My outlines are not set in stone. Nor should yours be. Often I’ve outlined a short story to realize as I was writing it the outline would be more suitable for a tale of over 3000 words, way too long for most competitions. In a sense I’ve not been sorry about this as it makes me re-evaluate my outline and story and make it sharper, tighter, bring it down to the bare bones as most short stories are around the 1500 to 2000 word mark so they have to be to the point. But the biggest advantage of an outline is you can work out ideas first rather than start writing a tale and find you run out of steam. I also don’t allow myself too long to do the outline. A couple of sessions to work it out and then I get writing… Outlines are there to help you write the tale, not to help you procrastinate (and there are so many fascinating writing blogs and books that can keep you away from what you should be doing - write!).
Keeping Copies and Records
Keep a copy of all you send out. Never send precious originals (this is even more pertinent for artwork and photos). Items getting lost, postal strikes and spilled coffees happen! Keep a record of what you send where and results. Useful for accountancy purposes and to make sure you don’t send the same story to the same person twice (unless, of course, they’ve asked you to resubmit it, highly unlikely). Also I’ve found using the Mslexia diary helpful – for one thing I’ve been overcome with the urge to fill the blank pages and the only way to do that is to get work out there. The more work out, the greater the chances of success but it then becomes more vital to be able to track what you’ve sent where.
Reading Your Work
Read your work out loud (to yourself, a friend, a recording device) Vital for poetry, it’s also useful for prose, particularly dialogue. If you trip over words so will your readers and then it’s time for the editing pen again!