markets who invest in this kind of thing, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I figure I've got about another week before they get to my story. That will help keep the butterflies in check for a few days.

See ya next week. Maybe I'll have news?!    Trudy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

To Think or Not To Think

I was trying to get caught up on reading my newsletters, and one editor's comment was that thinking about writing was not writing. Wait a minute, I thought. Wasn't this the same newsletter editor who only a few weeks ago extolled the virtues of spending your time wisely, of doing double-duty by thinking about your writing while washing the dishes or pulling weeds? Indeed, this was the same newsletter editor. So … wasn't that a contradiction?

I paused (briefly) to think about that. I didn't like to; my feeling is that if the reader has to stop and puzzle out what's been written, then the writing needs improvement. But this is what I came up with, absent asking that editor to clarify her meaning: If ALL you are doing is thinking about writing, then you aren't writing.

Well, duh.

On the other hand, I have to have some time for thinking, or I can't write. What better time to figure out a character's back story than those last few minutes before falling asleep? Why not explore different scene outcomes while doing housework drudgery? And I can't think of a more pleasant way to spend a long trip than by engaging in some semi-directed day-dreaming about a story I'm working on.

The way I see it, thinking about writing is fine. But the job doesn't get done if you never put those thoughts down on paper. Or computer screen, these days.

Now, let's have a show of hands. What are you doing while you think out the details of your story?

See ya next week.    Trudy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waiting and Waiting

Last week, I submitted a short to a market that claimed that most responses were made 'within a day'. Those, I assumed, would be most of the rejections. I haven't heard back from them yet. I refuse to assume that means they want it. Maybe they want it. Maybe they're thinking about it. Maybe they never got the email. I don't know, and according to their instructions, I shouldn't inquire for three months.

The worst part of submitting stories (which is not the same as the worst part of being a writer, in my estimation) is the waiting. It's kind of like, you've wanted home-baked bread all day, and you finally got home from work, made the dough, let it rise, shaped it, let it rise, and got it in the oven. Now you wait for the bread to bake, wait for it to cool enough for you to start eating. Except, with bread, you have a pretty good idea how long it will take before you can pop that first bite of buttered goodness into your mouth. When you're waiting for an editor's response, you really have no clue how long this torture will last.

Okay, I might have heard back from this editor in a day or two. (I rather expected I would. This is not the first time I've submitted to this market.) Since I haven't heard from them yet, a tiny germ of hope has begun to grow. Even though I've heard writers and editors say, "Don't hope until you get the contract," hope does have a habit of springing up whenever and wherever it can. It's hard to keep a good emotion down.

On the other hand, I keep reminding myself about a friend who has been waiting for five years for a publisher to get back to him regarding his manuscript, which they have for a second look. Five years! It's reached the point where he's afraid to ask about it, because it's been so long.

How do I wait for that response – any response – without going crazy? Like so many other writers, I start a new story, or a new novel, or something. I keep working. Oh, yes, I set a little timer to remind me when I can inquire about this submission, but otherwise, I try to shove the memory deep down inside and keep working.

How do other writers get through this time of torture? Is there some kind of secret to it that I haven't learned yet?

See ya next week.    Trudy