Saturday, June 27, 2015

On publishing short fiction

I have been offering workshops on how to begin a short story, how to revise and polish the story, and how to publish the story for NISD here in San Antonio. Most of the time, my lectures begin with self-evaluation. I ask my students what their goals are as writers, what they currently have to work with (the product or WIP), and how confident they really, truly feel about the work. From there, we construct a plan of action because unlike stock advice, everyone's on a pretty unique journey when it comes to writing. That said, as I developed my notes on the publication process, it felt pretty universal, so I thought I'd share it here at my sorely neglected blog. If anything has come from those prompts I've been posting, this could be useful....

How to submit your stories:
1.      Be sure your story is completely done—that it is polished enough to be published right now. Be sure…
a.       you can read it out loud without pausing
b.      you have let it breathe (for some that's a few days, for others it's a month or longer - however long it takes you to get perspective on your work)
c.       you are truly ready to share – this is a biggie
d.      you can summarize your story in a sentence or two; for example, my short story The Suit (in After the Gazebo) can be summarized as… A woman’s only reprieve from the unfortunate behaviors of her meth-addicted daughter is public companionship—she’s everyone’s mom and friend, the sweet lady on the bus. But on a normal route, she meets addiction up-close and has to face the anger she’s been suppressing for years.
2.      Find a few journal/magazines that publish work in your genre. Here are some free resources that will help you:
a.       New Pages:
b.      Poets & Writers Magazine:
c.       Duotrope (subscription of $50/year):
3.      Write a simple and straightforward cover letter. Don't tell them how you started from bottom, and now you're here, and don't over-explain the story. Offer a summary only if they don't overtly ask you not to.
4.      Familiarize yourself with the journal or magazine’s content (read a few issues - BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THIS WHOLE LECTURE) and also review the guidelines.
a.       Determine whether your story is the right length, genre, and style
b.      Find the appropriate editor’s name to address your query letter to
c.       Be sure to format your submission appropriately (double-spaced, Times New Roman, etc…)
d.      Look for wait times. Most journals will let you know the average wait time for a response. This can range from a few days to a year.
5.      Work on other things as you wait. A lot of factors go into a journal's decisions ("Another woman who isn't related to anyone I know? Ugh." (Just kidding (kind of))), and even very good work is often rejected. Keep the faith--the good work with shine through. Keep track of where you have sent your stories. Don’t be afraid to simultaneously submit work, so long as it’s not against any given journal’s guidelines. Follow protocol. I learned this the hard way. Save yourself some time. xo Jen

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