The last class of my Creative Writing: Fiction was, perhaps, my most educational. My teacher talked about publication and much of the information, to me, was new. The following comes from my notes taken in class. I hope you find them as uplifting, genuine and helpful as I have.
- Publication is part of the writing process. Whether we like it.
- If you're writing and not publishing: you're depriving people of hearing your literary voice!
Step 1: Write something! Write often.
Step 2: Don't be afraid to be influenced: read! “To be a writer, you must read.” The difference between writers and non-writers is reading. Read what you like, read what you don't like; read what you hate. Read broadly, read old stuff, read something that was published five minutes ago. Read something that challenges you. Read intelligently, read thoughtfully, read to be able to take in the culture of the time the story was written.
Author's note: For me, that is Robert Jordan for authors I don't like. And Brandon Sanderson.
Step 3: You must might, you must read, you must polish.
You must be savage with your own work. You must be able to take criticism and you must pursue it. You must seek it out.
Step 4: At some point... you must submit your work! Be willing to say “I'm doing revising, it's done.” Or as close to done as it's going to get.
Step 5: Be patient. Give yourself time. Let the story rest.
For example, my teacher's first version of his manuscript (all deleted from the story now) was written in 2005. He didn't finish his first, full draft until 2011. Every writer is different, but that example made me feel a little less guilty about my Trials of Blood and Earthborne manuscripts that have been sitting dormant.
Give yourself space, the story really has to mature in your head. Don't freak out. You cannot ruin it. Don't be afraid that if you alter it, you'll “never be able to create something as amazing.” Yes, you can. You have already done it and you can do it again. It's going to be OK!
A few other notes:
Literary journals are usually your first point of contact for writers. [There also exist Fantasy and Sci-Fi journals!]
Familiarize yourself with the journals that interest you. Find one that you think is fantastic. Subscribe. A journal my teacher recommends is called OneStory.
Resources for Literary Journals
NewPages – A database of literary journals and literary presses. They also review literary journals.
The Review Review - you guessed it, they review literary journal reviews!
Duotrope – A subscription-only database for literary journals. Much more organized than NewPages.
Go and check out the the journal websites – see if you like the style. Follow the submission details and keep track of where you've submitted before.
A note about simultaneous submissions: you absolutely should do it, however: notify the other publishers immediately if you get accepted by another publisher. Send a withdrawal email as soon as possible so you don't get blacklisted. Yes, they have blacklists and yes, you'll never get published with them again if they spend a lot of time on a story only to find out it's already off the market.
Go to literary events and make connections.
Support local book stores and libraries, they're often who host local authors.
“Glossy” is a term for a National magazine with a glossy cover.
“Clip,” “clippings,” or “relative clips” refers to something you've previously published.
Establish a clippings file. Local newspapers and small-to-medium presses are a great resource for beginning writers to break in to publishing for clippings.
The publishing industry in 2016 is unlike anything it has ever been before. For the past generation and a half the publication industry reigned from atop New York City by four major publishing houses. They're being threatened by self-publishing, Amazon and the rise of small and medium size presses.
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010 went to a small press in New York, Bellevue Literary Review: for the story “Tinkers” by Paul Harding.
You'll need a literary agent, first, to publish with a major publishing house.
Query letters for agents have a specific formula: follow it.
Once you get an agent: they will sell your book to a publishing house, and may even be able to sell your short stories/poetry etc on the way.
Small and mid-sized presses may also accept work without an agent.