Composing a story, part 5 of 6 (hopefully!)

In Parts 1-3, I described the drafting and revision processes.

In Part 4, I laid out what happens during the submission process.

Now, about 3.5 years on from that update, I make a further update.


So, way back then I had the following list of markets I was going to submit to:

  • Writers of the Future Contest
  • Clarkesworld
  • New Myths
  • Uncanny
  • Phantaxis
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Giganotosaurus
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  • Lightspeed
  • Apex
  • Strange Horizons
  • Leading Edge
  • T Gene Davis’ Speculative Blog
  • Outposts of Beyond

Of those (and others, in italics), I have, as of this time, submitted to and received rejections from the following markets:

  • Writers of the Future Contest
  • Clarkesworld
  • New Myths
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Asimov’s
  • PULP Literature
  • Andromeda Spaceways
  • Giganotosaurus
  • Metaphorosis
  • The Colored Lens
  • Society of Misfit Stories
  • Summer of Speculation

So, why the difference? Why are there some on the original plan that don’t appear on the actual list? And why some new ones not listed before? And why does it take nearly 4 years to rack up a dozen rejections? Several reasons.

Some magazines just stop publication, like the T Gene Davis Speculative Blog and Intergalactic Medicine Show. Some stop accepting new submissions for a period, or are only open for a short window, like Strange Horizons. In order to meet those windows, several stars have to align. Sometimes, when I’ve received a rejection from a prior submission and am ready to send it back out again, the market is closed. So I (as any other author does) have to go down the list and search for a place to submit, make sure I’ve met all the guidelines, formatted correctly, addressed it to the right place and right person or used the right “author’s biography” paragraph, attached the right file, and so on.

The amount of administrative overhead to submit a story can be intimidating, slowing the process for those who aren’t diligent about keeping stories out on submission as much as possible. I’ve gotten better at this in the past year. Currently I have over a dozen stories and essays out. However, for a while, it was not uncommon for me to have none at all, delaying the process.

Plus some markets change their focus or put additional restrictions on author biographies. For example, I don’t qualify for several markets any longer because I’m white, male, and heterosexual, and they already have enough of those in their backlog so they don’t need another.

Taken all together, this means the submission process often drags, and drags, and drags. I don’t think this story is bad, in any way. It is, though, not good enough for those markets. Or, a better way of saying it would be, It’s not right for that market at that time with those editors.

Because, ultimately, publishing is an incredibly subjective exercise in itself. You must be able to have a story which not only meets various editorial benchmarks, but it must also fit with any “theme” that the publishers are interested in presenting, as well as playing nicely with all the other stories by all the other writers who are also submitting to that journal at that time with those same criteria.

It can feel like a crapshoot. Or a lottery. Yet we continue to do it, because we can’t not write, and the external validation feels nice.

However, I do have some news. I have tentative acceptance from my most recent submission, and I must wait for them to close their submission period and send a final notice. When this completes, I believe the target publication date is in the fall of this year. As that goes through, I will certainly brag and update here with Part 6 of, we hope, only 6 in total.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

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