When the Bottom Dropped Out of the Soul Market
243 words long
the hoped-for thing occurs in the space one makes for it
- 443 wds. long
I have good news! I have sold a story! For publication! Where you can see it--or, at least, hear it! Not yet, but soon!
That's the short story. Now, clear the way, 'cause here comes the long version.
This year I set out to be a more reliably productive writer. I set myself daily goals both in terms of a checklist of particular writing projects and hours spent writing at all. Thus far, at least overall, I've succeeded.
Now, success for a working writer can be tricky to measure. The stuff that's visible to people who aren't me tends to be beyond my control. Getting a story published, for instance, requires the cooperation of an editor who wants to pay me for the rights to print my story. And then there's the matter of my improvement as a writer, which is totally within my control but, to a large extent, not really mine to judge. Not reliably, anyway. Not objectively. So I have to measure my success in terms of those things I can both control and objectively measure: time spent writing, projects in which I make tangible progress, pieces finished and ready to send out into the world.
One of the items that's on my daily checklist and which counts towards hours spent on the clock is submissions procedures--activities surrounding what might be termed the "business end" of this gig. Sending a piece to a market, for instance, or logging a market's response to the submission. Rediscovering something of mine published during college and considering whether it has reprint potential, and, if so, where at. Something along those lines needs to happen every day.
This has resulted in greater success than I've enjoyed for some years now in terms of a particular objective metric: the number of individual pieces of short fiction that are out on submission, i.e. in slush, a.k.a. marked "Pending Response" over at the Submissions Grinder, at a single time. At one point that number was seven. That's small beans compared with some writers, but for me it's personal high.
The amount of stories I currently have out on submission is a number I can control. The amount of stories I have sold for publication is not. But these two numbers are not without causal connection. Even the most cynical writer must agree that your chances at publication go up based on your frequency of manuscript submissions--well, assuming a certain base-level quality of manuscript, of course, and a certain amount of common sense in deciding where to submit what.
Which is taking the long way around to announcing that, attributable at least in part to being determined this year to increase the number and frequency of my manuscript submissions, I've made my first sale of 2014. My sad, sisterly science fiction short-short story "Other Theories of Relativity" will be read aloud during an upcoming episode of Tina Connolly's podcast Toasted Cake.
I'm just tickled all rose-hued about it. I've never had a story of mine podcast before. I've never had a story of mine read aloud to the public by anyone other than myself. I'm excited and also, truth by told, kind of scared about it. There is no rational reason for being scared about it, but I am, a little. It's related to the same mild terror I experience from the time a send a story out to be workshopped right up until the moment I get the critiques back. And, just like I do after I've heard all the critiques, I know I'll feel all glowy and happy after I've finally heard the podcast with my story in it. So I guess what I'm mainly looking forward to is that moment after hearing it for the first time.
I'm also excited because this is my first sale of a Weekend Warrior (WW) story. WW is one of the annual contests hosted in the private online writers' community Codex (which you should check out--if you qualify, if you even think you qualify, do not hesitate to apply, because Codex is awesome). The contest lasts for five weeks. Each Friday, a handful of prompts is posted. You spend the weekend writing a short story from one of those prompts. It must be no longer than 750 words. Winners are determined by averaging all of the contest participants' ratings of each others' stories. Participants also give mini-critiques of each story. (Participation is anonymous until The Big Reveal after the contest is over.)
Between the half-formed stories that came from noodling around on the prompts and the actual stories I ended up submitting, there's a wealth of material from my participation in WW 2012. "Other Theories of Relativity" and, in a roundabout way, "When the Bottom Dropped Out of the Soul Market" are the only pieces from that supply that I have submitted anywhere. (On the same day Tina got back to me offering to buy "Other Theories," I also got the form rejection from the Flash Fiction Chronicles contest for "Soul Market"--not one of the finalists, alas.) There is a hell of a lot more story potential waiting for me in that same pocket of my hard drive. All I have to do is dig it up, revise it, polish it, and send it out.
I hope to have happy reports along those lines later on in the year. Later in the year. My plate is already full to overflowing for the month of March. About that, more later. Probably tomorrow.
but then they make you do it all over again
Today was a raging success. Behold:
Finished, had critiqued, revised, and submitted my 243-word entry to String-of-10. My friend and colleague Julie was also entering the contest, and suggested we exchange critiques. We spent some time on the phone tonight helping each other revise, and then we also navigated Flash Fiction Chronicles's Submittable interface together. "What do you suppose they want in that text field?" "I don't know, but my best guess is..." "Oh, OK, that sounds plausible."
We're a team!
Also researched, finished, proofed and submitted my first Demand Media Studios article since November. I have this stupid mental block about working for DMS. Logically, I know that I should be milking the heck out of this gig. I somehow got approved to write articles for LIVESTRONG despite my absolute lack of any fitness or nutrition background at the time--which is weird, considering I have a friend who makes his living as, among other things, a fitness coach, but his application got rejected. WTF, DMS?!--so now I get to write minimally researched 500-word articles for $30 each. This is easy money. I should take better advantage of it.
But somehow my soul sort of rolls over and dies when it contemplates working on an article. Even a softball topic (for me) like "The Crossover Technique on Roller Skates" puts me in a mindless procrastination trance for a week.
Well, the dang thing was due today, so finally around 8:00 p.m. I knuckled into it. I'd already pulled up some useful Derbylife articles and a fantastic tutorial video from Naomi Grigg (a.k.a. The Neutrino, rostered with the Rat City Rollergirls team "Sockit Wrenches") the week before, so really I just had to do exactly what I did last time I led Phase 1 training: Explain the crossover.
I submitted the article towards the end of the 10:00 hour. 11:30, I was perplexed that it wasn't showing on my Work Desk under "recently submitted." This turned out to be because it had already been accepted. That's got to be the shortest amount of time an article of mine ever spent on an editor's desk at DMS. (The editor left very nice comments for me, too.)
Today also featured "finally got around to it" accomplishments enabled in part by McGuckin Hardware. The tube of E6000 epoxy restored the handle to the lovely little Japanese teapot that Avedan gave me some years back. The tip of a bamboo skewer dipped into a tube of gold acrylic paint added just the lightest touch of color to the job, kintsugi style. (Very, very light. These are not actually the right materials for kintsugi, and I didn't want to risk diluting the epoxy too much.) The Elmer's Glue-All finally got me to complete a long-planned project of whimsy and childhood nostalgia: converting an old miniature dry-erase board into a black felt storyboard. I also replaced the roll of gold duct tape that needs to live in my skate bag.
Lastly, I finally processed about a half-inch of the Pile Of Papers That Need Dealing With. Those things that required more than filing--bills to pay and stuff like that--got put in my brand-new wall-mounted inbox for dealing with on the morrow. My brand-new wall-mounted inbox is, very simply, a bit of folded and taped cardboard that I impaled on some of the nails coming through the naked wall in the office.
I'm just resourceful like that.
Thus, today was awesome. And now today is over. Tomorrow looms. It seems dreadfully unfair not to get a little time off between making today awesome and being expected to make tomorrow awesome. I shall have to file a bug report about that.