Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How not to get published

I can write, I can edit, I can layout text and format text and illustrations into a magazine or government report. These things come naturally to me—even when challenging, I find them enjoyable or at least satisfying on some level.

But I seem to lack a corresponding gene for knowing how to get my stuff published by an outside source. I find the whole submissions process frustrating and excruciating, so most of the time I don’t even bother to attempt it. I have many pieces of writing that have been submitted to only one publication and, after receiving a polite refusal, now sit idly in my file cabinet.

(I have been a newspaper reporter, but that kind of writing wasn’t easy for me. I felt that I was emulating the style of a newspaper reporter—it never seemed like my own voice.)

Otherwise, the only way much of my writing has seen the light of day has been through vanity efforts like this blog and my earlier, paper efforts including “a very small magazine” and “another small magazine.”

Vanity efforts are easy, seductive, but they just don’t feel as legitimate to me as an outside editor/publisher reading over my stuff and accepting it. That filter/conduit is important and missing from too many things on the Web. I shudder to think of a world where everyone thinks he/she is a writer and there are no editors left—no print magazines, no newspapers. [I say this knowing I am part of what is killing print publications. Not just because I am posting to a blog, but because, just now, I looked up “conduit” on rather than getting up and looking it up in the dictionary.]

I still think print is important—and I would like my writing legitimized by being in print. What writer doesn’t? Therefore, I intend to use this blog partly to help me figure out how to go about the submission process in a more painless and fruitful manner. This is what I’m planning:

• I plan to ask writers how they have gotten their stuff in print and/or how they have made a career out of writing, in a feature tentatively called Making Writing Work.

• I’ll ask publishers and editors what they are looking for in submissions and what kinds of submissions stand out in a feature tentatively called What Editors Want.

I’m also attending a workshop next month on getting published for writers of fiction and poetry. I’ll share what I learn.

Granted, I am mostly doing this for my own benefit, but I’m hoping it will inspire other writers to get their work moving--and to let me know how they deal with the submissions process.

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