About a year ago, I submitted a short story for a yet-to-be-titled anthology edited by one of my friends, author John Hartness. Hartness co-edited The Big Bad 2, which featured my story “The Witch Hunter“, so we have collaborated before. I respect him as a person, author, actor, and friend. I definitely want his opinion on my story, and I trust his corrections.
This anthology, originally titled Corsets, is rather open ended. I believe the word count maximum was around 9,000 words (because my story was 8,300). We were told to write anything we wanted as long as a corset was featured prominently in the story. My story, a thriller/horror story called “Blue Lights,” takes place on the moors of Dartmoor.
Most of my blog posts focus on writing before the story reaches an editor. I’m going to focus my next few posts on working with an editor after the manuscript has been accepted. I’ll use the instructions Hartness sent me and my corrections as examples–mainly because he gave me so many to choose from (wink, wink).
***Note: I didn’t say suggestions. I said instructions. Hartness isn’t a beta reader. He is the editor. Unless I have a darn good reason for disagreeing with a change, I need to fix what he tells me to fix. That’s part of working with publishers and editors, especially when working with an editor on an anthology. The editor knows the style and the audience the anthology is aiming for, and he/she will try to make each of the stories, while different and by different author, flow in a coherent fashion. I might have to tinker my natural writing style to fit the editor’s vision for the anthology.
Today’s post covers a simple concept:
Submit your best work.
Yeah, I didn’t.
I have a writing process I try to follow that usually helps me submit the best work possible:
- Write the pre-draft/outline thing.
- Fill in the plot holes until the plot works.
- Make sure characters are developed.
- Add in sensory details.
- Go through the story and make sure to “show, don’t tell.”
- Preform a word search and eliminate all stupid words and verbs that do nothing for the sentence, focusing on all forms of “to be” and “has/had/have.” (John, if you are reading this, you hereby have permission to hit me over the head with a book the next time you see me.)
- Have a few beta readers read it over.
- Make corrections.
- Read it out loud.
- Submit to editor.
See all the parts of the list in italics? Guess what parts of my process I neglected because I didn’t have time due to the deadline?
Guess which parts of the story totally got chewed apart?
Did I deserve it? Heck yes. I’m better than what I sent in, and I knew it. I sat on pins and needles waiting to find out if the manuscript was accepted because I knew I neglected the final polishing steps.
Oh, I have some very good excuses as to why I wasn’t able to get to those steps:
- Extra research and a complex, backstory-ridden plot forced me to take more time on the project than I planned.
- I worked down to the deadline on this one.
- I didn’t get much sleep for a week–maybe two hours a night–because I worked down to the deadline, and I was physically and mentally spent.
The excuses, while legitimate, don’t really matter. No reader reads a story and says, “Wow, this story had some issues but that’s okay. The author has some good excuses.” Neither do editors, and I guarantee you the words they use and think while editing your story might be…colorful…
A few tips to help you submit your best work:
- Get sleep–if possible. (Sometimes deadlines render sleep impossible.) As I re-read my story, I was shocked at how my story sounded. I normally write much better than I did, and I vaguely remember doing a word search on my “to be” verbs and not being able to think of how to make the sentences better. I couldn’t come up with anything because I was exhausted.
- Get at least one advance/beta reader. I like to get at least five if possible. However getting one person to look your story over can help. I didn’t have time to get anyone to look over this one, and I hastily read it to my husband before I submitted it. I might have had better results if I had a emailed my story to a trusted beta reader, who would have had time to pick apart the story.
- Read it out loud. Reading a story aloud exposes several weaknesses and grammar mistakes easily missed during editing. (Note: this only works if you aren’t exhausted from lack of sleep.)
- Let the story sit for a day or two–if you have time. Fresh eyes find fresh fixes.
So submit your best work. Obviously, if you are up against a deadline, you might get some leeway, but remember you’ll still have pay for it when you get your work back for revisions.