I had to add a new category to my blog because of this post. As of about ten minutes ago, I have officially sent in my first manuscript for potential publication. YAY! It’s a science fiction short story that I’m hoping will find a wonderful magazine home.
Here’s the basic plot of the story: Marlin, a bi-racial teenage girl is struggling to figure out her identity and place in her family. After her Icelandic mother’s death, Marlin is sent to live with her estranged father and his new family on Hawai’i. There she befriends a family of sea-dwelling alien refugees who are trying to hide on Earth. Just as Marlin is beginning to feel like she can reconcile her Icelandic and Hawaiian culture, everything falls apart.
Up until about a year ago, I wasn’t big on writing short stories. When I get one idea, I tend to get a thousand more, which is really great for things like world building and character development, but is really bad for things like keeping your story within a strict word limit. Then last year inspiration hit me and I knew I had to pen (or type) something that would be short and to-the-point.
Last summer, I took a multicultural psychology course. Hearing everyone’s experiences with their cultural identities was extremely interesting and enlightening. One of the women in the class talked about her experiences as a bi-racial woman who had even felt racism from her own blood relatives. At the same time, I read an blog entry by a bi-racial woman recounting the experiences of her childhood. I wish I still had the link. I’ll keep looking for it. What struck me the most was how her appearance dictated the way onlookers viewed her relationship with her parents. Her father is white, her mother is black. She looks like her mother. Her brother looks like her father: blond hair, blue eyes, lighter skin. She talked about when her mother would take her brother to the park or anywhere in public, people assumed she was his nanny because of course there’s no way a black woman could have a white child. I can only imagined that created many uncomfortable situations for that family, if not outright problems. (I’m sure you can see how these women’s experiences influenced my story.)
These experiences got me thinking: if we treat other humans as poorly as we do, how will we respond when we finally meet aliens? I sat down and started to write. The story came so naturally that I didn’t need to edit much of the plot or characterization later on. I was ridiculously proud of it, but I wasn’t sure I could publish it.
I returned to the story a few months ago and decided it needed to be published. My original word count clocked in at 9,000 but by tightening my descriptions and eliminating superfluous words I whittled that down to 7,000 words. Then I sent it to a few reviewers to get feedback. Several of them mentioned there were a few unclear points, so I added material for clarification. Unfortunately that brought my word count up to 8,000. While I was waiting for feedback, I had been researching the magazines I could submit the manuscript to and most of them wanted stories between 5,000 to 7,5000 words. I knew there was no way I could do justice to the story with only 5,000 words so I aimed for 7,500. After a lot agonized editing to figure out what had to stay and what could go, I eventually got the manuscript down to a little under 7,500 words. Woo-hoo!
The magazine I submitted it to has the longest wait for hearing back from the editor, but I felt they would be one of the best bets for accepting my story. When I was investing the types of stories they’re looking for, I realized mine was right up their alley. Their website description for the stories they want almost perfectly described what I’d written. So hopefully, they’ll feel the same way and accept it! If not, I’ll keep trying until my story finds a home.
PS. This is partially a note to myself. I’ll have to write a blog entry specifically on how I got reviewers since I think that process would be helpful for other newbie writers in the same boat as me.