Tag Archives: submission

Everybody Has A Story

Recently, I’ve read several articles about personal essay writing.  They’ve ranged from writing tips to how to get your personal essay published.  Now I don’t know if any of my readers are this way, but when I repeatedly run into the same theme across several different mediums over at least a few days I will usually succumb to the inspiration.  In this case, I did, and I am inviting you to share in the inspiration with me.

My theory is that a personal essay is the best practice you can do as a writer.  While it is important to exercise your imagination by coming up with new stories, that creative measure can be distracting.  If your intent is to practice your wordsmithing, what better place to begin than in your memory.  We know our own stories, certainly better than someone else’s and even better than those we could make up since we haven’t actually made them up yet. It seems to me an ideal way to play with narrative – description, dialog, and character – since you know the whole story so intimately.

So, I challenge you to pick an event – big or small – from your life and write it.  The only recommendation I would put forth is to make sure the event you choose is one that was transforming in some way.  Like any good story, your main character should be dynamic, and, in this case, that main character is you.  Feel free to come back and share your experience in the comments.  Let us know if you seek publication!

Enjoy!

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions – Part 3

A lack of work, and the daunting task of forcing yourself to write new pieces, or to edit old pieces, for submission can be a terrible deterrent to even trying.  In truth, it has been the main thing that has stopped me from trying to submit over the past couple of years, and even the last few months.  But there are several ways to combat this.

1. Write everyday!  No matter what you’re writing, even if it’s just complaining about not having anything to say, spend three pages (or 750 words or so) bitching about it.  Whatever is going on in your head, your life, at work, around the country, around the world; spend a few minutes putting it down on paper.  If you make this effort everyday, you will be shocked what can eventually come out.  Whether it’s a humorous memory of something that happened in your childhood, or a poignant observation relating to your industry or current events, something is bound to pop out.  Perhaps you will notice a trend in what you’re writing and realize you have a series of little essays that could turn into something.  That’s how I got started with this blog.  So make the effort to sit, and let it all out – dump the contents of your brain for 20 to 30 minutes, and see what happens.

2. Go back to old work with fresh eyes, no matter how old it is!  That poem you wrote in college for the creative writing class you took as a fun but throw-away elective might turn out to have some weight to it, especially after so many years.  Now you are older, wiser, more experienced, improved as a writer, and distanced from the critical young adult that wrote that piece.  You don’t have to worry about how bad the kid that wrote it thought it was.  You, as his/her adult counterpart, may see something that s/he didn’t know was there.  A few small changes, and that poem could turn into something worthy of publication, if it isn’t already.

3. Look for prompts, and read, read, read!  Read the newspaper, visit the library, pick up trade magazines that are meaningful to you, go to book clubs, book fairs, author events, movies, concerts, anything!  There are so many topics out there to write about, and so many publications and websites devoted to each one. We tend not to think of our everyday experiences as something that warrants documentation, but you never know what might come of arguing with the campaign ad for your district’s incumbent representative, or experimenting with a new recipe or workout.  Writing prompts are everywhere. They can be found at your child’s PTA meeting, the jazz club you were dragged to on Friday night, or the display of NY Times best sellers at your local bookstore.  If something riles you, write it down.  Don’t ignore it!

 

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions – Part 2

So there you are, sitting in front of your computer (because whether you write by hand, or typewriter, or computer, you should at least have everything backed up) looking through the files of all the work you have. It’s probably a lot, right? A bunch of poems out of that blank book you always have in the bag you carry everywhere. Unfinished works that you just can’t seem to pick back up, no matter how hard you try, and are considering starting over entirely. Stories that you’ve spent so much time with, writing, editing, revising, rewriting, reading, and rewriting again, that you almost hate them now. Maybe, you’re like me, and have kept all the college work you did including English papers, research abstracts, and essays based on other thinkers’ ideas. If you are like me, then you probably have upwards of 100 to 200 works all set up for submission.

And now you’re laughing.

You’re laughing because none of that is anywhere close to submission ready. Of the probably 100+ works I had (arguably) ready to go when I made my first forray into the submission process, I only felt confident in about seven. The rest were simply bad. I didn’t feel good about how they sounded, and I didn’t have the time, or more truthfully, the motivation to make them better. So, naturally, I had to give up when I exhausted my seven golden tickets, discovering that what is “golden” is subjective. It never occurred to me to write new work, because I was in one of my slumps with short work.

What kills me about that is, I’ve now gone back and looked at my old work – pieces I had then, and things I’ve written since – and it’s not all bad.  As a matter of fact, some of it is really quite good in my estimation, and that’s saying something since like any artist my own work is what I’m most critical of.  But with a couple of tweaks here and there I may have as many as ten or twelve decent poems and at least one short fiction.

But even better than that, I am writing consistently again.  Inspiration has been a fairly constant friend of late, and as long as I’m riding that wave I might as well write some new stuff.  Sure, there are ideas for stories (and novels) that are floating around in my mind, and periodically on the paper, but I forget that creative writing is not just fiction and poetry.  There is a whole world of creative nonfiction out there that I have only just begun to tap, thanks to wordpress and all of you who are so kind to visit here and read.

And so, with old work to edit and perfect, new ideas, new strengths, and new genres to explore, I am jumping in feet first to submitting.  My first attempt will be creative nonfiction, something I’ve never considered even trying to be good at.  But what is the point of all this writing that I do if no one ever sees it.

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A Writer’s Journey: Submissions

I have been describing myself as a writer ever since I started getting really lucky and fluid with the work on my MS. Something clicked for me when I joined the writing group that helped me put into perspective how to tell the story I wanted to tell, and from that point on writing became so much easier for me. As a result, I do not only have my MS to tout, but a few other short pieces and some poetry too.

At some point, after I’d finished my MS’s first draft, but before I decided to revise, I began looking at some of my short works, and trying to submit them to magazines and contests for publication. Members of my writing group had been published this way, and I thought, “Why wait for a novel to get published when I’ve got some perfectly good work sitting on my hard drive?”

I naturally became much more critical of the work that I had, but still found some pieces I felt were worthy of submission (that I wasn’t embarrassed by) and found places to send them. Unfortunately, I never did get anything published, but truth be told, I really didn’t try that hard either. I spent two or three months, sent maybe five pieces out, and then got wrapped up in living, or maybe that was when I went back to editing my MS. I can’t really remember. Regardless, I gave up on submitting without giving it (or myself for that matter) a decent fighting chance.

Well, now I’m starting the submission process over again, and this time I will not be giving up so easily. I’d like to say, “I won’t make all the same mistakes again”, but the reality is the only mistake that I made was giving up too quickly. I wasn’t inspired to write any new work, and I exhausted all the decent work (I thought) I had. I also didn’t feel comfortable without clear rules, and I didn’t want to break any so I didn’t take any chances. And then there was my complete lack of understanding of copyright and resulting paranoia.

Now, since it was this blog that got me writing everyday again, and has encouraged my efforts going forward, I’ve decided to share with my readers my journey of submission. My hope is that it is helpful to those of you who, like me, are unfamiliar and wary of the process. And for those that have ridden the submission/rejection superhighway, I hope it will give you a place to share in the experience. I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and stories, and as always, I thank you for taking the time to read.

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