Thursday, March 20, 2014

When you can't decide...

Risk it.

Sometimes, you're looking at guidelines and you think, Maybe this story I wrote awhile back would do for them. Or, maybe it wouldn't.

So, your reread the story. And it's better than you remembered; but you're still not sure, even after running a polishing cloth over it again while thinking about those guidelines. Okay, it's fantasy but it's subtle; okay, it's a YA but it's a youngish (or oldish) YA; okay, it's women's fiction but...

So you reread the guidelines, and this part over here makes you excited and that part over there is discouraging, and you've heard a rumor about this editor, but nothing in the guidelines or your knowledge base about the market absolutely precludes the story you have in hand.

Then you send it. Because you can't sell it if you don't send it. And if they don't like it, what's one more rejection, really? Especially when this is one time when you know "wasn't a good match" probably is the real reason for the rejection, so you won't go examining the rejection with a magnifying glass, inventing implications about how your work sucks and you should go dig ditches. (And you need to get over doing that, by the way. There's a thousand and five reasons to reject a manuscript, only one of which is "it stinks.") But if it does sell - well, that's a triumph as well as money, isn't it? The cost/benefit analysis works here.

I'm assuming, of course, that the story is good; that you have read the guidelines more than once; and that you are facing a true point of ambiguity, not a limitation that makes no sense to you. If you think your time travel story is fantasy because time travel is not scientifically plausible, but the editor thinks it's science fiction because the time travel goes to the future, that's a legitimate difference of opinion and you learned something about that editor for the cost of the time it took to submit. If you think your 3,500 word story is perfect for a project with a 3,000 word limit, and send it without cutting 500 words, that's a waste of your time and hope, because the person sorting through the slushpile (or, in this day and age, the slush e-mail address) looking for the inappropriate submissions that don't have to be read because they didn't follow the guidelines won't care what genre it is when she sees the word count.

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