Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: An Introduction

When I began my life as a writer of fiction, I had it in my mind to write novels. All I wanted to do was write the sort of book that I like to read. Or the sorts of book that I might like to read should they exist. Of course, when I began my life as a writer I was not, and I really mean that I was not, writing novels. I wasn't really writing fiction. Well, I don't know what I was writing, but I was writing.

I think there are many writers like me. I think many of us start in the same sort nebulous way. I think it's common to want to write a novel and begin with character sketches or vignettes or pieces of writing that may or may not read well. I think the transition from these small literary studies to micro or flash fiction and later on into the short story is very logical.

I also think that a writer can spend an entire lifetime learning the best way to craft a short story. I think a really good short story is uncommon. I think a writer must write at least 100 bad short stories to be able to write a decent story. I think it takes at least 100 decent stories to write a really good one.

I also believe there is only one real reason to endeavor writing a short story and that's for publication in a magazine. And since I am a writer of fiction, I am an editor of a small literary magazine, I feel qualified to discuss the relationship: the writer and the literary press.

Long before publication, long before the pursuit of publication, the most important thing to do is to write, simply write. Start with one short story, or two and continue to write more and more knowing the day will present itself as the right day to find some entity in the world of the literary press to publish a short story.

Back in 2012 I wrote about the relationship between the writer and the magazine. I have not changed the way I feel about this relationship, but some of my ideas on how to join a writer to a magazine have.

The best and worse bit of advice which I have adhered to is this: when looking for a publisher don't have a novel, have five. I followed that advice nearly to the number. When my novel Dysphoric Notions was published, I had written ten manuscripts. While this may seem like a good thing, were I to do it all over again, I wouldn't wait until I had written so much.

Likewise with the short stories. I would not claim to be a prolific story writer, but I have written a good number of them over the years. Hundreds, actually. This number is so high because I have always had the single focus of writing. I have just always wanted to be a writer. It's a strange drive, I know, and I know that I am not alone.

Last fall, I decided that I wanted to make a specific focus to get my short stories off my desktop and find some readership. So, I set about the task to look through a mountain of material and began my research into the world of literary magazines.

In the last three months, I have gotten a great deal done. At the time of writing this, I have had four short story publications in 2017. I have also received 30 rejection letters. And more importantly, I have submitted 75 stories to 75 magazines. I have no idea how many magazines I've read, but a bunch.

In this series: "The Writer and Literary Press" I hope to shed some insight to the process of taking a short story from the writer's desk to the editor's. It's not such a mystifying process, but a lengthy one, and a noble one.

Next: The manuscript, Ready Set Submit! (Cover letter, Bio, housekeeping) and The Reject/Accept 

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