Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are you a Writer? Are you, Really?

Are you a writer? Do you believe you are a good writer? Do you write just for fun? Do you plan to maybe someday submit your work to be published? Have you ever been rejected? Are you afraid of rejection slips? The following is what prompted me to ask these questions.

I very often hear that a writer won’t submit their short stories to contests that the big boys (like Glimmer Train, for instance) host because of the entry fees. Really? Seriously? Fifteen dollars for a chance at winning twelve-hundred dollars, twenty copies of the book and being officially published in a respectable issue of something isn’t worth that kind of pocket change to you? It makes me wonder.

I think what’s really going on is that writers have no faith in themselves, and rarely actually try to better themselves in their craft. They write a few short stories that friends and family declare are great, and they just plateau there. Why fix what ain’t broken, I guess. But when it comes time for other literary types to really put a magnifying glass to their work, the interest is lost. Why?

It’s because somewhere inside, they know they aren’t good enough to place in a contest of that caliber and also know they aren’t going to take any real steps to improve. So, they chuck their stuff up all over the Internet and eventually self-publish a collection of their own short stories (which, by the way, are very likely in dire need of an edit and polish). This scenario plays out every single day in Writerville. Where’s the drive? Where’s the fire? What happened to the desire to win, to succeed?

I’ll wager the entry fee to a short story contest that these very same people, the ones to whom a twenty-dollar bill is like a gold brick, spend twice and three times that much in a single evening out enjoying themselves. So then it simply comes down to drive and sacrifice. Hell no you aren’t winning any real contests if you would rather throw your entry fee money into bowling down at the lanes or having a few drinks with friends. Nobody said being a writer was easy. It’s tough as nails, which is exactly what your attitude about succeeding has to be.

Do I enter the “big money” contests? You bet I do. Have I won yet? Nope. Will I? Yes. Yes I will, and I don’t care how long it takes. Writing is either a pastime or a dream for you, and it’s time to be honest about which category you fall into. Being a published writer whose bills are paid by that writing is my dream, my personal plateau. If yours is just to show your friends and family what a good quick tale you can spin and then get it on the Internet as fast as possible, that’s great! Then you are already a success, because that is really, really easy to do.


E Boat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Corbin said...

Very well said Derek. I also believe that this can be applied to many facets of life. Keep up the good work and goodluck on the big ones!

Annienygma said...

I agree that this could be applied to every aspect of life: I hear so many who complain they missed the boat when you could see the boat in the harbor--they were too lazy to get out of their chair and walk over to it!

I don't do much fiction, but I do a lot of nonfiction. I spent a lot of money submitting stuff only to receive rejection slips and even quit for a time.

I didn't quit though--I still scouted around for opportunities and now this is how I pay the bills. Kinda amazing how things work out if you don't quit.

Like the post!

Christina said...

I wouldn't have any of the gigs or have been published anywhere if I didn't go for it once in a while. I love the Glimmer Train contest, btw. I do occasionally enter. Haven't won, but I think it gives me that small push to become better so that one day I might. Great post!

Michelle L. Devon said...

Did you know you can submit directly to Glimmertrain without paying a fee? You get $750 for publication if you are selected, instead of the higher amount, but it's free to submit. So if the money is an issue, if you really can't afford it, then there is a way to break into that market without paying a fee.

Here's the thing, Derek -- I rarely pay high-dollar contest fees myself, and yet, I submit all over the place. I have paid for things like Faulkner-Wisdom, which is a huge contest with a $7500 prize, but I'm not paying $25-30 bucks for a contest that only pays $500 bucks, and with which publication does little to further my career. There's a lot of them out there.

So it's not necessary to pay big bucks to get published. In fact, it's not necessary to pay ANYTHING to get published.

So while I'll agree with you about being serious about your writing and how you should be submitting, I have to disagree with those who won't pay for contest fees on principle. As long as they are submitting and sending their stuff to places, it doesn't have to be places that charge a fee.

Remember, money flows TO the writer, not away, and a writer should never have to pay to be published if they don't choose to -- and that includes contest fees.

If you submit to ten contests that charge $25 bucks, but you only win $200 bucks when you finally win, you're NOT ahead of the game, and you are paying to be published.

It's all about managing your career as a writer like the business that it really is!

Love and stuff,

(PS: Amen on the fact that most things are probably in need of polishing and editing!)mak

Derek Odom said...

Yup, but I used the Glimmer Train specifically because 1st place for a $15.00 entry fee is 1200 bucks and 20 copies of the "issue" your work appears in - NOT bad! Yes, the chances of winning that are slim even if you are a really good writer, but placing for $750.00 or even $500.00 is pretty darn worth it to me! :)