June Rodriguez
JUNE: Okay let's get to work ladies. So last time we all talked about doing an entry for "WOMAN"S WORLD" romance and Sarah was the only one to take the first dive into the pool. I like the story but it needs some work. Is there a way to dissect what is the best way to write for this type of story contest?

SUNNY: Dissect is the right word. I think when writing for any publication, study the site, get a feel for their readership, and then put several examples of the story in front of you. I look for "tells." Do they run more fictional stories with 1st person or 3rd? Male protags or females? Small towns or international cities? Are they more likely to run "lesson" stories, humor, touchy-feelie or somber? How much dialog is on the page? Are the protags in a certain age range? What is the level of vocabulary choices?

With enough practice, you'll be able to do this on automatic pilot. For now, writing down observations and sharing them can help us crack the code.

DORI: Based on Sunny's dissection techniques, we decided to do a group project. Since Sarah is tackling writing a romance short story for Woman's World, June (as always) graciously copied off five stories from different issues for each of us. We have tasked ourselves to each read the same five stories, then report back next week on what we saw as the patterns between them. We'll compare notes and see how close we get to cracking the code to submission for one venue. I'm excited about this experiment and can't wait to see what the results are next week.

JACKIE: I think each of us dissecting the Woman's World stories is excellent. We will all learn so much from viewing these pieces from different perspectives. I think we should follow one of Sunny's old strategies and see who (if interested) can crack the mags code and publish first--Sarah has a head start...

SARAH: I'm most interested in seeing what Dori and Sunny come up with. LOL It's like Cagney and Lacey take on La Nora!! This is going to be good.

I'd read a couple of the romantic fiction stories in WW and thought it would be worth the challenge of trying to find their rubric. I've never written a short story and switching gears from a word goal of 90K for my MS to an 800 word short story was tough. LOL You ladies know how chatty I am! 800 words is like a Cliff's Notes version of a conversation with me!

JACKIE: Hence the term, FLASH fiction!

SUNNY: There are tricks to writing flash fiction. Wait until you try a contest with a 300 word max. My main concern is that I don't write romance and I don't like "clue" mysteries. I'm going to try writing a romance, but I just know I'll get the urge to kill someone in the story!

JACKIE: I think studying the formula of Women's World Mag will benefit me in that one, I am trained to study, in a convenient and straightforward way, the expectation of a publisher-it doesn't matter if the mag is high-scale or not; and, secondly, it offers me a way to practice my craft so I may receive some instant gratification. I will not be so snobby, because I realize the author may be a talented AND shrewd artist who has found a school that pays THEM!

JUNE: So the challenge is on. We need a door prize for the first to publish. How about the winner buys dinner at a restaurant a step up from the local bar and grill.

SARAH: So, I realized something last night. Personal feelings have no place at the table. I got pretty frustrated with the comments about my short story and took everyone's words personally. Yes, I lost my cool, which is rare, but once I could rationalize past my stubborn logic, I "saw" what everyone was saying. It's still my story and characters-- you gals just helped me see the real story within my story. Lucky for me, you all have been in my shoes at some point and could understand that I just needed to process the information. Thanks for your help. I think with your suggestions and my way with words, I'll have an even better story.

SUNNY: I was pretty rough on you last night when you went into defense mode. I'm glad Dori was there to re-mix my words and make them come out more palatable. It frustrates me when a writer says, "But now it's not my story." If you're writing a novel, that's a legitimate point. But when writing a short story for publication with the intent of making money--heck, take all the help from around the table that you can!

I felt like your story was the clay and we all dug in with our fingers, pushing here, pulling there until we came up with a Grecian urn. I mean, I HOPE that's what we came up with. Your rewrites will let us know.

DORI: I read an interesting article in the September 2009 edition of Writer's Digest that seems to apply. In his article, Your Goal: Become a Better Writer, Joshua Henkin wrote that "[r]evision is just that --re-vision, seeing something anew--and that involves listening carefully to what people tell you and then making it your own." He goes on to say that real revision "separates the men from the boys and women from the girls." Sarah, you have what it takes to separate yourself from the pack. Yes, it's difficult to hear that what you thought was good writing falls short of that mark. That doesn't make it bad writing, it's just that you can do better. We're here to be tough on each other to push each other to be the best writer we can be. Best part is that once you set your mind to it you won't disappoint us and in the process you will surprise yourself with what you are truly capable of.

SUNNY: I stayed up way late last night running the meeting over in my head. Aren't we just like the judges in American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and America's Best Dance Crew? We're all good writers, but that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. We're not here to be "okay" writers; we want to coax the best possible writing out of each other. The alternative is to go back to square one, learn the basics slowly, hit all the walls, experience setbacks, work your way up to where the light bulb goes on and then stand on a pedestal and admire your accomplishments. That's about a 10-year process. Does anyone have a decade of their life to devote to this? I get impatient waiting 30 seconds for the microwave to heat something.

Why not take the help? Maybe you can't run as fast as the rest of us at first, but your critique-mates are there to grab both arms and get you over the finish line. Think about the lessons in detail while you catch your breath. Learn as you go.

SARAH: After ruminating over the weekend on the changes, I'm excited to see if my 2nd stab at it cuts the mustard. I couldn't bake worth a plug nickel when I got married. LOL My first stab at a short story is kind of like the first time I made my mom's peach cobbler. I set the oven on fire and gave my SIL a great "Sarah Story" in the process. BUT one thing about me, I'm a quick learner. I haven't had anymore baking fires and even if I did, my SIL gave me a fire extinguisher for Christmas that year. So, I guess that makes you gals my writing extinguishers!

DORI: Ah, but now you are lighting up the writing world with your fiery words. May those fires never be doused!

Join us for our round table group. Ask us a question. See inside our Friday night world.
2 Responses
  1. Hi Ladies,
    Great work as always. Thanks for inviting me over to read your blog. I agree that it always hurts to hear criticism of our babies (and that's exactly what our stories are) but sometimes it can seem even more so from people we rely on and respect, like our crit partners. Glad to see all of you realizing it and taking things in stride. We all have areas where we need to improve and we really do need to help and listen to each other if we are going to make it in publishing whether it be short stories or long. I think the biggest thing is to be encourgaing rather than discouraging and you ladies have that down pat.

  2. Sarah Simas Says:

    Thanks, Rebecca! I think you're wonderful. And like these ladies, your advice is top-notch, too.

Post a Comment