Lucian Childs: Vetting and Submitting

Okay, so you’ve used your prompts and followed your sentences; you’ve
harnessed the power of objects. Now you have a story you
think is good, but you aren’t sure. What’s next?
Inevitably, most of us
turn to other writers when we need feedback about our work, either seeking them
out individually or by joining writing or critique groups.
What is the proper attitude to receiving criticism in an endeavor
that chases excellence in the absence of right and wrong? Trust your
subconscious, a mentor once told me, but that hardly seems enough. There is gut
and there is craft.
I used to study Zen and one day in the meditation hall the
teacher yelled, “Don’t seek from others!” I think he meant that, though we are
inevitably affected by others, we shouldn’t be swayed. As writers, we should
listen, but shouldn’t tamp out every flicker of criticism we’re given. In doing
so, we can easily lose our way.
We need to have healthy egos, to believe in our talent and our
work. How else could we begin to string words together or find our stories? How
do we cultivate that ego, but not fall into defensiveness? Of which I am guilty
as charged. Just ask anybody in my writers groups.
My last critique, I came to one of my writers groups expecting my
usual flogging, which I got, but this time I didn’t say a word. (Okay, one time
I did make a telling hand gesture. I’m not perfect.) What happened was
interesting: A lively discussion. The writers in this group are smart. They’ve
wrestled with aspects of writing that I haven’t even heard of. By just
listening, I came to feel this deep discussion about the elements of fiction
was not so much a mark of the wrongness of the piece, but of its potential.
What of their criticisms will I use? I’m still wrestling with that.
Maybe my Zen teacher was right. I’d like to find out. I’ve
decided to apply for a one-month residency next summer. I want to write for
once without my hat in hand. Until then, it’s like the joke Woody Allen tells
at the end of “Annie Hall.
This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy.
He thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn
him in?” And the guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.”
Now your story is polished like a diamond. You’re ready to see it
in print. Paper or digital, you don’t care. You just want that byline.
It’s time to switch hats. We writers don’t like being business
persons, marketing our wares door to door. Like it or not, get ready to have
them slammed in your face.
As a short story writer, I submit often. That means many
rejections with arcane language like “this piece is not for us,” or “we regret
that it does not meet our present needs,” or “unfortunately it was not a right
fit.” I enter the rejection in my spreadsheet, patiently waiting for the next.
Which brings us to the mechanics of submitting. I’m talking about
submitting short stories, but much of it, I suspect, could be applied to other
types of writing.
1. THE RULE OF 100 – You have to submit your story to 100
publications before it gets picked up. It’s best to tier your submissions in
groups of 25 to 30, sending them to the better journals first.
— Make lists: Look at the contributors’
bios in publications you think might be a good match. You’ll see publications
that come up repeatedly. These are good bets.
— Use the Internet: Most people I know
use Duotrope.
It’s free. You can search for genre, word count, subject and find information
on the resulting journals such as publication frequency, reading period and
response time. You’ll also find links to submission guidelines. Poets and
and New Pages also have lists of publications
although their search capabilities aren’t very robust.If you can spend
some coin, try the Writers Market. Their web site, a companion to
the print publication, features a searchable database.
— Use a submission service: For some
serious coinage, try a service like Writer’s Relief. I’ve found them personable
and helpful. They can proofread your piece, select publications and print cover
letters and labels. You need to do the legwork, but if you have the budget,
this can be a great way to build a publication database and history. As you
become knowledgeable about the process, take ownership of your submissions—give
them options where and where not to submit your work. Success is your
responsibility, but they can assist you.
3. WAIT – Response times vary from three to eight months.
Sometimes up to a year. Add this to the up to eight months before it’s
published and the eight months it took to write the piece. That can be two
years from when you began to when you see the piece in print. By then, it’s
almost an archeological artifact. You’re a completely different writer.
4. POP THE CORK – Toast
yourself, do a little dance, then get back to the piece you’re currently
wrestling with. It’s the only one that matters.
Lucian Childs lives in Anchorage, Alaska where he makes his
living as a graphic designer. He was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s April 2012 Family Matters competition. His work has
appeared or is forthcoming in Cirque,
Compass Rose, Quiddity, Sanskrit
and Rougarou.

1 thought on “Lucian Childs: Vetting and Submitting”

  1. Great ideas, thanks! is a good source for novelists looking for ways to find and track queries or submissions to agents and editors.

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