I just sent a short story to four journals. Same short story; four literary journals. Now comes the waiting part. I may not hear from one or more of those journals for up to six months. Which means I will be looking around for other journals for which to send the same short story. I think it’s one of my best short stories. I’ve sent that short story (in several slightly modified forms) to at least twenty-three other journals over the past seven or eight years, and gotten thoroughly rejected by all who received it. (Except for one journal whose editors did say they liked my style of writing, but they didn’t like the story’s ending and so declined to publish it.)
So, now I will wait for the results, which, if past history is any guide, will probably also be rejections. That may sound somewhat pessimistic, but my scientific training tends to look at numbers like this in an objective, dispassionate way. Granted, that’s probably not the best way to look at my submissions history because writing is such a subjective field. A frustratingly subjective field. One has to look at each submission as a separate, unique event, and hope someone else will like my style of writing. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I did change the ending.)
But still, I send stories out. I continue to cling to the hope that someone, somewhere, will like my story well enough to publish it, and that would mean they might publish another story, and I might get still another story accepted at a different journal, and so on. There’s a real endpoint here, a point at which I can say I’m a published author. But the only way I can reach that goal is to send stuff out. No sending, no publishing.
I’ve heard that some people have difficulty sending their work to journals and magazines. For some indefinable reason, they’re hesitant. Afraid of something, I guess. I’ve never suffered from that phobia. That may stem from the requirement of my profession as a scientist to publish any results I obtained in the lab, and working in the lab was fun as well as life-affirming and profitable. Well, reasonably profitable, anyway. I enjoyed sending stuff out. For several reasons. A published paper got my name out into the scientific world, it added a little to the total knowledge about viruses, and I became known to a very tiny group of other virologists as an expert in an even tinier aspect of the overall field. What’s not to like?
So, where does this hesitancy to send writing out come from? I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I wonder if people are afraid the editors at a journal will laugh at them, or throw their submission in the trash, or send out an all-points bulletin to other magazines as to just how bad a writer they are, or even worse, send the writing police after them to yell at them, “Don’t ever send anything out again. EVER.”
Ridiculous. No one is going to laugh, or try to intimidate you if you send something out. The worst that could happen is that they’ll say no. And if they do, there are plenty of other journals to send to. It’s a numbers game. If you’ve vetted the story well enough, and polished it until you can’t make anymore changes, it stands a good chance of being accepted somewhere. Send it out.