From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creative Writing Submissions Strategies

The process of finding magazines to submit to, determining what magazines are better than which others, analyzing what magazines would your work fit in, and fussing over submission guidelines can be almost as daunting a task as writing the piece your submitting. There are several strategies as to how to go about doing this, and as I'm sort of in the middle of a paradigm shift as far as my own submission strategies, I thought it might be something useful to bring up.

I'm always intimidated by the big-name magazines, and have next to no faith that I'll be accepted. I think most writers are that way. But I'm starting to think that its not a good idea to let your intimidation keep you from submitting to these magazines. In the past I've thought that maybe it would be a better idea to work from the bottom up, and build up a resume of lesser literary magazines before I start really trying for the big ones. I've changed my mind. I say, if you are really serious about this literary game, and producing the absolute best stuff you know how, then get out the big guns. Submit to the dang New Yorker. Look in the index of Best American and see what magazines those stories were pulled from and submit to those. Yes, it will take a lot of time and rejection, especially at first, but the sooner you start pounding at that brick wall the sooner it will start to crack.

This strategy brings up two questions for me:

Because I can expect to get tons of rejection from these magazines, how do I know when to give up on a piece? I asked my professor about this, and he said 40 rejections is a good rule of thumb. Personally, I feel like if you like a piece you should never give up on it, but if its rejected forty times, maybe its time to take it back in for some renovations.

What do I do with what I call my second string work? Pieces that I still feel good about and stand behind, but that I recognize maybe aren't as good as my best. I'm still unsure about this one. One possibility is to work it and work it until its first string ready. Another is to submit it to the top tier magazines anyway, because you never know, maybe those magazines would think it is your best. It's impossible to be objective about your own work. And the last possibility is to submit it to second-string magazines, and maybe build up your resume that way.

But have confidence. Don't be scared to get your work to the top people in the literary world. Thats how you become a member of it. Another tip my professor gave is to make sure you simultaneously submit where appropriate, because just think of the math--if you get rejected 27 times before your piece gets accepted, with a minimum of three months (which is very minimum minimum), thats a lot of time. So get your stuff out there, keep it out there, get it to as many people as you can and get it to the best people you can.

Happy writing!
Sarah Allen

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