In general, it takes 3-6 months to hear back on a writing submission. During this time, I am reading magazines to compare what they publish against what I write, and arranging my pieces in the order in which I will submit them after I receive me “NO.”
The healthiest way I have found to look at the process is to expect a “NO.”
Naturally, I have my hopes. At least one a year, those hopes pay off with a literary publication. (2017: twice. 2016: thrice.)
However, when I expect a rejection, as soon as I receive my “No” I send out another piece.
At times, I have maxed out the places I can send pieces. (I try to keep it to ten submissions at a time, per piece.) Or, the magazine I want is taking a break from reading.
However, when I receive a NO and send out post-haste, I can have my “Submission! Boo hoo hoo-hoo-hoo-de hoo” feelings with another piece in already in the submissions process.
As a result, I have between 10 and 40 submissions under consideration at all times.
Every 2-3 months, I sacrifice 2 weeks of writing time to submit to literary magazines. I could submit 233 words, I could submit 7949.
The fees and payment (usually: zero) are the same.
The wait is the same. (3-6 months, give or take.)
The process is the same.
Step One: I check the spreadsheet that took me two years of writing time to put together. On the X-axis, I list the 25-50 magazines in the country in which I wish to publish. The Y-axis lists my pieces. In the cells, I write the date of submission, and then the date the submission moves from “Received” to “In Process”
There are free, on-line computer programs by which all this info is trackable. I use one of these, as well. But not all the magazines I submit to use it, so I keep my own records.
Step Two: I wait for the inevitable Rejections, Rejections, Boo hoo hoo-hoo-hoo-de hoo, Rejections.
I’ve received rejections that very same day. I’ve received rejections a year after I submitted to the magazine. On the other hand, recently, I received a note from a top-tier magazine saying that a piece was still under consideration. I received this note one year after I submitted. (Every month, they send me a note saying “still under consideration.”)
Why put up with all this mishegas?
I will tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a submission!
The recently published Dressed Left was rejected 24 times before hitting the target with the 25th submission to Crack the Spine.
Not to brag (too much), but Crack the Spine is among the top ten magazines for short fiction.
Dressed Left is the second story in the issue. If you click to my piece, you can with ease read the rest of the magazine.
The prompt was was “Imaginary Friends.” I didn’t have any. I wrote about my grade school fantasy girl, who was blonde and was picked up by limousine from school every afternoon. She was offered a bowl of Jolly Rancher candies. She only ate Apple and she only ever ate one.
“Imaginary Friends” went nowhere. I never sent it out.
I let it sit. I changed the race of the girl in the limo. I changed who she went home to. Zzzzzzzzzzz. I changed the culture. I stepped back from the first person. Ba-booom, little did I know, but I was a within a week of what I call “having a draft.”
I added the ritual. I needed then a reason for her to die, so I added the tsunami. I cut the story in half so that it started where it needed to start. Therefore, the story left out the Jolly Rancher but still ended with the Jelly Belly factory tour. I did not like the lack of symmetry. On the other hand, I liked the lack of symmetry.
Before I sent it out, I made a final change. I changed the flavor of the Jelly Belly. It was Green Apple. I tried it, just to see how it read with Popcorn flavor, which tasted like vomit.The effect was dour and flat, whereas the Green Apple had some humor about it. I liked dour and flat. But did I like humor better? I let it sit.
I made the momentous choice of Green Apple – which, unknown to anyone but you, now, brings with it a seed of the story that was.
Its first time out, “Picking the Bones” went to five magazines. One wanted it. Can I tell you how NEVER a piece of mine has been accepted so quickly?
With the submission that took, at The Citron Review, I am sure it helped that previously, I had submitted to Citron. While that piece didn’t work for the editor, she asked me to re-submit – which you can bet I reminded her when I submitted “Bones.” Also, Citron’s editor knew the editor of another magazine that published one of my essays previously this year. I informed Citron’s editor of the relationship when I submitted the first time.
Work that system, baby.
JA-NoWriMo is homage to/total rip off of NaNoWriMo, the international movement to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I made it up. It’s for those of us who did not yet finish our NaNo project. It’s for those of us who did not yet start.
The rules are simple:
- Join at the Facebookpage NaNoWriMo Post-Doc.
- State a writing commitment. (Doesn’t have to be 50,000 words.)