Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why it's going to look like I'm not writing short stories. (I actually am)

An atom is mostly empty space. Some guy that wrote a book said something like the following: If you made an atom the size of a football stadium (but maybe round) the nucleus would be the size of a can of tuna in the middle. This would mean that everything is almost entirely empty space.

Anyway, this is the metaphor that sprung into my mind when I started thinking about the process of publishing stories, be they novels or short stories. You do little chunks of work, which are followed by long periods of doing nothing. For example, I first submitted the story The Urge to Live to Title Goes Here magazine on August 8, 2010. The next day, I got this email back:

Just wanted to drop you a fast email to let you know I have your story in my pile for review. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for submitting.

And so begins the first stage of the waiting game. Just under three months pass with no other word. It's a full season, which, in my experience, is plenty long enough to completely forget that you've submitted a story somewhere, much less where and what story. At this point, if you do happen to remember what you've done, you just assume it's been quietly rejected. Then, on November 11, 2010, I receive:

We're happy to inform you that we'd like to accept your story, "Hands Up"[the title at the time], for publication on the Title Goes Here: website.

We plan to publish 2-3 stories a month on the site and, as of right now, we don't know what month each story is going to be published. With that being said, it could be anywhere from January through December of 2011. If you're still interested in publishing with us, please let us know (by responding to this email). We plan to have final decisions on what month each story will be online out to authors by the 15th of November.

Two days later:

As promised, [person name] and I have gone through our web acceptances and have formulated the publication schedule. We are going to publish your story on our website in May of 2011. I'll be in touch closer to the publication time to request an updated bio, links, and with any editing issues that arise.

And this leads to the final waiting game. I've just been told that my this new hiatus will be five months. It's better than the first waiting period, though, between submission and acceptance. At least, with this second, longer one, there is a guaranteed light at the end of the tunnel, instead of long uncertainty.

So, only after I have worked and worked on the story, first writing it, and then vacuuming over it again and again, trying to make it flawless, do I even begin this waiting. This nine month (like a baby) period of gestation is pretty typical, not a huge wait and not quick, either. When you submit your work, you're surrendering it to the schedules of others, and zines and literary journals tend to schedule way ahead of time.

Why am I telling you all of this? It's because the two stories that I've posted to this blog were both submitted around the same time, and published a couple of months apart from each other. During this waiting period, for whatever reason, I didn't submit another single short story to another magazine.

At the moment, I'm sending out a lot of brilliant little shorts, but that's not going to be reflected in this blog for maybe a year. So, until the time comes that I'm able to post my published stories again (assuming I haven't signed over the rights) this blog will be, primarily, thoughts I have and strange things I've seen.

We will wait together.

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