Monday, November 7, 2011

Pursuit of Publication: The Inventory Wrap-up

As writers of fiction, I feel we enjoy so many more freedoms than we know. For instance, whether it is the short story or the novel, we can write pretty much untethered. As long as we write for a reader, and I mean within the confines of structure, we can truly write whatever we want. We can pose in one genre or another. We can wander over the lines too. Imagine a horror story with a sci-fi bent set in the old west and make the whole thing a romance, and further still make it realism. I don't know exactly how it works, but it can, it just need writing.

Last week we discussed the prospect of leaving our desks, offices or junk heaps. I mentioned that I have been quietly writing for years with no real pursuit of publication. I also hinted that there must be dozens, or hundreds, or thousands out there like me who want to send out their words. There are others who want to enjoy the ego of publication and revel in the idea of readership.

The last task I set up for all of you, myself especially, was to take some stock and write out an inventory. I suggest an inventory of everything you've ever written, ever, and then move on from there.
With each piece we were to write this:
1-title of the piece
2-the location of it
3-the word and page count
4-what type of piece it is: short story, novel, poetry
5-a description of it in one or two sentences

Using me as an example here, this is what I came up with for this exercise:
9 novels
21 chapter books of poetry, flash fiction and memoir
60 short stories

For sake of our investigation here, I choose to leave the novels and chapter books aside for the time being. Both of these forms have their own set of circumstances involved in their publication.
That leaves us with the short story. I know for myself that all (or almost all) of these 60 short stories I wrote since leaving Goddard College in January of 2009. This means that they're all new, or at the most three years old.
The other given I know being an editor of Umbrella Factory Magazine, short stories are a quick “sale” or exchange. There are many, many, many magazines who read, run and represent the short story. I also believe the short story is a good way to get started. This is a good way to learn about letter writing, research and a way to build the CV.

Of my 60 short stories the breakdown is this:
31 are ready for publication and it's time for them to go.
14 others are okay. I'm not embarrassed by them, but they are not my best work. I say this objectively. It's sad in a way because I have some strong emotions connected with a few of these stories. Despite my feelings, these pieces will not be as well received as the former 31.
9 of these pieces have no business leaving my desk. We'll forget about these 9 outright. If I don't forget about them, I should.
6 stories, to my delight have already been run or published. This, of course, was a pleasant surprise because it means that ten percent of my workable material has already been published. Nice.

I mentioned a few ways you might like to list or inventory your work. I used a spreadsheet. I also used note cards. I found in this portion of the exercise that the spreadsheet was a nice way to look at the whole of the project. With the note cards, I used one card per story. This was an ideal way for me to focus on a single story. Plus, I wrote my description sentence on the card. When the time comes, I'll put the date of the latest revision on the card, where I sent it and what became of it.

Needless to say, I feel well organized.

I hope your inventory process has gone well. Take more time doing this. This will make you familiar with your work, your body of work and get you ready for the next step.

Next time: the prerequisites. 

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