I never really thought of myself a fiction writer, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. So when the class I wanted to take last winter–a journalism class–was cancelled, I decided to give fiction writing a fair shake. I enrolled in an intro to fiction class, which required me to read dozens of short stories and write two of my own.
In the course of reading short stories for the class, I discovered that I’m not a very refined or insightful fiction reader. If you’re like me, you know what I mean. In each story I read, nuanced symbols and imagery that impressed my peers eluded me. And while I liked the readings, I could tell I enjoyed fiction similarly to how I enjoy wine: A red is a red, a white is a white, and the rest is lost on me.
So it is not surprising that when it came time to write fiction of my own, I was as stuck as a Roomba under a couch. But I begged and pleaded with my brain, and it squeezed out a few scraps of creativity that I cobbled together into some maybe-ok short stories.
I should have stopped there, but I didn’t. Because I felt it important to understand the whole process of being a fiction writer, I decided to try and get one of my two precious stories published somewhere. Anywhere. How hard could it be? People can make a living writing fiction, right? What does it take to break into that world? I wanted to find out.
My professor shared a long list of literary journals that publish short stories to get me started on this venture. The steps he described for getting a story published seemed straightforward:
The process is simple to submit a story to a literary journal…choose 10 journals that appeal to you from the list I provided and submit the story to them—all 10 submissions at one time…if a story is not accepted then send it on to another group of 7 – 10 journals at a time.
Find ten journals, submit, rinse, repeat. I can do that! I set aside a week in January to give it a go.
Three weeks later, I had spent countless hours and about thirty dollars. I was out the thirty bucks because some journals work like a miserable literary lottery–you have to pay to play. And I was out the three weeks because each journal had slightly different submission requirements. Some wanted a cover letter, others wanted special formatting. All of them requested you read their journals prior to submitting, to ensure you’re sending work that’s consistent with their style. The more I read the journals I was interested in submitting to, the more I thought to myself, “Do I even like fiction?!”
Three months later, I’ve received a rejection from eight journals and I’m still waiting to hear back from five. But I’m not holding my breath. Fiction got it’s fair shake for now. Submit, rinse, don’t repeat.
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