What do I do with this short Sci-fi story?
April 12, 2017 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm polishing up a short story that I started about a year ago for the purpose of submitting to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition. Is that a good idea? Or should I do something else with it?

I've pulled this out of the archive of unfinished pieces to work on as an escape from all of the Trump related stuff I've been either involved with or working on. I needed a break from that lunacy.

I've written lots of things over the years that people love to read, but this is the first time I think I have something publishable. I'm fine with the contest but as I've been cleaning it up I've been revisiting all of my old shorts, poetry and novellas and I think I can polish them up too and get them out there.

Any thoughts or ideas? It's on my bucket list to be a published author, but I want to do it the right way...if there is one. Self publishing isn't an option. I want to face the gauntlet and scrutiny.

I've posted a few questions about writing here, and I've taken all of the advice. That's why I have an archive full of material to work with.

Next step?

Many thanks in advance!
posted by snsranch to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Author and Mefi user jscalzi discussed the contest on his site here.
posted by thelonius at 7:37 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

I'm just just just starting out with actively trying to get short SF published (and haven't gotten published yet) but I'm in a writing group with people who have!

There are a brillion bazillion places you could submit your stuff to, and to find them you should definitely check out The Submission Grinder. You can search markets (meaning magazines+websites+podcasts+contests+whatever) by subject matter, pay scale, % acceptance rate, etc. Find a few that seem interesting and then check out their websites to see what kind of stuff they publish, and see if any of them seem up your alley!

Then you wanna look at two things: how long their typical response time is, and whether they accept simultaneous submissions. If they accept simultaneous submissions, then you can send it there and also to any other market that accepts simultaneous submissions at the same time. If not, then you have to wait for a rejection from them before submitting it someplace else. Your strategy here depends on what your goals are - it might be fine to wait for a few months to hear from a place you really love, or you may want to blast it out to a bunch of different less prestigious markets. YMMV.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:50 PM on April 12 [7 favorites]

Another resource which may be helpful: sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com. It has a credits system where you have to critique others before being critiqued. It has an annual $49 fee, but it has a free month-long trial and it's produced some well known SF authors. (If you don't only do SF, I know there are other more general sites that work similarly.)

I haven't used this myself before, but that's because I'm lucky to have access to an in-person SF critique group. It has been so incredibly valuable not only to get my own work critiqued, but also to read other peoples' work with a critical eye and recommend changes/pick out things you love and explain why, and to hear other people critique that same story. It makes you more aware of what readers do and don't want to see; it shows you how messy many first drafts are, even of stories that turn out great; reading amazing stories can be really motivating; and frankly, reading really bad stories can be even more motivating because it makes you think "well, hell, I can definitely do this better!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]

Here's a list of some non-SF critique places (from a post by someone else, again I can't personally vouch for them):

posted by showbiz_liz at 9:02 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]

I've entered the WotF contest and was a semi-finalist. They sent me a certificate and a very useful in-depth critique of my story that explained how I could make it better. I used that advice to rewrite, and I ended up selling the story to a semi-pro magazine. So I had a good experience with them. They're connected with Scientology, but at no point in the process was this mentioned (and I've heard that the contest has taken steps to actively distance itself from the church).

So I'd go for it! And while you're waiting for a response, polish up your other stories and submit them. Ralan is the granddaddy of all market listing sites. It's a great place to find places to submit (it looks like it was designed in 1996, because it was, but the content is updated regularly).

Counter-intuitive advice: Submit to the pro-paying venues first. I've had the same story rejected from "token payment" venues and then accepted by prestigious pro venues, so you may as well aim high. As shobiz-liz mentioned, it's bad form to submit the same story to multiple places at once (unless they specifically say it's OK), so for the sake of efficiency, I'd suggest finding places with short response times (Clarkesworld and Lightspeed are both pro paying venues with very fast response times). But be prepared for a ton of form rejection letters. Detailed feedback is rare (and acceptances even rarer). The key to getting published is persistence. As soon as a story is rejected, send it out again.
posted by Prunesquallor at 12:29 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]

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