For years, I wrote without trying to get my stories published. Not very hard anyway. I would occasionally send something out. When it was rejected, I took it personally, figuring I wasn’t a good enough writer for that market. I was the epitome of an amateur writer with zero confidence.
Gradually, I toughened up, and realized that I needed to do more research to find the markets open to the kind of stories I write. Many of my stories are borderline magical realism and don’t fit neatly into the fantasy and/or science fiction category. I often write about gay and lesbian characters, which is another challenge.
It turns out that, in addition to developing a (much) tougher skin and getting to the place where my self worth as a writer was not tangled up in whether my stories were accepted, I had a lot to learn about the marketplace for fiction
As I got more serious about publishing, I asked several questions:
- Did the publication print the type of stories I was writing?
- Was the style and level of writing of their published stories comparable to what I was producing?
- If I wasn’t yet writing at their level, could I step up my game and get there with a reasonable amount of time and effort?
- Did the publication give constructive feedback? (these are golden opportunities to learn from editors, even if they only provide a line or two of comment)
- Was the publication open to alternative voices and lifestyles? (many indicate that on their submissions page)
The way to research is simple. READ, READ, READ. Previous editions of the publication, their submission page, their blog, interviews by the editor, and anything else you can find.
Another road to publishing is to investigate writing contests. There are numerous contests, some very prestigious. Some pay very well, others not so much. Some provide that golden feedback from editors. Chris Fielden runs a site with useful links on contests. Often you can research who the previous winners of contests are as well as the judges, which can help you choose (or fine tune) an appropriate story to enter.
Of course, learning how to write better goes without saying. There is a steeper learning curve to writing publishable fiction that many realize. This has nothing to do with the creativity that gave you the story in the first place. It’s about the craft necessary to birth the story into the world. Creativity is free and unfettered. Craft must be learned over time.
The more I was rejected, the more I learned. I now have a (slightly) better sense of where to submit my work. There are markets I am aiming for, but know I’m not quite ready for yet. The operative word is “yet.” Every editor and publisher I’ve communicated with has taught me something about craft. I learn from reading books on craft. And from reading excellent writers who have mastered craft. It’s truly the never ending story
Just remember that writing isn’t enough. Persistence counts. Research counts. Experience counts a lot. You can do it if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. And the only place we can start from is where we are now.
Resources for Writers
If you write about monsters, real or imagined, submit to the open call of Monsters,an anthology coming out from Grey Matter Press. Short stories to 7500 words.
THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE has a $15 entry fee.
The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in our annual print edition of the journal. Deadline February 1, 2015. Submissions between 18,000 and 35,000 words.
Anne Allen has a great blog article on bogus rules that new writers tell each other
A virtual book marketing event is coming up from Author Marketing