A Review of The Grinder and its Uses

The Submission Grinder Really is a Diabolical Plot (but in a good way!)

By Sara Codair

Whenever I log onto the Submission Grinder, and see the words “Diabolical Plots” in the URL, I grin, because I know diabolical The Grinder can be.

Diabolical Plots is the title of a website that publishes speculative stories and articles. The Submission Grinder is part of it. For the writers, The Grinder can be as diabolical as any of the plots in the stories. It generates nail-biting suspense and encourages obsessive behaviors.

Unlike Submittable, The Moksha Submission System or other submission managers, users, not literary magazines, update The Grinder. It’s not a system for tracking your submission through a specific market’s slush pile. It’s a system from tracking how quickly markets respond to writers and for keeping track of where you’ve submitted what, how long it took to get a response and what that response was.

This may not seem too diabolical at first glance. It’s not like the Clarkesworld submission manager where you can watch your queue number drop, see your story change from Received to Under Review to Rejected. Nothing changes on your submissions unless you change it. The danger is in watching how markets you submitted to respond to other people.

A couple months ago, I submitted a story to a market called Beneath Ceaseless Skies. When my story had been in-progress for approximately 40 days, I saw people post rejections for times like 35 days or 30 days. This made me think that they had read my story, and put it aside for further consideration. When I saw an email pop up in my inbox at 45 days, I though for sure it was going to be an acceptance.

It wasn’t. On the bright side, it was a personal rejection that gave feedback.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson here.

I check the grinder multiple times a day. I study how long certain markets take to send acceptances versus rejections. I monitor how long my pieces have been out and mentally categorize them as ones I might hear back from soon and ones I still have a while to wait for.

While this is a little, or very, obsessive on my part, it has a lot of benefits.

Without it, I would be checking my email twice as much as I do now. I’ve found way more markets to submit to than I would have just searching through Google or directories people posted on blogs because The Grinder’s advanced search feature is amazing! It lets me search by genre, length, and pay category. I can even limit my search to publications with a quick turn around. And unlike Duotrope, it is completely free!

Yes, I do obsess over The Grinder, but the results have been more or less positive. I’ve gotten a few stories accepted to places I’ve found on The Grinder. They were how I discovered Foliate Oak, the market who published “The Closet: His and Hers” and 101 Fiction who will be publishing a micro story called “Maturity” next weekend.

So when I say The Grinder is diabolical, I don’t mean it’s bad or evil. It’s like a collection of good stories. It sucks up my attention, and it leaves me in suspense. Eventually, I find a happy ending, take a brief breather, and then dive into the next story. If you haven’t used it yet and are trying to publish fiction, I suggest you give it a try.

And if you use, and get absorbed in the suspense of the submission process like I do, try to evoke that kind of feeling for your readers. Make them feel the suspense and make them want to know what happens next. Use your struggles through in the slush pile to make your fiction better!

 

 

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A Winning Story

Almost three weeks ago, I got an email from Women on Writing notifying me I was in their top ten for their Winter 2016 contest. I happy danced all the way from the women’s restroom in Flatbread back to my table. It was exciting and boosted my confidence.

The days between now and then were full of rejections. Sometimes, I would get three or four in one day. One morning, three came in a couple hours. I’ve developed pretty thick skin when it comes to rejections, but the onslaught was starting to wear it down and erode my confidence. It made me wonder what wasn’t working with my stories or process, wondering if my idea of what was “good” and what editors and slush readers thought of as “good” was just too different.

Yesterday, I spent the morning selling what is left of my seaglass jewelry at a yard sale in Maine. I was trying not to check my email to much because I was almost out of data on my phone. Around 9:30, I gave in to my curiosity and refreshed gmail on my phone. The first thing I saw was a rejection from Clarkesworld. The second was a newsletter from Women on Writing. I opened it, expecting to my story as the last runner up, only to find my face staring back at me as the second place winner.

Let’s just say that everyone at the yard sale was notified of my win. I was very excited to not only have another “published” story, but to actually get paid for it.

I don’t write for money. I write because I need to write. However, everything in contemporary America costs money, and in order to justify the amount of time I put into the writing, I need to get compensated for it. Knowing my story was selected over hundreds of other and getting money for it felt good. It proved writing was more than just a hobby. It made me feel like artist, and like a professional.

I did it once, I can do it again. I will not let rejections get me down. I’ll keep pushing against the tide until I reach the next island – the next acceptance letter.

***

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If you are interested, you can see my story, and the other winners, by clicking this link: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/69-FE1-Winter16Contest.html

 

Flash Fiction: Feline Frenzy

Here is a goofy cat story to brighten your Friday:

Feline Frenzy

By Sara Codair

I see you thought the kitten as it skulked toward the cheesecake.

The cheesecake didn’t say anything back. The kitten took that as a sign that the cheesecake didn’t see him. Just to be safe, he crouched a little lower to the ground. He didn’t walk straight towards the cheesecake, but took a drunken path, zigzagging across the room, hiding behind every obstacle he came across before he reached the table.

He stared up at his prize – just a little further. He wiggled his behind, ready to pounce, when he heard a faint buzzing. Looking around, he spotted a fly hovering near a porcelain vase.

Turning in a circle, he wiggled again, adjusting his angle, and leapt towards the fly. It zipped upwards seconds before his paws crushed it. He leapt again, landing on the end table, knocking the vase over as he sprung towards the curtains. Up and up he climbed until he was level with the fly, which was resting on the ceiling.

He threw himself off the curtains. His paw grazed a smooth carapace before they both tumbled down, landing smack in the middle of the cheesecake. The kitten ate the fly in one bite, then proceeded to lick the cheesecake until his little belly was full.

©2016 Sara Codair

Microfiction: A Spell of Amnesia

A Spell of Amnesia

By Sara Codair

The yellow note was the sole splash of color in the monochrome hall, appearing blank to anyone lacking supernatural sight.

Horacio took a deep breath, channeled energy though the tattoo on his forhead and opened his third eye.

Slanted words materialized: “Usted, dice amigo y entra.”

Horacio spoke, stepping through the door to a conservatory filled with palms and orchids.

“Juan?” he choked on the humidity. “You here?”

“Hola, primo. What can I do for you?”

“Sell me spell of forgetfulness. Por favor.” He handed Juan a fifty.

“Again?”

“Si!”

Juan rolled his eyes.

Horatio woke in a white room with no memory of who he was and how he got there.

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© 2016 Sara Codair

This piece of micro fiction was originally written for 100 Word Story’s Monthly Photo Challenge. It did not win, so I made a few revisions and decided to share it here.

Empty Space and Writing by Sara Codair

I hate empty space. Fortunately, this helps my writing process more than it harms it.

When I see emptiness, I feel the need to fill it. If there is a room with too much empty floor, I want to get more furniture. If the table is empty, I get urges to clutter it up with books and papers. When I clean, I move the clutter, wash the dirt away, and put the clutter back.

My disdain for space is one reason why painting or drawing has never worked for me. Last summer, I went to a bachelorette party at a paint bar in Arlington, MA. We were painting a hill in Boston with the skyline in the background. I closely followed directions for the sky and hill, but replaced the buildings with mountains, because I hate cities. Even though they are lacking empty spaces, they are filled with the wrong things.

DSC_0646.jpgIf I had just followed directions after that, put in the prescribed three trees and small clumps of flowers, I would have been fine. But I felt like the foreground was too empty. So I kept adding more trees and flowers until the whole front was just utterly cluttered with my doodles. What could have a been a clean painting of a park overlooking a mountain range morphed into a chaotic jumble of rotten broccoli-trees, dotty flowers and distorted, oversized lupines.

Most of the time, my compulsion to fill space is an asset to my writing process. It means I seldom get writers block because if I see the blank page in front of me, I need to fill it with whatever stories or ideas are wrecking havoc in my head. What I write isn’t always good, but I keep going through the crappy parts of my mind until get back to better writing and sometimes, some of the crap turns out to be salvageable with significant revision and editing.

What often worries me with this compulsion is that I may add too much to a story later when I should be cutting back. I’m not worried that I will write too much initially. I don’t think that is possible. The more I write, the more I know about the character. What worries me is revision. Will I make the story drag on too long? Add scenes and characters that weren’t needed? Somewhere along the line, I will come to a point where I need to stop revising a story. Period. But how do I know when I’ve reached that point?

Right now, my answer is when that particular piece gets published. However, for the ones that don’t, I occasionally find myself worrying if draft seven might have been better than draft eight.

Maybe as more of my work gets published, I’ll get a better sense of what “done” means to me. On the other hand, I may have to concede that the concept of “done” just doesn’t apply to writing.

©2016 Sara Codair

Half-Awake Thoughts on Publishing Short Fiction

This morning, I woke up to two rejections.

One was a form rejection from the Drabblecast for a flash piece called “The Largest Looser.” I just shrugged it off and started thinking about where to send it next. The flash story is hardly a month old been only been submitted to four places. I have plenty of other paying markets left to send it to.

The second was a rather encouraging personal rejection from Fantasy and Science Fiction for a piece titled “Berserker.” In fact, when I saw the words “The opening scene of this grabbed me and it held my attention to the end, and I think it’s an interesting premise,” I actual thought it was going to be an acceptance. Then came the dreaded “but” followed by a pretty justified reason for turning the story down. Fortunately, I think this is something another revision can fix, so maybe, the next time I submit it somewhere, it will get accepted.

I don’t revise every story after every rejection. Sometimes, a story gets rejected simply because it just doesn’t line up with what the editor wants to put in his or her issue. Sometimes it just isn’t the editors style. Writing is subjective. Different people like different kinds of stories. Editors are people. Just because one or two don’t like a story doesn’t mean its bad. However, when I get personal rejection from a well respected editor that compliments the story then makes a few suggestions, I certainly am going to revisit the story and give his suggestions some serious thoughts.

Fortunately, God, The Universe, and/or my own Hard Work softened the blow of waking up to a double rejection. My article, “Slow and Steady?” was published on Women On Writing’s The Muffin. The piece is a reflection on how an inpatient personality like mine can be both a gift and a curse when writing and publishing short fiction. Right now, the sprinter in me wants to resubmit both these stories without revising. While I might do that with the flash piece rejected by Drabblecast, My gut tells me its better to revise the longer piece rejected by Fantasy and Science Fiction. That piece has gotten a lot more rejections, and the number of pro-paying markets I can send it to is shrinking.

While Fantasy and Science Fiction is now another place I won’t be able to publish, I feel like I am starting to get a better sense of what they look for in a story. Sooner or later, there won’t be a dreaded “but” and “I’m going to pass on this one.” Until then, I’ll just keep swimming.

A Short Study in Scholarly Revenge

A Short Study in Scholarly Revenge

By Sara Codair

Life through the lens of a Petri dish: love sacrificed for knowledge. After twenty years searching for truths too small for the naked eye, suffering in my lab, driven mad by failed experiments and failed relationships, I found the answer.

Hours later, I read Studies in Pathology and discovered a twenty-something post-doc discovered it last June and published it today.

She gets the glory, and I get an empty apartment filled with dust and loneliness. She gets a card congratulating her. I get revenge as yellow bubbles grow inside her brain.

It’s easier to create diseases than to cure them.

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©2016 Sara Codair

This piece was originally written for 100 Word Storie’s monthly photo prompt. It wasn’t chosen as a winner, so I thought I would share it here.