As 2019 winds down, the time for resolutions approaches, and like a lot of people I end up taking stock of things as any year draws to a close. I review how business has been, start budgeting for the next year, try to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and all that good stuff—and it is good stuff. It’s important to check in on yourself and your business from time to time to make sure you aren’t stuck in various ruts or loops or other bad situations, but also to know what is working so you can keep doing that, and so on and so on.
One of the things I’ve tried to climb on top of in the last year or so is my own writing, with the goal to reengage with writing for the joy of it rather than for the commerce of it. I’ve been writing (and publishing, I might add) poetry and short stories again. I’ve even been paid (a small amount of money) for a few of them—hurray for me.
In my December journey through year’s end I’ve looked at that writing with the fresh eyes and fresh enthusiasm of post-chronic pain Phil, and though my own inherent negativity meant I went in thinking I was going to be disappointed, I revised my tracking sheet and found that I currently have three short stories and nineteen poems out in circulation, sitting with editors, waiting for an acceptance or a rejection.
That feels pretty good, but back in my energetic twenties it was likely three times that many. I may not be as physically energetic now in my fifties, but I’ve been feeling creatively energetic lately—and I’m not going to stop at three stories and nineteen poems.
Backing up a bit, though… tracking sheet?
Yup, I have an Excel file that tracks short stories and poems by title, word count, genre, market (who I sent it to), the date I sent it and how (email, Submittable, etc.), the date I received a rejection or acceptance, and then a column for “notes,” because you always have to have a column for “notes.”
This might sound a bit incongruous, writing poetry then tracking its movements with a spreadsheet, but the art goes into the poem, the organization into the spreadsheet, and they’re comfortably separate. Because of that spreadsheet I know when I haven’t heard back on a poem for six months, after which I assume they don’t want it and send it to someone else. It also helps make sure I don’t embarrass myself by being rejected by some literary magazine then sending them the same poem a month later.
I have no idea how many short stories and/or poems you have and in what state of completion they’re in—or you think they’re in—but I know one thing for sure and that’s that no one will ever publish them if they’re secreted away on your hard drive.
Is the story done? Send it!
Is the poem done? Send it!
Did it get rejected? Immediately send it somewhere else!
I try to turn things around in less than forty-eight hours.
Or are you waiting for that short story to be “perfect”?
Well, it’ll never be perfect. This is creative writing. There is no perfect.
If it’s done and you feel like you’ve given it a good once over and you won’t overly embarrass yourself with zillions of typos—send it!
Even if you’re sure it’s not good enough, send it anyway. You have no idea what’s good enough. I’ve been in this game on both sides of the fence longer than a lot of you reading this have been alive and I have no idea what’s good enough. The only way to know if someone will publish it is to offer it for publication. Don’t be scared. Writing is meant to be read, and there really is a benefit from it being read first by an editor. Finish the thing, lightly revise the thing, proofread the thing, then for the love of all that’s holy send the thing!
Submission guidelines for short stories are available on each market’s web site. Read those guidelines, take them seriously, follow the easy instructions, and submit it! The only caution: do not pay a submission fee, ever. It’s becoming, unfortunately, more common, but just don’t do it.
The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of rejection. So what? Send it anyway. That’s what this whole thing is about. Write, submit, get rejected a bunch of times, get published, be read.
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