Submitting, part two

You know who I’m tired of? The dentist. He and I are like old Army buddies at this point. He’s a nice dude and he does good work, but if we’re Army buddies, stop with the friendly fire, son. I’m sick of it.

You know who I’m not tired of? Olympians. O, that’s good stuff. Men’s skating tonight. I just need them to hand out the medals before I fall down asleep. I quite enjoyed some foul-mouthed half-pipe snowboarding last night. That’s a sport I can totally make fun of, but Shaun White killed that thing dead.

So a while back I was asked to help some students at my writing program with a new endeavor. One student (hi, Brit) started a sort of support group for writers to submit their work.

Non-writers can probably plug their ears for while, but in case you want to follow along, here’s what you need to know: Submitting is hard. I have whined about it here many a time. But it’s important. A lot of writers never get around to it, and never get published.

But I’m not without reservations about this group. For one thing, I don’t think you should need a group to submit your work. You’re working? Good. You’re working hard? Excellent. When you can’t think of another thing to fix on your piece? Send it out. Now, between that question mark and the sentence “Send it out”, there’s a lot more work. A lot of research, a lot of rule-following, a lot of waiting in line at the post office. But it’s all part of the life. You should train yourself to finish a piece, revise a piece (repeat, repeat), and, somewhere along the way, start thinking about which nice publication might like to publish your baby.

How do you do that? So much advice out there, and some of it is mine. You don’t need a group, but maybe you want one. Maybe you would benefit from some shared resources (sample journals) and camaraderie (whining) — that’s cool. You might find the same support in a writer’s group, a buddy in one of your classes, or from your classes themselves. Look for the support you need wherever you can find it. I’m all for that.

My main reservation is that maybe it’s not time for you to submit yet.

Harsh? Maybe so. Maybe you are ready and the only problem is that you don’t have the time to do it. Then a group or a buddy who kicks you in the shin is all you need. Buy lots of stamps. You’re gonna need them.

But maybe you aren’t. How do you know when it’s time to submit? If I were being honest I would have to say: I don’t know. There’s no easy answer. I can only tell you that sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t. Part of the answer is that you have to know your own work and know the field you’re submitting into. It’s an ongoing project, as new journals crop up and others drop out, as themed issues put out calls that seem to be asking for the story you just wrote. What does “submission-ready” mean to you? You’re the only one who can decide to go buy stamps, but for my money, I would say that you don’t want to submit until you’re sure you’re sending out your best work.

In short: the writing is the goal, not the sending out.

I don’t want that to sound counter to the goals of the group. I think writers should try to publish, but I think writers should write first. And in that one word — “write” — there’s a whole hell of a lot of work. If you do that part, if you keep progressing in the actual writing part, you won’t have any trouble getting published when you’re ready to try.

By Published On: February 19, 2010Categories: Life, Publishing, Writing, Writing life