It’s 6am on a Sunday and you’re just getting to bed. You weren’t turning heads with your two-step at the local reggaeton club (although you could have been), nor were you hiking ten miles to the summit—boulder hopping the last—to find the most comfortable seat before sunrise (although you should have been)… you were writing to the final period, then you reread the darn thing and wrote some more.
We writers know the feeling of a good writing rush—the literary equivalent of a runner’s high—accompanied by our fresh confidence and desire to have to someone else’s eyes on the page. Even for those writers who labor at 1,000+ words a day, the writer’s rush is inescapable. We’ll follow our accomplishment by sending the piece to our noble friend/editor, post it on a personal blog, or save it for a round of classroom and conference workshops. Whatever our mode, the end goal: get published. Literary magazines are perfect for budding writers, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose out on selection because you submitted the first draft.
And that’s where we come in. Here are a few friendly tips for submitting to a literary mag and getting your work published.
Revise the *#@! Out of It
No matter how golden you think you first draft is, chances are it can use a go (or two) of heavy revision. Once you were a writer; now you are an editor. Revision is not simply copy editing, nor is it line editing. Sure, you want to ensure your writing is proofread before you send it off, but to have a polished piece of work you’ll need to entertain every aspect that you have and haven’t considered.
Pacing and cohesiveness? Yes! Character motivation and conflict? Yes, yes! Language? Of course! Poets will pay closer attention to form, sound, and detail, but most of what can apply to poetry ought to be considered for prose too. The great unity among writing is that it is structured, and it evokes emotion—hey, structure!
It’s important to distance yourself from the writer you and pretend that you are the audience. What are your initial reactions to the content—the plot of a story or the message of a poem? Describe the voice of your personal essay, and if you can’t easily hear it, why is that? What jumps out as possibly confusing or contradictory? Is there any section of the narrative (assuming you are writing prose) that loses you? A section of the poem that is extraneous? Ask yourself such questions to challenge and improve your writing.
Revision is also best done in stages, looking closely one area at a time. To make the most out of the process you must be thorough and unrepentant, willing to change any part that doesn’t fit well or needs sharpening. The character of the younger brother seemed important to you when you drafted the piece, but now he’s the flat sheep of a well-fluffed family. No amount of added dialogue makes him any more necessary of a character. Your solution: cut him from the family.
The last best tip for revision: read your work aloud. Hearing your own words and how they function will make revision easier and will make you appreciate what you already have.
Find a Magazine for You
You found us—how ideal!
Lit mags, like book publishers, are usually on the search for a type of work, whether thematically or stylistically. Larger publications tend on the inclusive side, however, many of them are populated by established writers whose names they’ll recognize first—more of a reason to submit there too, and tango with artists you admire. Smaller, more specialized publications offer a platform for niche material, stories and poems likely fit enough for a larger publication but that might do better on this route, facing less of a broader competition.
For example, Nervous Ghost Press most appreciates work that is raw and fearless, where writing becomes survival. This is not to say that we won’t accept a story about Bigfoot’s first love and loss—if the struggle is poignant and legendary, we’ll take it—but a story of that nature is perhaps best suited for Enchanted Tales from the Northwest.
Form a list of publications where you want your work included and research each journal before you submit. There are countless online resources that exist for writers, including lists of publications, often arranged by region and genre, or if you want, ask a writer friend!
Build Your Library
Write on the double, and daily. The more work you can pick from, the better it is for you when it’s go time.
Set a goal for yourself—500 words each day, the equivalent of two double-spaced pages. Equally important, find a method of productivity that works for you. Maybe you get stuck on one story but have a vibrant idea for another. Make the switch and let the story take you. Say you finish it in a single night and, in a heavy writer’s high, are reinvigorated to finish the previous story. Now you can return to it with less stress, knowing that you already proved productive.
This also applies when you’re ready to submit. Remember that list? The more of you that’s out there, the more likely a magazine will want your work. Don’t stop at one publication, apply to all that interest you. If a magazine that receives 200 submissions and accepts only 20 (a 10 percent rate) rejects your piece, but another magazine that accepts triple that amount would have loved your piece, well, you should be celebrating because you submitted to them both.
Most magazines allow simultaneous submission, so there shouldn’t be a problem submitting the same piece to different journals. If you find a smaller journal with a very specific market, hopefully you have a diverse library to choose from and can submit without writing a new story. But hey, that’s what we live for.
Pay Attention to Submission Guidelines and…
Submit early! The deadline period is strict but that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last day. Editors like to get a jump on the volumes of submissions they receive each reading period. And while each submission is given equal attention, the earlier your work is read, the greater the chance it will stick with the editorial team, if indeed it stands distinct.
Of course, there are other logistics to submitting. 12-pt font, double-spaced, PDF. Each publication has its unique guidelines, which are exactly as they are listed. A huge miss in formatting could result in an unfortunate rejection before the editorial team even finished page one.
Our guidelines are easy to follow and can be reached through the Submission Guidelines tab on our homepage, and again after you click Submit. However, since we’re being friendly:
- Simple, 12-pt font (Times New Roman, Garamond, etc...); double spaced
- Poetry submissions are not required to follow any formatting restrictions
- 3-5 page limit for poetry
- 500 - 7,500 word limit for prose
- Upload in a single PDF document
- Include a short author bio and a brief message explaining how your work fits with the Nervous Ghost Press mission
So you’re ready! Ready to write, revise, and submit!
Rejection is the extra-crummy part of a writer’s reality, but that shouldn’t demotivate you to submit again. To keep submitting. One submission for every rejection… three submissions for every rejection? Do your thing, fellow writer, and may el duende be with you.