Writers’ Secrets 9: Into the World

It’s finished. The writer’s got this piece of work living in its computer. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. A new life. So what are they going to do with it? Leave it there? Seems like a waste, doesn’t it? All that work just to keep it couped up in the computer. Besides, it was written to be read. To be shown off. To be shared with the world. So what does the writer do with it? Submit.

At this point I should mention the fact that stories you’re happy enough with to call finished, to want to submit, are rare. Most of the stories a writer writes will never be ‘good enough’. Of all the stories I’ve written since I was 5, I can only think of 2 that I am happy with. Some others I’ll submit anyway, you never know, right? but most I will just ignore. They’re like miscarriages, I guess.

But say this story is good enough. It can’t just go anywhere. The publication has to be good enough. It has to be worthy of your masterpiece. Also it has to be able to fit in. The story has to fit with the publication and the publication has to fit with the story. So the writer needs to search for the perfect new home for its baby.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, this has become a much easier process. You’ve got sites like Duotrope’s Digest which are invaluable. I don’t know how I submitted without it. Really. But even now it’s difficult. With so many ezines out there, how do you know whether or not one is reputable? What would happen if you submitted to one that wasn’t and it got accepted? Obviously, you couldn’t then re-submit – most publications are only interested in first publication rights, they don’t want someone else’s sloppy seconds – so it would be like throwing the story away. Casting your pearls before swine and all that. And then there’s the fear that it might reflect badly on you as a writer. But being published somewhere, anywhere, is better than not, right? Right?

I don’t know. Maybe. But I’d still rather publish somewhere good. Somewhere I’d be proud to be published. But how do I know whether or not it is? By reading it. Writers don’t just submit willy-nilly – a lot of work and thought goes into the process. You’ve got to get hold of back copies and then you’ve got to study them. Only when you’re sure can you submit.

And then there’s competitions to consider. Might pay more but again they often only want previously unpublished work and also often request the right to publish your piece somewhere, which means you lose first publication rights. Your story’s virginity.

In short, submitting is a minefield. But it’s nothing compared to what happens next.

Next week: the waiting game.

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