By Michelle Seaton
If you’re feeling discouraged about your work, I guarantee that your number-one problem is this: You aren’t submitting enough. I might not know you, but I know I’m right about this.
In 12 years of teaching at Grub Street, I’ve learned three truths about students:
I think I know why you don’t submit: It’s easy to become so comfortable in the womb of the supportive workshop or writers’ group that the thought of having a cold eye cast on your work is paralyzing.
Also, we writers are expert liars. Here are the top three lies we tell ourselves.
In my class on submitting essays, I insist on several things. First, that students submit each work to no fewer than 10 journals at once. Twenty is even better. Yes, journal editors hate this advice, so don’t tell any that I said to do this. But this is what you must do.
Someone in class always asks if they should read the journals before submitting to them. The short answer is no.
Should you be reading journals extensively? Yes. Should you subscribe to several? Yes. In fact, if you are a Boston-area writer and you don’t subscribe to one of the many outstanding local lit journals, well, that’s a crime. But right now we’re performing triage on your submission phobia, and the last thing you need is six months’ worth of homework with which you can procrastinate. Go to each journal’s website and look at the work that’s posted. For now, that’s enough. Want a great shortcut to compiling a list of journals to submit to? Visitwww.duotrope.com , which now lists nonfiction markets.
Second, I insist that writers have a boilerplate cover sheet into which they can insert the name of each new story, essay or poem and its length. An ideal cover sheet is short and perfunctory. Why? Because editors don’t read them. Your work speaks for itself.
Finally, I make writers sit down and set a date on the calendar—for this week—when they will submit a particular work.
Are you still reading this article? Stop now and start submitting.