When to Pull the Trigger: Submitting Work


You might spend days getting the story onto paper, weeks getting the story to a revision point where it doesn’t sound horrible, and then years getting it published somewhere.

But let’s be honest with each other: it’s that last step that might not ever come around to pass, and not because your story doesn’t cut it.

Submitting work is one of the binding experiences for any writer. By writer here, I mean people who create and submit work. I don’t mean people who write for themselves, never sharing that work with the world (I know that could ruffle some feathers here and there, but frankly it’s my definition, and that’s that).

For multiple reasons, submitting work scares the hell out of writers. Maybe it’s the belief that the rejection emails will bring them too low, or that they’re just wasting time. Perhaps it’s the belief that their story just needs a few more revisions (which inevitably turn into a revision of a revision of a revision). Or, more pragmatically, the writer is simply a writer, and writers generally put off things until the last-minute anyway. Since there isn’t really a time limit (outside of death) on when a submission needs to be made, writers are perfectly happy convincing themselves they’ll submit tomorrow. 

cannon diagramBut that simply won’t do. You’ve spent so much time on developing that story for people to see, and you’re simply denying the last step because of whatever reason. But I also understand the temptation and drive to not submit work, and generally for all of the reasons I mentioned above. So here’s a quick list of suggestions for when you should submit your work to the world:

1. After the second revision: You’ve written the story, revised it once for clarity and once for grammar/spelling. Boom. That’s it. Start finding places to send it out. If nobody goes for it after six months or so, then revisit it. I know, this sounds like it’s too quick, but it’s not. Truly. If the story is sound and you’re sending it to the right people, they’ll go for it. They’re might be a conversation about changing a few elements of it, but really that would probably happen no-matter who picks it up. Don’t get strung into believing that your story could be just a little bit better. It could be, but polishing a coin until it shimmers at midnight won’t help you buy anything with it.

2. When you find the right place: I have a collection, more or less, of 25 stories. They range in topic, and I try to keep a good mental awareness of what those topics are. When I come across a publication looking for submissions, I run through the stories in my head and figure out if I have one that might work. If I do, I submit it. This is the way I’ve been submitting my work since I’ve been submitting work in earnest, and it’s resulted in pretty solid results.

rifleBefore I submit, in this case, I give the story a quick read through to make sure that there isn’t something I’ve missed. Call it paranoia or just good sense, but I think giving each story one good look-over before sending it out into the world is a good way of making sure you don’t have something weird going on (Like a complete font/size change halfway through. Whoops). 

3. As much as possible: The director of Arcadia University’s MFA calls this the “see what sticks” principle of submitting work: get your stories and submit to as many places as possible, as much as possible. Writers don’t (generally) submit work to one place and have it accepted on the first go. Point in fact, your stories are more likely to travel all over the place before finding a home. And that’s okay: it’s good, even. But you aren’t going to beat the odds by submitting only a few stories each year. Load them into your musket and fire at the turkey that is Submittable.

Two things: I haven’t eaten today, and I really wanted to tie in all the gun imagery. Forgive me, but I’m pretty proud of bringing that all around like that.

What tips do you have?  


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