I don’t know why I’m even posting to this right now. I’m watching a basketball game that is making me want to punch things. ANGER.
Anyway, I guess I could be helpful today and not talk about my thesis. I could actually talk about literary magazines. Finally.
So, an important thing for a wannabe writer to do is get his/her name out there. Considering that everyone and his mom has a blog/twitter/facebook page, and everything is just loud from the world trying to be heard, the internet is not always going to be the best way to get your name out there. There are a few exceptions, of course. Sarah Rees Brennan made a name for herself by writing Harry Potter fanfiction on her LiveJournal (right? so 2000 and late) and gained a huge audience. She has since taken that stuff down, but not before her fan base found out she was going to be published for real. They went crazy and I’m sure that helped. I mean, I didn’t find her from her fanfiction. I found her via deviant art, because someone made fanart of the characters from her stories. That’s like six degrees of separation. Or like 2, whatever. I’m not good at math.
She’s a good example of how powerful word of mouth can be. Well, word of internet-mouth. My point is, she used the internet to her advantage but not everyone is going to be that lucky.
What you really have to do is publish.
And I know, I’m saying that like it’s the easiest fucking thing in the world to do. And I mean, Twilight got published, so publishing has lost a bit of credibility. But stay with me here, I’m gonna try to help.
As I’ve said before (and will say again and again), writers are jerks. So the people who control whether or not you can be called a real writer are going to be jerks too. Which means when you send your story out to an agent (because, I’ve been told by an Editor, most publishing companies do not take manuscripts from any Joe Blow off the street without an agent), you’re sending your story to a person who will probably be a douchebag. It’s just the nature of the business. People aren’t reading so much anymore but everyone thinks he’s a writer, so I think the whole community is getting a bit jaded.
But what I’m trying to say is, it’s harder to impress a douchebag if you’re a nobody, even if your story is good.
So to get around being a nobody, you should send your story to magazines. Send it to tons of magazines, though make sure they publish stuff like what you’re writing. And when you find one that will take you, keep sending stuff to that magazine (unless they have a rule against that). That way you’re building up a reputation, at least in literary circles. It’ll help your case when you agent shop. And it’ll help your agent when they publisher shop for you.
Going back to the jerks thing; let me tell you, I’ve been to a panel discussion with literary magazine editors, and it was probably the most disheartening thing I’ve ever witnessed. Also I’m doing intern-y things at a magazine now, so I’m kind of in the know. I’m kind of a big deal.
So, some tips:
-They won’t read your whole story if the first couple of paragraphs aren’t good. That’s why I, along with the great Roger Rosenblatt, stress the importance of the good beginning. Because it won’t matter if your story picks up later, they won’t go that far. Also, if your shit is good all ways around, but they reject it anyway, they will (if they’re nice) give you a reason why they didn’t want you. And they might encourage you to send the story again with a couple of edits or a bit of a rewrite.
-Edit, edit, edit. Proofread, proofread, proof-fucking-read. I cannot emphasize that enough. Because I swear to god, if you have a spelling error, they will throw your shit aside. Think about it this way, if you can’t be assed to make sure your story is flawless before sending it to them, they can’t be assed to give you a chance. I know that sounds harsh, but they are getting thousands of manuscripts monthly–it’s like an application for a job: they want an excuse to eliminate options as quickly and legitimately as possible. If you are tired of staring at your story, get other people to read it for you.
-Again, make sure whichever magazine you send to publishes stuff similar to what you write, or at least are open to publishing anything. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. And if you’re rejected, you won’t get feedback. You want feedback.
-Write a fucking cover letter. Seriously. Research the name of the editor of the magazine. Talk a bit about yourself and your piece, be polite. Don’t be a fucking pretentious prick. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I’ve read where I’ve been like, “I wish I could reject this douche simply so he knows he’s not as much of a big shot as he thinks he is.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had that thought but also had the power to act on it. I can’t act on it, obvi. To add to that, send a SASE, too.
-One editor I talked to said he didn’t like stories in the second person, but honestly, he was more of a dick than normal, so I wouldn’t go by that. However, don’t use things like the second person to try and stand out. Because that’s overdone. Gimmicks are called gimmicks for a reason. Writing a good story makes you stand out more than a funky format or using present tense when you don’t have to. Your job isn’t to try and reinvent literature, it’s to tell a story to the best of your ability. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m more apt to accept things that make me laugh. I’ve read so many things that were just so dramatic and boring, the rare one that makes me laugh out loud is appreciated. The whole thing doesn’t have to be funny, just pepper in some comedy to break up the monotony. And as I said, that’s just me. I’ve noticed that very few people enjoy comedic writing.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. But I can maybe answer questions if you have any.
The main thing is just getting your work known. Think of how many times you’ve decided to buy a book because you heard of the author or someone told you the author was good. And the more short stories people read of yours, the more willing they’ll be to read longer stuff. It’s all “dude, she writes awesome short stories, of course I’ll read a novel. Fuck yeah.” That’s how people talk in their heads. Duh.
This game is still making me angry, so I’m done now.