Your First Motherfucking Sale: The Motherfucking Update

Cash and Bullets

Welps, it’s been two, three weeks since I last said, “Hey, who wants to try to make their first story sale?” And now here we are, and I’m wondering: “How’s it going?”

So: how’s it going?

Anybody making any progress?

Pick a market?

Write a story?

First draft? Second? Third? Eleventeenth?

Anybody actually share stories? Anybody still sharing stories and drafts?

Anything I can do to help your process along?

Writing a story is hard enough — short fiction is short enough where it feels easy to fall into samey-flavored patterns. Selling that short fiction is its own circle of Hell, so, would love to hear not only the experiences of you who have chosen to undertake this crazy, uhhh, undertaking, but also those of you who have been in the trenches trying to sell all along. How have your experiences been? Any advice from the old-timers?




Prayer requests?

Marriage proposals?

Death threats?


  • Got an eye on a few ‘zines. Finding paying YA ‘zines are hard enough, finding them with a spec bent is even harder. They’re out there though. Not that I’m limiting myself to the YA market. But I don’t suspect I’d get into Asimov’s or SFF just yet.

    Otherwise, decided to write something new rather than overhaul something I’ve already got. Toying with a few ideas but nothing I’d yet call a draft. So, all in all it goes.

  • I critiqued a draft for Andhria (I’ll never spell that right…) and Dawn. I sent my own out for review and got some responses. Adjusted the story, fixed some loops, and learned a whole lot about punctuation (which is good as I feel I’m writing better now). Cleaned up the story and gave it to some other people for critique.

    Currently trying to decide what to do with the responses I’ve received. Everyone has different ideas on what could fix it up, or where to go into more depth, but I am also trying to keep it short, under 5k words if I can.

    Any advice on dealing with critique that almost seems to be dead opposite?

    • @Anthony:

      My opinion on that is:

      a) Get more input. If one person says, “Hate that character” and three more say, “Love that character,” you know it’s just a preferential thing. Not all people love all stories or all elements. That’s okay.

      b) Go with your gut. Hopefully, it’s right. But at least you know it’s what you like.

      — c.

  • I picked two stories I thought were closest to publication and put them up on an online critique site that I like. The critiques have been dribbling in, and I’ve gotten some good advice.

    The current problem that I’m grappling with is length: Both these pieces are around that precarious 7,000-word length that people don’t seem to like much. The comments I’ve gotten have indicated that a) the characters need to be better fleshed-out, and b) the stories needed to be shorter.

    I’ve decided on a couple markets to send them to once the revising is finished.

    • @John:

      Cutting is hard in a short story. A recommendation: in short fiction, to really cut space, I find it’s easier to just start over. Rewrite to spec: it feels more “doable” when that happens.

      Just my zwei pfennig. :)

      — c.

  • Dunno if this counts, but I’m working and re-working a short story I wrote, with plans to submit it to Writers of the Future by the upcoming quarter’s deadline. Cash prize, publication, prestige.

    It’s dark. It’s surreal. It’s first present. It’s strange. It’s psychological. It’s places I haven’t gone before.

    I’m 1892 words into the rewrite. The previous draft tops out at 7980 words, with a lot of scenes missing. The story’s complete, technically, but there’s a lot of conflict missing from it, left implied, left background, that really needs to come to the fore.

  • Yeah, I’m still waiting on at least one more person to get back to me before I make changes. I think on more set of revisions and I’m going to start shopping it around. Try and get it out there to a mag or two before school starts. Especially since a bunch of submission deadlines for short fiction seems to be September-ish.

  • I won’t lie. The move has kicked my ass up and down the street. I have, here and there though, started chipping away at a little horror short story. I haven’t looked for any markets yet, though, I’ll admit.

    Would it be better to start looking for markets first? Not necessarily on the “Write to the fad” because my professors have already told me many times not do that and WHY not to do that, but more which of my many story ideas has the most open markets?

  • Rejections received since August 1: 7
    Stories submitted since August 1: 10 (includes the 7 rejected stories and 3 new ones)

    The “holy shit I wrote a story and got it rejected and sent it out again and didn’t kill myself!” factor fades, but only slightly.

    Kate – I picked up The Year’s Best SFF for Teens (2005) , and Every One of the stories was from an adult magazine or collection. I think now is the best it’s ever been, for finding YA short story spec markets. Sad, eh?

    Anthony – on critiques. You’re the writer. Make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish with the story, and for whom. Critiquing is a skill; the opposing crits may be addressing two different, valid issues in an unclear way. Watch out for critiques that provide solutions instead of identifying problems; it may be the critter trying out his/her own ideas on your story. Nothing wrong with that; it may inspire you to a better story. But it’s your story–consider all crits, come up with your own solutions, and go with whatever is the coolest.

  • @Chuck – A rewrite isn’t a bad idea at all. I’ll be at a workshop the first week of Oct and hope to come back full of ideas to try out — two ready-to-go plots might be very convenient. Letting them sit and percolate during that time might not be a bad idea either.

  • I revised the story that was knocking around — mostly added in a few beginning paragraphs that make the piece a lot stronger, and a handful of telling details. Sent around for some crits, got some *great* feedback. (Thanks, everyone!) Sent to a microbiologist friend who told me how to fix my science content.

    I’m giving up my laptop for probably about a week tomorrow afternoon, so tonight I’m going to finish tweaking the sucker based on feedback. Then I’m shooting for the moon: They’ve got a six-month turnaround, but they pay real well, and I never got anywhere by aiming low. ^_^

  • That reminds me – I think actually made my first story sale last month or so. I’d kinda shrugged it off, but now I think about it, that’s the first story that I’ve successfully submitted to a journal for publication, rather than winning a competiton or something.

    Huh. I probably should feel more excited about it.

    Anyway, the journal’s called Going Down Swinging – – and it’s a hip literary journal.

    The story is called ‘Invisible Woman’, and it’s kind of like Fight Club, if Fight Club was about women in their 40s and involved neither a fight or a club.

    I’m getting $75 for it; originally I was promised $100, but their budget got eaten up and they had to pay the writers less. I’m not super pleased about that, but then again it’s not like $25 makes a big difference. The potentially useful exposure is more useful – GDS is respected round these parts, which may help my novel when it’s finished.

    The feedback process was interesting – the editors actually got involved with the story (and I presume others), found inconsistencies and made suggestions for changes (I agreed with one, but not the other).

    So yeah. Shoulda mentioned that earlier.


  • Two stories to review have come to my inbox and been replied to, and a request for review of the story I just finished has been sent out to those that sent to me.

    I’ve noticed that it’s even helpful just to go over the stories sent my way because it makes me think about the way I write and how I might improve it.

  • Chuggin’ along like a jock at a party.

    Picked a new Genre for me; Horror.

    Read online samples from 3 pro and 2 semi-pro to get some tonal input.

    The illustrious Darren G. Miller was kind enough to partner up with me as a critique pal. We exchanged some getting to know you emails and shared basic concepts. We’ve supported each other (quite well, I think) along the way so far. We set a Sept. 8th date to share drafts and critique.

    Then comes the battle.

    So far I’m glad to have a person to share the process with, it makes it a little more exciting and it helps with accountability on milestones.

    @Maggie: I’ve submitted stuff to LRon’s contest! Go you! One of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, won it one year which is how I found him.

    @John: One thing I’ve done is taken a blue, yellow and green highlighter to my pieces and highlighted everything as essential, descriptive, or supportive. Then edited anything that didn’t make the cut.


    • “@John: One thing I’ve done is taken a blue, yellow and green highlighter to my pieces and highlighted everything as essential, descriptive, or supportive. Then edited anything that didn’t make the cut.”

      I like the “highlight, then cut.” That’s super-slick.

      I will ask, though — how do you know the difference between essential, descriptive, supportive? Seems a curious breakdown, and if all you’re really doing is cutting, why not one highlighter?

      To ask the question more clearly (it’s early) — the adjectives are not really parallel. It’s like, “red, red-orange, and donkey-flavored.” Descriptive doesn’t seem analogous to the other two, and the other two don’t seem a proper dichotomy — if something is supportive, then one would assume that one is also essential, yes?

      Now, again, I’m totally hot on the idea of “highlight to keep, what’s not highlighted is cut.” That’s pretty great.

      — c.

  • When I use “supportive,” it’s trying to put a term to a personal fault. I tend to belabor points & themes, & even plot items in early drafts. They “support” my story concepts. If I see too much of that color, I know I’m belaboring.

    The highlighting itself is just a way to break a story into observable-thus cutable-bites. “Description” is really because I feel over-describing looks novicey. Except if you’re Rice or Hawthorne.

    Glad you like the concept.


  • Andrea – I’m a PhD in cell biology and therefore a scientist in daily life, too. If you – or anyone here for that matter – want a second opinion on your science, drop me a line and I’d be happy to read your story.

    That said, I am working on the last revisions for my own (sciency) short, so if there are any voluntary takers, I’ll be more than happy to reciprocate.


  • Well, GenCon got in the way of me actually working further on the story that I sent out for peer review right before I left.

    I know I still have one story that was sent to me a few days ago to peer review, so I am assuming that most of us are still quite actively working on it.

    By necessity, I have three days a week I can work on writing. Kids have the weekend off, husband has Thursday-Friday off. All demand my attention those four days. I also have planning to do for the Grand Masquerade and for RinCon in Tucson, Arizona almost right after. For the Grand Masq I’m running a Sabbat game, a nWoD free for all, and then a Geist game to round it out (with maybe a pick up game or two with nWoD Changeling and Geist). I’m also working on my mask and my outfit for the actual ball.

    For Tucson, it’s going to be nWoD Vampire and Changeling.

    However, I did send off one pitch on a different subject, no word yet (and they don’t send word unless you are accepted). I also started my own blog. It’s nothing fancy yet, and its just a prerequisite for other upcoming projects, most of them being designed for the Wrecking Crew (things like a group blog and a podcast).

    I am also working on three of my very own games (one board, two card) to pitch in October along with a fourth (board) that is already finished (and play-tested, and demo’ed).

    I also am MUSH’ing again. I find I get a lot of creativity from storytelling and playing on my favorite MU.

    What is all boils down to is that I’m a busy little bee it appears! Most of it focused on gaming and writing.

  • I must have missed your first post while I was unemployed. Oh the irony. You would expect me to have more time for such things, but no. And of course late on posting to this one. Anyway.

    Two stories that I have been sending around lately. Got a really nice rejection from Abyss and Apex, and a form rejection from PodCastle.

    Not sure if I am going to keep sending them around. Logic tells me to do so. Part of me wonders if they are just crap (inspite of the A&A rejection) and no one will ever buy them. Mostly been working on the novel lately and haven’t produced much short fiction in a while.

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