Monday, December 20, 2010

From the Mailbag

Hello Inkpotters,

Here are two questions that have been submitted in the past (gulp, whoops!) month and a half. Inkpot bloggers, please weigh in on these questions, as your schedules permit.

New Years resolution for this administrator? Check the Inkpot mailbag more frequently....

Happy Holidays, Inkpot Bloggers and Followers!

The Inkpot Administrator


Dear Inkpot,

Stories are made up of threads woven through a main plot.Could you discuss different ways/techniques you keep track of, tease out,revise, shape, let go of, and build up these different threads. Sticky notes?Highlighters? Reading the story over and over again and focusing on adifferent thread? This question is of course a revision question, once there a story to play with.

Thanks, Tangled Up in Threads

Dear Inkpot Bloggers,
What do you think about fees? Contest fees, application fees, etc. A struggling writer can be nibbled to death paying fees for contests, residency program applications, etc. You pay it knowing you are helping to subsidize the prizes, you may get a subscription out of the deal, and seems like such a scam. But everyone does it. If you've already written on this, I apologize for asking again.

Susan KoefodM.F.A., 2004 (Hamline) Your following me is most appreciated....


  1. Fees:

    I've spent a lot of money entering contests, so I know how you feel. I finally figured out a way to stand a better chance of winning: I made sure that the kind of press or magazine I was supporting-through-fees published the kind of thing I like to write. I've blindly sent in ten or twenty-five dollars and a ms. or poem only to find out that my epic about the beauty of strip mining went to a magazine about conservation. Darn!

    Okay, that was a joke, but you see what I'm getting at. Formal poems shouldn't go to a place that relishes free verse. And here's an interesting variation -- Picture books with chatty critters shouldn't go to a press overrun with rodents.

    At the race track it's called picking your spots. Nobody can win betting every race. In contests-with-fees, nobody can win entering everything.

    Hope this helps!

  2. Susan, to add a little to what Ron said, I would concentrate on paying fees only for contests in magazines you like anyway. Then you read those likable magazines, and then as you get to know their content and preferences, submit stuff outside the contests as well.

    Tangled, I'll just tell you what (kind of) works for me. In the first couple of drafts, I throw stuff at the page and see what sticks. Then I throw out a bunch of pages. I play up stuff I like. When I have a draft that acts like it could be a story ... whoo boy. I've noticed that I revise chapter by chapter, and my purpose is to pull each chapter into something of a short story that works within itself and, I hope, within the story. I've tried using post-it notes to keep track of plot lines, but then I end up lamenting how I'm wasting paper and then they get all over everything and it's not for me.

    I seem to be spouting nonsense again, so here's a link to editor Cheryl Klein's post about line-editing and I like these techniques very much: She has other cool talks too.

    Good luck!