First Time Submitting to a Literature Magazine

*flails*  I finally did it!  This is the first short story of original fiction that I’ve written, polished, and submitted to a literature magazine.  I’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog as the suicide story.  I’ve also referred to it as Short Story D.  I’ve spent several years writing, but it was exclusively fanfiction, which can’t be published.  I sent my story to Glimmer Train and will send it to a few others in the next week.  The rate of acceptance for this magazine is 1/1000, so the odds are against me.  I guess that’s a bit of an understatement XD  I’m expecting it to get rejected, but that’s okay.  The endpoint for me is becoming a good writer, and I improved so much in the process of writing and editing this story.  Although, getting something published would be a nice bonus 🙂

I’d love to post the story or snippets on my blog, but I can’t because the majority of literary magazines want first publishing rights.  By posting it to the internet you’ve published it, so most literary magazines won’t accept it.  Although I’ve seen some in the past year that have deleted that clause from their submission guidelines.  The exception is critique sites that are password locked.  Glimmer Train takes blog published fiction, but many others do not, unfortunately.

I spent about a week writing the rough draft of this story and months revising it.  I don’t delete anything, so with each revision I just opened a new document.  There are 18 drafts XD  I’ve never revised something so much.  Complicating factors were the non-linear storyline and my rough transition from fanfiction to original fiction.

Now I start work on another short story.  I’m not sure if I want to do the one about the little girl with an abusive father or the mother that loses her son and develops a relationship with the little girl that gets his transplanted heart.  I’ll probably do the transplanted heart one because I’ve already started that one.

I took a break from blogging because I just had so many things going on in my life.  I’ve taken numerous 7 day+ writing/reading hiatuses as well.  I might talk about it at a later point in time.  I wish my life was more stable, but it’s not and probably never will be.  I’m flying to the other side of the country tomorrow to meet up with Dr. Millis, one of the best hip preservation surgeons in the world.  It’s looking like my last hip surgery in May 2014 has failed.  The surgery wasn’t with Dr. Millis, but I saw him in 2013 and really liked him, so I’m hoping he can help me.  I’ve had 3 hip preservation surgeries at this point, so I’m hoping I can hold off on another one for 1-2 years.  My right hip is still partially dislocating, which is as painful as it sounds.  Did I mention how much I hate my hips XD  Wait, I mean hip in the singular sense.  The left one had a scope and is behaving quite nicely.  My right hip is a factory reject 😦

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Fanfiction Culture

I finally finished the tentative final draft of my dandelion/suicide short story.  Originally I was going to start writing another short story about a little girl with an abusive father, but I might write a short fanfic story instead.  Since I’m submitting these short stories of original fiction to literary magazines there is this pressure to make it perfect.  It took me about a week or two to write Short Story D and several months to edit it XD  Granted, I was writing intermittently (more off than on) for the past few months, but it still took a long time to revise.

At one point, I thought I would never write anymore fanfiction because I didn’t want to be in a vulnerable position again.  But my heart still belongs to the characters of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Zack.  I decided I won’t write another fanfic novel, but I will probably write short fanfic stories occasionally as inspiration strikes.  I created a new fanfic profile for myself because I wanted a fresh start.

Cloud Strife

A picture of Cloud 😀  How can you not love this face?!

It’s interesting though because there is a certain culture within fanfiction and it is often in stark contrast to the world of original fiction.  I thought I would point out a few of those differences.

1. Drama, drama, drama

There is so much drama in fanfiction, and it’s hard to segregate yourself from it.  A few years ago I was yanked into the middle of a huge fanfiction war that involved several popular authors.  Even though I  wasn’t directly involved in it, I was friends with people on both sides, and because I’m so emotionally fragile, I was being used as a sacrificial lamb.  I was so upset and disgusted afterwards that I couldn’t write fanfiction for a year.  But eventually I came back only to have history repeat itself. . .

The last fanfiction war I was dragged into was really bad.  Without getting into details, it suffices to say another writer made it her mission to destroy me.  It got to the point that I was so upset I nearly relapsed into anorexia.  That’s when I left and pulled all of my stories down.

Part of the problem was that I could not fight back because she was good at playing the victim.  She was accusing me of pretending to be the victim when I was really a bitch.  And she was blackmailing me and using her profile to attack me.  Even after I left she tried to follow me.  Good god, she and a friend made up multiple identities to contact me and all of my friends because I kept blocking them.  Actually, they contacted everyone I had ever known in the fandom.  And they were still doing this for months after I pulled all of my stories off of my profile and left.  They were so delusional that they were trying to convince my best friends about what a horrible person I was.  Seriously, WTF?  I developed a mild case of PTSD from that incident.

2. Lack of Feedback

The majority of the members in fanfiction communities are readers or occasional writers.  This means that most of your interactions are with people who have no idea how difficult it is to write.  My fanfic novel had about 500 reviews for 30 chapters and 56,000+ hits, which is about 100 hits per review.  Most people that read, favorite, and/or like will never leave a comment.  Writers are more inclined to review a story that they like because they know how much work goes into it.  I’ve noticed that since Archive of our Own became popular, the ratio of reviews to hits is even lower.  No one writes fanfiction just for reviews or attention (or at least I don’t think so), but half the fun of writing fanfiction is fangirling over the characters with other like-minded people.  That was the whole impetus behind my fanfic stories.

3. Constructive Criticism is Poorly Recieved

Very few fanfic writers want constructive criticism.  Even if they ask for it they don’t want it.  I’ve learned that the hard way.  Ironically, it’s only the best writers that are receptive to concrit XD  Hell, some of the fans of a story will criticize you for giving concrit to an author.  And no, I never flamed anyone or gave them a review I wouldn’t want to receive.  I’ve been flamed before myself, so I would never hurt an author like that.  On literary critique sites writers are more open to concrit, but maybe that’s because the sole purpose is getting critiques.

4. Lots of male/male pairings

There’s a lot of slash (male/male) pairings in fanfic.  I like slash and het pairings (male/female) as long as it’s not fluffy romance.  I’m not sure why there isn’t more slash in original fiction.  Maybe this is due to the fact that most fanfic writers are female?

5. Most Fanfiction is Written By Women

That brings me to another point, most fanfic writers are girls, and I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s the perception society has of fanfiction.  I’m sure this various somewhat by fandom, but I’ve seen quite a few and most of the writers and readers are females.  Not that its a bad thing.  Girl power XD

6. Fanfic Writers Aren’t Perceived As Serious Writers

The look people gave me when I used to tell them I wrote fanfiction was a mix of disbelief and bewilderment, as if writing fanfiction was some sort of guilty pleasure.  While it is true that the majority of fanfics are horrible, there are some amazing writers.  Some of them move on to original fiction but others stay because their love of the characters supersedes their love of writing.  In my opinion, being a successful writer is independent of the medium.  There are some incredibly talented fanfic authors, so it’s not just a place for beginners.

The Following Paragraph is Rated M for Sexual Content 

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7. Rape

Because this isn’t an adult blog I’m not going to go into details, but it’s a big problem in fanfic.  It’s one of the reasons I hesitate to recommend it to others.  I rarely see it in the world of original fiction.  Rape happens, but it’s the way that it is dealt with in fanfiction that is upsetting.

Weekend Warriors #7

wewriwa

This weekend I’m participating in a blog hop known as Weekend Writing Warriors.  A bunch of writers share 8 sentences from a story they are writing or have written.  If you would like to participate, here is the link: http://www.wewriwa.com/

This is a continuation of last week’s snippet with an alien, Jenova, trying to take control of Zack, and he’s trying to remember his name.  Also, in this snippet “this task,” refers to “writing his name on the wall.”  This snippet immediately proceeds last week’s snippet, which ended with him pretending to write his name on the wall.  He’s not actually writing anything because he doesn’t have a pen or marker.  Instead he’s just using his finger to trace his name.  I hope that makes sense 🙂  

***

Over the next few days this task became increasingly difficult until one day there was nothing, not even an afterthought of the man he used to be.  The cracks had become too apparent, and without a name to hold him together, the pieces were falling apart.

As desperation set in, his heart started pounding, and he struggled to breathe, each ragged breath taking all of his energy.  The world around him became fuzzy, and [Jenova’s] voice suddenly changed, mimicking the soothing tone a mother uses to sing a lullaby.  He drowned in her essence, and the corners of his vision began to darken. He opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out. Peace washed over him, a calm that he had never known before. The last thing he remembered before passing out was that she sounded familiar now, like his mother but without the warmth.

Why I Wrote a Short Story About Suicide

So I’m about to go through the second revision of my suicide story, and I put some thought into why I actually wrote this story.   When I started writing it I actually didn’t know what I was trying to say or why I was writing it, but I have a better idea now.  It has a title, I just don’t want to mention it for fear it counts as publishing. This post is about my thoughts on suicide, so if this triggers you, please don’t continue. I’ll give the synopsis of the story below for those that don’t know what it’s about. . .

SPOILER

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It starts off with a guy named Kyle and he shoots himself in the chest. The rest of the story is told in snippets of memories interjected by delusions and reality. It’s about his spiritual quest for forgiveness after his fiancee is killed in a car crash. The reason he feels guilty is explained in the piece. He goes to heaven and then is sent to hell, but I left it ambiguous whether that was actually happening, or it was an out-of-body experience, or just a hallucination. In the end his fiancee, Emma, comes to greet him and takes him to the afterlife.

Actually a lady from CC came up with a really great idea to end the piece.  Having Kyle looking down on his parents visiting his grave, which is next to Emma’s and there is a patch of dandelions growing between them.  The dandelions were a symbol used earlier in the story.  I had kind of thought of doing something like that earlier but I didn’t know how to do it because the whole thing is written in 3rd person limited POV and I couldn’t just switch it to 3rd person omniscient for that one snippet.  It would erase some of the ambiguity that I had originally intended, but I think it might make the ending more powerful.  Showing the other side might make it less of a glorification, which is was never meant to be, but I can see how readers could interpret it that way.

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END OF SPOILERS

It wasn’t my intent to glorify suicide with this piece. I have struggled with suicidal ideation at more than one point in my life. I’d say the closest I got was at 13 years old when I actually had a plan. I never carried it out though. I’m a Christian and I was raised as one, so fear of Hell is what stopped me, basically. I am a self-hater and extremely self-critical. I hated myself so much at 13 years old.

We had just moved to another state because my dad got a job as a pilot with a major airline. I was 5’9″, smart, extremely shy, and had bleach blonde hair. My hair is naturally dark blonde, but my mom convinced me to dye it so she could live vicariously through me, I suppose. It was the color of Christina Aguilera’s hair, platinum blonde. I stood out when all I wanted to do was fit in. I was bullied pretty bad. I might go into it some other time. Anyway, I came home from school crying several times a week. I wrote this story perhaps as a way of exorcising some of my own demons and resolving the conflict I personally felt about suicide.

My short story is based on my experience with suicidal thoughts, and I wanted to share a different side that some people may not have considered. I should clarify that suicide can be done for selfish reasons.  It’s very complex, and my experience can’t be generalized to include everyone.  

In the wake of Robin William’s death there was a news anchor, Shepard Smith, that made that accusation, and he got criticized for it. Robin William’s was such a kind and generous soul, the antithesis of selfish. He’d been battling his own demons for many years, and it was probably his love of friends and family members that kept him alive for so long. Humans like to think they are unbreakable, but we aren’t. Given the right situation we can all be broken. Our response to something like that varies greatly between individuals. For some people it’s suicide.

Suicide is horrible. It’s devastating to the people left on Earth. I know because I have family and friends that had a loved one commit suicide.  They will never get over it, and the guilt and sorrow will trail them like a shadow for the rest of their lives. But in the same sense, suicide releases a tormented soul from the chains that bind humanity. I don’t want to be judgmental about those that kill themselves. I don’t want to think of whether they go to heaven or hell. It’s not my call to make. I would prefer to think of it that they finally found peace regardless of the religion they practice.

I don’t encourage suicide in any way. There was a girl in one of my health forums, a beautiful soul, and she wanted to kill herself after her boyfriend broke up with her. I gave her the number to a suicide hotline, and she told me later that she called, and it got her through the night. I would like to end this post with the number of the “National Suicide Prevention Hotline,” and if you even hear of anyone mentioning suicide please give it to them. It is free and open 24 hours: 1-800-273-8255

Because my suicide story is controversial and dark, I don’t think any literary magazine will publish it, but that’s alright. I wrote it because I had a character in my head that needed to speak. His story needed to be told, and it’s not just his story, but a bit of mine as well. It’s not the most comfortable thing to talk about, especially because it’s a painful subject for so many. Romeo and Juliet glorified suicide in a way I suppose, so it’s not unheard of for published material, but it’s not something everyone wants to read. A few of my friends refused to read it because of the subject matter, and I completely understood.

I don’ t know why I write such dark things, it’s just those are the characters that speak to me.  Maybe some of it is inspired by the fanfiction turmoil.  Hard to say.  Out of he next two pieces I want to write, one is dark and the other is dark with some fluff, both literally and metaphorically speaking as it’s a story about a PTSD soldier and an abused cat who heal each other.  I’m hoping that one turns out to be more fluff than angst, but I tend to get carried away with myself when writing emotions :$

It’s okay if you disagree with me on suicide. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer on this subject. These are just my feelings about it as someone that has stood on the cusp of suicide myself. It wasn’t because I was a selfish person or that nobody loved me. It’s because the pain was more than I could bear, and it nearly consumed me.  If you think about life as a series of roads and/or tunnels I started on a new path at 13 years old.  There was a tunnel before me, but there was no way around it, so I had to walk through.  I couldn’t see an end to the darkness, and as I made my way through it, the darkness only seemed to intensify.  I had to rely on friends and family to hold my hand and guide me through until I finally saw the light.  For me that was at about 14-15 years of age.

Also, I wanted to participate in Writing Weekend Warriors, but I need to finish my application for financial aid to the hospital where I had my surgery.  And tomorrow, I’m going to a going- away party of one of my former ballet students.  She’s starting a prestigious ballet school next year that is full-time on the other side of the country.  I’m so excited that she got this opportunity ^^  So maybe next week, hopefully 😛 For those that don’t know what I’m talking about this link should explain it: http://www.wewriwa.com/

Spilled Water on My Laptop

This is the first time I have ever spilled water or liquid on a computer. Only a bit of water got in, but it was enough to make it start acting funny. My husband was asleep and I had to wake him up at 2 AM to help me :$ I’m pretty useless when it comes to technology. The scary part is that my data is not backed up :/ When we took the back off it didn’t seem wet inside. Letting it dry for at least 24 hours. So anxious right now!

I Survived My First Round at Critique Circle

I’ve only been on Critique Circle for a few days, so perhaps this assessment is premature.  I really love it because there are many intelligent and talented authors on the site.  One of the unique things about this site is that you can’t view any critiques for a story until you give one.  This prevents previous reviewers from influencing subsequent ones. Believe it or not, that can make a huge difference.  Also, when I hear the same comment more than once, I know that it’s likely a problem because these reviewers are reading my story without a bias.   I think that was part of the problem on the other literary critique site. . .  In the beginning several different people commented on my stories.  But then this guy came in on every one of my stories and told me I was doing everything wrong.  I think people were scared to comment after him.

At Critique Circle you start as a newbie.  Your story spends one week in the story queue or gets pulled off after 6 reviews (review max only has a limit in the Newbie queue), whichever comes first.  My flash fiction piece about the mother donating her son’s heart got 7 critiques in less than 24 hours XD  A huge part of that is because of the credit system.  You need credits to post a story, and the only way to get them is through critiquing other stories.  You get 1 credit for any story between 300-3000 words.  My story was around 500 words, so that’s part of the reason so many people critiqued it.  If you post something longer, like 5,000 words, you won’t get as many reviews.  That doesn’t mean the story is bad.  It’s just easier to critique a shorter one.

As far as the critique goes, it was very good.  None of them were negative.  They were honest, but not demeaning or mean.  Nobody told me I was a horrible writer or that I should read a book on how to write fiction.  I wouldn’t go there if you are self-conscious though because it can be hard to take.  I mean they rip your story apart, but that’s why you’re there XD  If I didn’t want to publish my stories I think I wouldn’t do it, but since I do, I’m grateful for the help.  I had a problem with fanfiction that if I was honest people would explode.  I’d say 10% of the reviews I gave had someone exploding on me, even though I tried my best to give sugar-coated concrit, so I eventually stopped reviewing.  I certainly wasn’t trying to hurt anyone.  Many people ask for concrit, but they don’t really want it.  On Critique Circle they do XD  Everyone is nice and most people thank you for it. I thanked all seven people that reviewed my story as well. I think constructive criticism is not about what you say but about how you say it.

I mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again.  This site is password protected meaning you can’t see the stories unless you have a user ID and password.  So it prevents the internet from caching your story.  It’s not considered the same thing as online publishing, at least that was my understanding.  Again, here’s the link: http://www.critiquecircle.com/

In other news, I think I have convinced two of my friends to write original fiction with me XD  They were both previously fanfiction writers, but want to try something new 🙂

Does anyone else have a favorite critique site?  I tried two, and this is my favorite so far!

Trying Too Hard

So this is a complicated issue I have with writing.  When I was reading over the literary journals, one of them specified to use your own words, and resist the temptation to write how you think you should write.  I knew what they meant since I’ve been in fanfiction for five years.  I’ve seen a lot of awkward prose, mine included.  I don’t think anyone can just wake up one day and start writing beautiful prose.  It’s really difficult.  But I’ve been doing it for so long now that the prose I use comes naturally.  Well, somewhat naturally XD

Anyway, I shared my 2 short stories with quite a few people on literary critique sites, Fictionpress, and my blog.  I revised it with their critiques in mind.  I tried to please everyone, and in the process my story suffered.  I’ll give you a specific example.  One commentator on this critique site kept telling everyone that they needed to include a time, place, and character details in the beginning of the story or else the reader couldn’t connect with the character.  So I did that, and then I got critiqued from another person for “telling” and not “showing.”  The problem is that there’s no way to insert that info without “telling” the reader.  I had another recommendation to use shorter sentences because people don’t have enough of an attention span to read long sentences.  Some of my long sentences are awkward, but other ones are just fine.  To be fair, they were all nice about it, and they were trying to help me.  It takes a lot of effort to give detailed critique, so I thanked them and told them I would think about it.

I showed everything to Friend A, and she told me I was trying to hard.  She was right, I was trying too hard, so the prose came out clunky and boring.  I spent longer editing my stories than I did writing them.  I agonized over every single word as I did the first revision.  I’ll show you the part I cut since I’m not going to ever use it.  This was part of the revised intro to the suicide story that I cut.  Also, I changed the protagonist’s name here just to be safe :$

“It’s a sweltering summer day, unusual for the town of Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle.  Nestled between two lakes, the climate is typically tempered by the large bodies of water.  While most people are outside soaking up the sun, John is upstairs in his room, sitting at his desk, writing a suicide note.  This afternoon his parents left to go to a party.  He declined.  Nothing makes him feel more alone than being surrounded by hordes of strangers.”

Granted, I don’t think it’s awful, but it’s not great either.   It sounds way too calm for such a chaotic moment.  If I didn’t include the words “suicide note,” one might think he was writing a letter to a friend.  So I tightened up the intro by removing superfluous statements, but I still have some phrases of “telling” because I like them.  I feel like I’m at an impasse.  I got very little critique on my fanfiction, especially once my beta reader and I parted ways.  There’s some truth in the things these people are saying about my original fiction, but I have to find a way to incorporate it into my writing while still making it mine.

I’m currently reading lots of short stories, and some of the short stories in The Paris Review (a prestigious literary magazine) actually have a lot of “telling,” much more than mine.  They are also entertaining and thought provoking.  That goes back to the whole “show” vs. “tell” argument.  I don’t think “telling” is inherently awful.  I think it can add a certain flair to your writing if you do it right.  M. Talmage Moorehead wrote a great blog post on the whole “Show” vs. “Tell” argument: My Show Don’t Tell Obsession  Many of the comments on this blog post present good points as well.

I’m not objective on my own writing, so it’s hard to know who to trust.  I don’t want to be the cocky author who thinks their writing is so great they don’t need to fix anything.  On the other hand, I don’t want to change my writing style so much that my stories aren’t even mine.  So as I’m reading these short stories I’m trying to analyze how they write to better understand what makes a good story.  In the meantime I’ll just try to stay true to myself rather than try to please everyone else.

Have any of you had a problem with trying to hard?  If so, did your writing suffer because of it?