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Writing Thoughts

Summer of submission: a writing progress report

By September 5, 20133 Comments

If you skip the subtitle up there, this sounds like it might be a post about something much more interesting than writing. Sorry to disappoint.

This summer, I dove back into the world of submitting to literary journals for the first time in 15 years or so. I was inspired by this anti-resume to share how I’ve done so far.

– Starting in April, I’ve submitted 49 times to 47 different journals.

– That’s a rotating selection of eleven different pieces. Four of those are short stories (longer than 1,000 words). Five are flash fiction. One is a nonfiction piece on writing. One is a strange little prosetry or poefictiontry piece about eggplant (you totally want to read it now, don’t you?).

– I’ve had four pieces total accepted for publication. One short story, two flash fiction pieces, and the nonfiction piece on writing. This makes for a 18.8% acceptance rate for fiction and a 100% acceptance rate for nonfiction. My overall acceptance rate is 23.5%, which Duotrope encouragingly informs me is “higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.” Yay, me!

– One of my acceptances was from a place I’d been previously rejected–the nice folks at Boston Literary Magazine, who gave me personal feedback on that rejection.

– Eight of my rejections have been form rejections. Three were personal. One was a contest and I saw that I was not one of the winners. I’m not sure exactly how to categorize that rejection.

I am the relentless kudzu of writers.

I am the relentless kudzu of writers.

– There are many rejections out there waiting to happen, so I’m fully prepared for my acceptance rate to plummet. The longest submissions have been out there 86 days (Virginia Quarterly Review and Black Warrior Review). The shortest rejection took two and a half hours (Jersey Devil Press). The longest acceptance took 16 days.

What I’ve learned:

– Do not give up on a journal just because you’ve been rejected once.

– Sometimes the journal that you think is just perfect for a particular story–like this journal came into existence solely to publish your story–is not.

– That one of your pieces is “In Progress” on Submittable means nothing. Still, there’s probably a Pavlovian reaction every time you see the word “progress” next to your story on the screen, so I’ll continue checking obsessively.

– As another writer suggested, use the hydra strategy. Two new submissions for every rejection. It feels very satisfying in a revenge-ish kind of way, like you are the kudzu of writers. I will swallow your house whole!

– What’s the point of it all? Submitting can feel like some really strange game with a complex set of rules you’ll never fully understand. There are certain journals I would really, really like to be published in and I might very well be forever disappointed. Why am I doing this?

I’m still thinking about answers to this question, but I think one is simply that writing begets writing. Submitting begets submitting. And if you want to have something to submit, you have to write something. It’s good to have a concrete goal. To sit down and think, I would like to try to write something for this journal, specifically. It helps me, at least, to keep at it. Every day.

– Finally, you’re not really a writer unless you’re being rejected. A lot. Repeatedly. So, carry on.


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