YOU WRITE. You have some great ideas for a story, a review, a play, perhaps, even a novel. You have reams of scribbled ideas, short stories, a flash or two. But you want and dream of the satisfaction of getting published, not just a writer, but the right to now call yourself a published author.
Author. Has a nice ring to it, huh? And you don’t have to be famous to write the title of your published story in italics. And when someone asks: “Oh. Anything I’ve heard of?” You don’t have to sheepishly answer that your unpublished. You can proudly tell them where and when. (and hopefully, they’ll go look!)
Writers and actors have much in common. Ask one what they do and you’ll get a list of credits—Jack Nicholson and Stephen King obvious exceptions. But don’t think professors, nurses, firefighters, and sales clerks don’t brag about their achievements too!
But there is a void between the published and unpublished. Once there it might well be easier to attain that next publication. And it is frustrating when an editor requests you put any credits you might have in your cover letter and your stuck admitting you’re unpublished. Not that it matters to most editors, they’ll accept or reject your submission on its own merits. But I know what it feels like to write at some point in that cover letter, “I’m unpublished.” It’s like the job interview where you must admit you have no actual experience in the position for which you are applying.
Actors don’t just show up in Hollywood and land a leading role in the latest blockbuster. Neither should a writer expect to have Stephen King’s Carrie experience. So what to do?
Well, you’ve joined that reading group, have sought advice from them and online at sites such as Flash Fiction Chronicles and others. You’ve made a pact with yourself to hone your skills and write every day. Your group likes what you write. (and hopefully your group isn’t polite and genteel, but brutally honest) Then the next step, intimidating as it might be, is to send that manuscript to a market.
But what market?
If you’re minimally computer literate there are sites which separate the wheat from the chaff for you. Two I would recommend are: Duotrope’s Digest and Ralan’s Webstravaganza.
Read everything on each site they have to offer before you submit a manuscript anywhere. Their advice and instructions on how to navigate their sites will save you time and rejections from markets.
Now comes something very important. Send your story to an appropriate market!
If you send your space opera, no matter how great it is, to a market that specializes in horror, your not only going to get a rejection letter, the editor is going to know you never read their submission guidelines (which many markets direct you to before you submit—and many are very picky about writers who do not bother to read their guidelines) So when you send that nice little horror story in the future, that same editor upon seeing who’s submitting might just delete it unread. Things like that can and do happen. It’s best to keep editors happy, just like traffic court judges! Little things mean a lot. Read The Guidelines!!!
If you still live in an uncomputerized state and write on an old IBM Selectric or some such, fear not. For there is a journal called Writer’s Digest which produces lists of every market imaginable in a large book titled, Writers Markets. And you don’t have to go to Barnes & Noble and plunk down $50. to get it. Just go to your local library, it’s probably right there collecting dust.
Don’t worry if your are computer-less! Many markets, especially professional-rate-paying markets, want hard-copies via Snail-Mail—no e-mails at all! And there are still numerous small and local journals and weekly newspapers just dying to have some local writer send a story be it fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. But you must look for these, they may not be laying about on every newsstand.
And one other point: Your manuscript must appear professional. Many markets, right in their guidelines, will tell you specifically how they want submissions formatted—follow what they suggest exactly—you are, after all, competing with other writers. Never forget that! You might have a nice little fantasy that you’ve sent to the perfect market, but your manuscript is single-spaced, no space between paragraphs, typed in a small font, and, well, not very neat in appearance.
It will generally take much more memory space, or paper and postage, to format your manuscript as the editors want. But like that traffic court judge, they look at these things all day long! If you care about what you write—make your manuscript look like you do. The editor will pick up on that, appreciate it, in fact. Like many things, it’s easy for the editor to just quit reading a sloppy manuscript and send it to the oblivion of the rejection pile—so make it neat, clear, and follow those writer’s guidelines!!!
I began writing seriously a few years ago. The Rejection-Connection, that was me! And I deserved all the rejections, too! But I wrote every day, worked on my voice and flow. Tinkered with dialogue and genre. Started using prompts. Joined a writing group. And finally have had at least a modicum of success.
That kind ear of your spouse, or sister, or neighbor is not the best one to read to. Get in a group. They’re not emotionally involved, meaning: They’ll most likely speak the truth. If what you wrote stinks, they’ll tell you so.
And lastly, don’t get bottled up by genre. You may do one thing well, but bear in mind the more differing types of writing you do, the more and more markets open up for you—remember that competing with others aspect I mentioned.
There is no race. Take your time. Make it neat. Follow the Guidelines. Write something every day. Join and participate in a writing group. Get feedback. Give feedback. Read books of genres you write. Try to write in some genre you haven’t before—you might surprise yourself. And don’t be shy—write what you love, hone it, perfect it. And when it’s ready, submit it!!!
DJ Barber writes stories, flash, poems, and novels. He was born in the northeast and lives in the northwest. When not writing he has a wife and two dogs that keep him busy. He has been published online at Every Day Fiction, Moon Drenched Fables, Tales From the Moonlit Path, Big Pulp, Every Day Poets, and Everyday Weirdness.
In print, DJ has been published by Darker Intentions Press, Odyssey Magazine, has a short story in the anthology, Damned in Dixie, and has a flash in the Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.
DJ would like to remind everyone that even a broken clock is right twice a day. DJ’s website is located at http://canyonsofgray.blogspot.com.