Monday, December 26, 2011

Pursuit of Publication: The Last Licks

We've been in the planning of our pursuit of publication for 8 weeks. Eight weeks. Time flies. At this stage, there is no reason not to jump into the process. The definitions of ourselves, our work and our goals have been established, refined and understood. Hopefully, with all of this, there is a level of confidence that will enable us to endure the months ahead. The hardest work is now what we face.

I remember when my friend Foot got a girlfriend. She was pretty, fun, a real catch. He dated her for about two months. Then she stopped calling. It tore the poor guy up. I felt for him, I did. I know what that's like. After he'd been heartbroken for a few weeks, I had to intervene. “Foot, it's over, she doesn't want to see you anymore,” I said. “I know,” he said. “I just want to know why.” “It's probably best to just let it be,” I said. “Easy for you to say,” he said. He was already bored with the conversation, and he wanted to stay in a wrecked state of heartbreak. “Foot, let me ask you: how long did you see this girl?” I asked. “Two months,” he said. “And did you have the benefit for sleeping with her?” I asked. “Yes,” he said smiling now. “And did you have a good time?” I asked. It was becoming rhetorical now. “Yes,” he said. “Then what's your problem? Keep it for what it was,” I said. “Easy for you to say, how many girls have broken up with you?” he asked. “What?” I said. “Foot, all of them.” And that's the long a short of it, they all have. It's a simple way of thinking about it, the rejection. Yes, rejection hurts, but that's all part of living life.
This is perhaps the worse part of it. If it's not tough enough to simply put our work out there for magazine and book editors to read, we face countless rejections. I don't find the rejections so bad. Many times it's a form letter rejection which leads you to think that the magazine didn't read your story at all. That's sad too. But there are the rare rejection letters that are personal, and these are rejections nonetheless, but they are a treat to read. Umbrella Factory Magazine got started because of a lovely rejection letter I got from Jason at Fiction Weekly. The long and short of it, don't be disheartened by rejection. It really is nothing personal. And if you've done the right research, the rejections will be less.

Burn-out is more insidious than the rejections. Whereas rejection is expected, burn-out is not. Getting burnt-out happens to everyone. When you don't see noticeable or even tangible results to your efforts, and you feel overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand, you might expect a level of burn-out. My advice, just keep working. I have said since the onset of this pursuit that the most important thing is focusing on the new material. I don't have any reason to believe that this is the cure, but new material is certainly more exciting than the grind of letter writing and hopeful thinking. The anecdote? Well, when I was in the Army and stationed in Germany, getting letters from home was very important to me. I wrote endless letters home to my friends and family telling them in boring detail my daily activities in my post war adolescence. The mail room on our base was on the distant outskirts in an old telegraph station. It was quite a hike, especially when the mailbox was empty. It got to the point where I was writing a letter everyday and if I didn't get one everyday, I became bitter. So, rather than stopping my letter writing pace, I decreased my trips to the mail room. It was burn-out. So, rather than stopping the writing of letters, I simply went to the mail room twice a week. Same thing here, keep your pace and don't obsess over the results. Try to stay focused on the task, and the results will follow.

Record Keeping
Keep track of what you've sent and to where. Some magazines permit simultaneous submissions. This means that they're okay with you sending one story to fifty magazines. This is an all right tactic if you can keep it all straight. Should your piece get accepted somewhere, then you must tell the others. I hate simultaneous submissions as an editor. As a writer, I don't need to do this, and I won't. Either way, one story to fifty magazines, or fifty stories to fifty magazines, keep records. Since I use the 3 by 5 card system for my short stories as well as my magazine research, it's pretty easy to paper clip them both together and date them.

Good luck in this endeavor. I hope it's a rewarding process.

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