Michelle Wittle On Finding the Right Story

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Okay, I have already discussed my fear of picking the wrong story for the Open Mic portion of the Push to Publish event. There is so much at stake here and I can’t afford to blow yet another opportunity. However, because of all that fear, I am stunning myself into finding a piece. Therefore, I starting thinking objectively about my body of work and I started thinking maybe I should think of it as just another submission to a magazine. So, here is what I think I am going to do with the Open Mic piece and I think that this theory can be applied to anyone looking to pick the right piece to send out to the writing community.


The first thing we all need to do is decide what makes us stand out from the other five hundred pieces of material flooding the inbox of the journal you want to be published in. For me, it is my voice. The way in which I see things and how I tell the reader what I see is what makes me stand out. So, for the Open Mic, I am looking for a piece that has my voice in it. I was first going to use my non-fiction Barbie one, but because I sent that out I felt that maybe I would be jinxing it. Then, I started looking over my writing folder. I wanted to bring in something I talked about in my blogs, so that narrowed my search down to three pieces. Although I have been asking everyone who emails me (including the people who want to sell me Viagra) what I should read, I think the best advice came from someone telling me to take the piece that is the most like me. We all know that I worry about picking a piece that is an overdone story and that fact had me really torn up. However, in the end I am leaning towards choosing a piece that while the main character did try to take her life, the story isn’t about that. It is about how her action caused a different unforeseen reaction in the person she loves the most. Which is basically something we all wrestle with. You know, we do this thing thinking this other thing will happen, but meanwhile something completely out of left field happens instead. So, I am happy with the piece I am thinking about picking and I hope the audience will like it as well.


Now, say you don’t have an Open Mic, but a magazine (or seven) that you want to try in get published in. How do you go about picking the right piece for them? Well, you still have to find the piece that has whatever you think is your gift in it. Once you have that piece, do your research. Find out the: who, what, where, and why of the magazine you are trying to get into. Make sure you follow the guidelines. There is nothing I hate more then someone who can’t follow a simple direction. If they only take submissions twice a year, then don’t send them something when they aren’t looking for submissions. Also, if they have a word count, you need to follow it. As far as I am concerned, you may have written the best story ever, but if you can’t follow rules then I don’t care.


If you pick your best piece and you follow all the rules and guidelines and you still get rejected, don’t take it too much to heart. If they are kind enough to tell you why the piece didn’t make it in, then really constructively look at that information. I think that sometimes people don’t play by the rules in order to give themselves an easy out. Kind of like saying, well they didn’t take my stuff because it was two pages over the limit, not because my piece was bad. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Do you research…look at what does get into the magazine and then make the decision if you think your piece would mesh well in that magazine. The writing world is a hard place, but if you are willing to take chances and work hard, you will get in.


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