This is my entry for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group – a monthly opportunity for aspiring writers to have a whinge about the roadblocks we’ve came across while developing as a writer, and to offer each other support and advice. You can pay some of my fellow IWSGers a visit, and sign up yourself.
Between December and February I wrote a short story, from beginning to end – a 7500 word Victorian era mystery. Roughly halfway through February I reached the point where I was happy with the finished version – the period details felt authentic to me, there’s a conflict between characters, and facts held back from the characters and the reader are slowly revealed as the mystery unravels.
Since then I’ve shared the ‘finished’ version with a few people, and received bits of feedback to refine it slightly, but I’m not sure whether to go one way or the other. The additions will mean expanding what I’ve written, but I was trying to stick to a word count for a magazine’s submission guidelines, and I’m already significantly over.
Generally I’m more inclined towards aiming for traditional publishing than self-publishing (either in hard copy or as an e-book), as I’d prefer the greater publicity of an established audience (in this case a magazine) and I’d prefer to have the publicity dealt with by someone who specialises in that area (for a novel). But on the other hand, there are practical considerations that mean I might not be able to publish my ideal version of the story… even if it’s accepted.
Part of the reason I’m wary is because of an experience with an earlier finished manuscript. In March of last year I completed a short supernatural story that I called The Eternal Hunt, which I sent to a few magazines for publication – they all either rejected me or didn’t reply. I’ve thought about self-publishing my latest story as an e-book, maybe through Smashwords or something similar.
For now, I’m working out a second story led by the same characters. Maybe I’ll be able to cannibalise some of the character elements for the second story, as a way of making the first story shorter without having to eliminate things from the larger world I hope to eventually create. And more importantly, I should strengthen my idea of what themost important parts are of the stories I’m trying to tell, which elements of the larger world and themes are most important, and whether there’s anything I can get rid of entirely.
I’m aware of the importance of compromise, and it may well be that the magazine make editorial changes that improve the story. But there’s also the possibility that the interests of the magazine in question and my story may come up against each other. An editor of a magazine that publishes short fiction will naturally want a story of X thousand words that enthrall and entertain their readers… but fitting into that limit will probably be more important to them than having the thematic depth and character insight that I want it to have.
Given that this is my IWSG entry, I’ll throw the comments section out for advice. Those of you who’ve self-published, would you go down the traditional route if you could? And have you faced the challenge of having to cut something you really like to fit a word count?