When I made the decision to submit my fiction for consideration, it was a scary step because I had never
before written a real short story (whatever 'real' means). Even worse, I had no idea how to go about the process of "getting published" (this phrase always makes me laugh because it almost sounds like we have a choice
on whether or not our work sells).
Whenever I heard aspiring writers discussing the subject, a few always insisted that there was a magic cookie or secret handshake involved in the process. After
nearly four years in this business, I have made some sales, but mostly I have learned a lot about the submission process as well as the writing process (another story).
So what's the secret to
getting published, you ask? (yes, tell me, tell me!) I'm going to whisper the secret, magic words into your ear. Okay, gather 'round now and listen closely. There are 3 magic words to getting published . . . . . writing,
persistence, and patience.
I know, I know, you're disappointed. You were expecting an ancient language or some lost latin words perhaps? I know these words aren't terribly flambuoyant words, but they
are the keys to getting published.
So what the heck do I mean by writing ? You're probably thinking, Duh, of course you have to write something! What would you submit if you haven't written
anything?By writing, I mean write every day. Even if you only write a few hundred words, you're putting words to paper and every time you write something, you gain more practice as a writer. Ooh, there's that terrifying word .
. . writer. The one that hangs in your mouth when people ask you what you do. That's still a hard word for me to say. Back to the subject at hand though . . . It takes a lot of words to make a short story.
After that first story goes out into the world, you should write another one. And another one. I forget who once said that a writer writes a million words of garbage before his/her/it/[insert PC pronoun here] writing is salable.
Okay, then, what about persistence? How much is enough? How long does persistence last? Where can I get more when I run out? Persistence is a pit bull. When it decides it wants to bite something, it
bites! Then it locks its jaws shut and no one (I mean no one!) can pry those doggie jaws open. That's the way you should be with your writing and your submissions.
Make a list of the appropriate markets (markets that you've studied and have figured out what the magazine/publishing house publishes) you want to submit to (in order from highest tier to lowest tier). Start with that first market and send out your story. Of course, when you've reached this point of sending out your story, you have properly formatted your manuscript:
on 20 lb white paper
a dark ribbon
a nonproportional font (e.g. 12-point Courier)
Name, address, phone number in upper left-hand corner of 1st page
Word count in upper right-hand corner of 1st page
Story title & byline centered one-third to one-half the way down the first page
Last name, story title, & page number in the upper right-hand corner of the rest of the pages.
NOTE: Invest in a book covering proper manuscript format. If you submit
your work in the proper format, you'll be ahead of the game.