For the last month since graduation, I have been working my way through the submission maze, reading articles, checking other blogs, and learning more than my brain can retain. My goal? Submit one short story, poem or creative nonfiction piece every day for thirty days, then regroup and evaluate.
How am I doing so far? Not too shabby. I have submitted 23 items in 28 days. If I stay AIS* for at least four hours the next two days, I might make my goal. Which, by the way, is not a goal of multiple acceptances, but rather a learning goal. The more I submit, the more I will be rejected (this is not a sympathy ploy, this is writer reality) the more I am rejected, the more I will revise,the more I revise, the more I will write, The more I write, the more I will improve, the more I improve, the more I will submit and then, one day...I'll be published.
At this point I have enough material from my years at UIUC to reach this initial goal, but that may or may not prove beneficial. Much of my early material is pure crap as far as technique is concerned, but all had revision possibilities. The ideas were good, the execution, not so much. The work completed in my last semester however, is polished and of higher quality, yet still has room for improvement. And in the midst of sorting through the older stuff and writing newer stories, I am also reading the work of many talented writers in multiple literary journals. This will give me a solid sense of what they in particular like to publish. It's not so much that I am molding my material to fit a particular journal but rather, finding the journal that fits my material's mold, which is in flux of course.
All of which begs the question, which came first? The chicken, the egg, or the literary journal editor who plans to scramble your eggs and burn your chicken to a crisp? This is not a editorial slam. All good chefs have to suffer a few burns.
Selecting the journals to receive my submissions has been a daunting task but, I found a great site by Clifford Garstang which decreased some of my newbie learning curve pain. He provides a detailed listing/ranking of hundreds of literary magazines (fiction, poetry and nonfiction) complete with links for each. Be sure to read the section on how he does his rankings. I found his website so helpful that I donated to his efforts. He saved me weeks of internet searching.
I also created a simple flow sheet, I am devoid of excel skills, where I can track the name of the journal, the type of submission, the title of the work sent, dates and other info I want in one place such as: editor names, addresses and specific journal "quirks." One for example, mentioned they never take simultaneous submissions, and if they even suspect you've mass mailed your piece to other journals, they will "destroy" your manuscript. Their small print probably reads, "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid."
Oddly enough, I'm working on a special short story for this journal alone. I appreciate quirkiness.
If you have a process for tracking submissions, selecting journals worthy of your work, and work worthy of particular journals, I'd love to hear from you.
* Ass in Seat