To start with, I am in no position to advise you on writing. I am a decent writer, but so are you. But the last month has been glorious in terms of getting published. I have got published or accepted in two very reputed online journals – in India and Singapore, and two other rather well-known ones. And this time might not come again, so here are my observations:
(Caveat: I assume that the reader of this piece is also a writer, and one who wants to get published at online journals and literary magazines. If not, this is not for you.)
- There is writing time, there’s edit time, there’s peer-review time, and there is submission time. Don’t jump steps.
- You want to get somewhere. You want to get published at ABC LitMag (and let’s not make it unrealistic, let’s not make it The New Yorker. Not yet at least). How good you are at this writing thingie has much less to do with you getting there, than how badly you want it, and how much you are willing to work for it.
- Read the offer document carefully before investing. If they say no multiple submissions (like QLRS does), don’t. If they ask for poetry, don’t send prose. If they ask for a thematic piece, don’t send something diametrically different.
[Caveat: Multiple submission, however, is a good thing. It gives you hope. And no editor is ever offended if you ask to withdraw your piece which has been published elsewhere (unless clearly stated in the submission guidelines). If anything, they are happy.]
- A rejection = A certain editor has rejected a short story that you have written. NOT YOU.
- Think of yourself as a warrior. Rejects are battle-wounds. Would a warrior ever be ashamed or sad at his/her battle-wounds?
- Rejoice in rejects. Get a band of merry men and women together, and celebrate your rejects. Keep count. Have a rejects-competition. Stop taking yourself seriously.
- Never, never, never, never, never give up. I got rejected by 32 editors, before I was accepted at Out Of Print. Since you are awesome (and you really are, believe me), you will take fewer rejections before your pieces are accepted. However, that fewer number is not 2, and not 6. You are not THAT MUCH better than me 🙂
- Short of the editor calling you names, nothing should be considered brutal criticism. I’d much rather the editor tells me specifically why my piece is rejected, than pander to my ego and tell me sweet nothings. I don’t need validation of my existence, I need the editor to fuckin’ publish me next time.
- You wrote an awesome piece, and XYZ is an awesome Lit-magazine. It’s a perfect fit, right? It might not be. Every LitMag has a certain bias in terms of language, theme, content and context. I am sure your piece IS awesome, but if it does not fit the specifics of XYZ magazine, it would not get published. Send it to multiple places, right until it’s accepted somewhere. (Personal experience: My favourite piece had been rejected by 7 places, before it found a home. I continue to be very proud of it.)
- Keep writing. And after you finish a story or a chapter of your book, IM me on Facebook. ‘I’ve got a story done, and you’ve written nothing. Shom, you loser’.
Do it. Inspire me. Inspire us.
In this section, we invite writers we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with to talk about the writing process. Shom Biswas is a graduate of BWW with wonderful insights on publishing in literary journals simply because he is like a hound on a scent about it. We hope this article was as useful to you as it has been for our community.
About Shom Biswas
Soumyadipta ‘Shom’ Biswas is an engineer/MBA from Bangalore, India. His short stories have been published in Out of Print, Reading Hour, and Spark magazines. He is a collector of antique sports books, a lapsed quizzer and is consistently one of the best EPL fantasy football managers in the world. He is an active community member of the Bangalore Writers Workshop. He can assure you that he is NOT in the process of writing a novel.
What other insights do you have? Share as a comment.