So you’ve finished your first draft — HURRAY! Serious huge accomplishment! [applause continues on until fade out]
Then you revised cover to cover, sent it through a critique group, revised again, set it aside for a year while you work on another project or two and read some books on craft, come back to the original story and nearly chuck the thing, but decide you like the plot and characters, so you rewrite it instead. More critiques, more revisions. Finally, you’re confident it’s good enough to send out to editors or agents (which is another whole research bit). Are you done with your writing concerning this story? Hardly.
You have the query letter to draft for email and postal contacts. The query has become such an art unto itself that there are courses and books written concerning this 250-word letter.
There is the pitch you will need to… well,… pitch your story in a very short time to an editor or agent or anyone else curious about what you do with your unsocial life hunched over your computer, or so you tell others. Pitches are normally one sentence (less than twenty-five words; ten is even better). If the intended party goes, “Hm. Tell me more,” then you have the two-sentence pitch, and the paragraph-pitch ready. (Related to the pitch is the logline. A logline is similar to a pitch, but used in film making. It’s that one sentence description you read on movies or episodes to determine if you want to watch it or not.)
Of course, you also need your synopsis — telling the whole 50,000 words from nail-biting beginning hook to wonderful climax, all in one, two, or six pages. Depending to whom you send your query decides which synopsis length you must have ready.
Recently, a task slated for the publishing house’s copy editors, some editors and agents now request flap-jacket copies. A flap-jacket copy is that short story tease you find on the inside flap of a book jacket cover.
This is all post-story-writing-pre-book-contract. After the contract come a whole different set of marketing and promotion writing you must do, again, something which used to be jobs done by others than the author.
It’s important to respect who you send your writing. It’s essential to research what she or he requests in a submission. You need to know how to make your work shine in the various aspects of post-story writing.
Realizing all this, and dealing with my personal submissions… There have been some years where I made it a goal to make a submission to an editor or agent once a week — not the same story and not the same editor, of course. I’ve tried the Jane Yolen bit of keeping twelve stories out at all times, which is nice when one acceptance rules twenty rejects. But having faithfully attempted to follow other people’s suggestions, and after fine-tuning these different elements of post-story writing, I’ve made a decision on this Labor Day, 2012. I’m taking a year off of submissions to editors or agents. Instead of spending hours writing and rewriting various post-story necessities, or spending hours researching which editor or agent would be a perfect match for my story, and even ignoring contests or free submission days from editors and agents, I will spend the next year in raw writing (first drafts) or revisions. Discipline, Sandy. Be strong. Resist giving in. Until Labor Day 2013.