Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

My First Time

By Ellen Wright
Ellen Wright


12:03 am: I've just finished revising a story. No, let me say that again: I've just finished revising a story! I've revised stories before, but only for classes and the like; this time, I wrote the story entirely on my own, during the FM Story-a-Day challenge: over 3,000 words in one day, and it exhausted me. The story was fun, but the ending was weak. I strengthened the ending, cut out much of the beginning: tightened it up, though it's probably not as good as it could be. And now I'm thinking about sending it out. I've even chosen a market: Strange Horizons ( Although an e-zine, they pay professionally, and I like the stories they publish. Also, Mar told me they like SF with a mainstream bent, which is what my story really is. It's called Nature Photography.

12:07 am: I'm really tired, though. Maybe I shouldn't submit it tonight.

12:11 am: Adam says I'm being silly, and I should send it out now. But there are probably typos!

12:13 am: He went to bed. Now I don't have anyone to whine to. Hmm. I think I'll read it over tomorrow, so I can catch any typos that might have slipped by me in my semi-conscious state.

12:20 am: Opened an email message and pasted the story in it. Wrote the send-to address. Scrolled up and down a few times to check the format. Signed. Deleted.

12:25 am: Okay, going to bed. Just will double-check the information I have about where to send it.

12:34 am: Really going to sleep now. No, I am! Look, I'm closing the story. Oh, wait, there's a typo.

12:41 am: Okay. Story is closed. Guidelines are closed. Off to bed.


6:01 pm: Am back! Ran the story through spell check once, skimmed over it for about thirty seconds but found that it was making me too nervous, so ran it through spell check again. Still nothing. Is that good? I know spell check's awful, but it's better than nothing.

6:10 pm: Really need to stop completing emails and then deleting them. It defeats the purpose of writing them in the first place. Checked again to be sure that format complies with the guidelines -- italics indicated by underscores, and so on. Checked that all the paragraphs are separated out as they should be. Should I send it now?

6:27 pm: Rewrote ending paragraph, since was not quite satisfied with it as it was. Shorter, tighter, and stronger now (I think). Story is really ready to be submitted. Right? People are living vicariously through me; I should not disappoint them.

6: 32 pm: I'm getting quicker at setting up emails. Email address: check. Subject line saying "FICTION SUB: Title": check. (Reread several times for typos. Seem to be no typos. It is good that I can still spell "fiction.") Intro paragraph... Do I want to include one?

6:34 pm: Reread guidelines, which say that an intro paragraph is not necessary, and should be very short, i.e. "This is my story and thank you for considering it," if no publication credits. No publication credits and I feel kind of stupid pointing out that it's my story since I hope that would be obvious. Should I thank them for reading? Just omit intro?

6:37 pm: Have decided to omit intro. Okay, name and approximate wordcount at the top of the page. Email address is still there. "Fiction" is still spelled correctly in the subject line. Should paste the story now, I suppose.

6:38 pm: Have pasted the story.

6:40 pm: And have checked it over for formatting that didn't transfer in the paste. Doesn't seem to be any, but it can't hurt to be paranoid. Right?

6:45 pm: Reread guidelines, very carefully, to be sure I haven't missed anything. Hovered mouse over the "send" button a couple times, then minimized the window. Do I really have to do this?

6:47 pm: Yes, I do.

6:50 pm: Still hovering the pointer over the "send" button.

6:54 pm: ACKKK.

6:57 pm: Hyperventilating. I didn't mean to press the "send" button! I wasn't ready yet! But I pressed it, and my story is off in the world of bytes and 0's and 1's. Want to wax philosophical about the effect of the computer age on stories... But more than that, want to run screaming around the room and hit my head on things.

7:02 pm: Have run around the room and hit my head on things. Also have discovered my first mistake: margins in email should not be wider than a certain number of characters. How do I adjust the width?? I've only used this email program twice. Panicking. PANICKING!

7:10 pm: It's okay, really. Maybe they will not reject story on email-margin-width grounds. Maybe. Or will get scathing letter tomorrow saying "Read the guidelines, you idiot."

7:12 pm: Really, why not expect a scathing letter? Will make the reality easier to bear.

7:15 pm: Somewhat more calm now. Time to collect the congratulations of my friends! And to begin the second part of story-submission: waiting to hear back.

7:17 pm: Oh god. Someone's going to read my story??


Author's Note: Since writing this article, I did hear back from the magazine, and my story was rejected -- but I got comments on my first submission! Definitely going to be framing that one.