One of the great people who was in the Short Story Intensive workshop I took last November (hi, Sara!) clued the rest of us into an unusual opportunity. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is having a guest editor, C.C. Finlay, for their July/August issue. He’s written a bucket load of short stories and several novels, including the Traitor to the Crown series, and has become interested in the editing process. He was offered a chance to check it out by F&SF’s editor in chief, Gordon Van Gelder.
Now, I have submitted to F&SF in the past, and I expect that I will in the future, but I rather capriciously decided I needed to submit to this issue, and I can tell you the reasons, if you want to know. At least, I can tell you two of them.
1- C.C. Finlay is accepting electronic submissions. I loves me that process. I don’t have to go to find a manila envelope, go to the post office, get the manuscript weighed, make sure there’s a SASE in with the manuscript, and all of that. So, yay for electronic submissions.
2- I am trying to be braver about submitting in general. The wallpaper on my laptop is a smooshing-together of various people’s rules on writing, and Heinlein #3 and #4 just seemed to leap out at me when I heard about this contest.
In case you don’t happen to have Robert Heinlein’s rules memorized, rule #4 is “You must put your story on the market.” Right. I’ve been trying to get better at that, but I’m afraid I will embarrass myself in multiple ways. Like, you know, writing stories that aren’t any good and then letting professionals read them. But I had this story I really liked. It’s an odd story for a number of reasons, but what can I say? I like it, I’ve shown it to a few people, some of them liked it (and some didn’t – what are you gonna do?) but I wasn’t sure how much more work I could do on it without mucking it up and taking out the things that made the story interesting to me. So then I fell back on Heinlein #3: you must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
Honestly, if I hadn’t already put a lot of work into this story, I might have figured Robert didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Easy for you to say, I imagine myself saying to him. You’re Robert Freaking Heinlein. What about the rest of us, who aren’t as brilliant as you? How do we know what we’ve written is any good at all?
The answer is, of course, we don’t. Any story is as good as it can be, given whatever stage you’re at, in your development as a writer. There is no such thing as a perfect writer, and there’s always the opportunity to improve. Okay, I could be completely wrong about that, but if I didn’t believe it, why keep trying? So C. C. Finlay is getting my short story. Most likely I’ll get a form letter back, but you never know, I may even get a personalized rejection. Thoughts like that keep me going.
I wonder if I should keep track of my submissions in a public manner this year. Post a scoreboard occasionally. Today my scoreboard looks like this:
Submissions: 1 Acceptances: 0 Rejections: 0
We’ll see how it goes.