Writing and the Internet: A Love Affair

10 May

Shit got real in 1995. That’s when it all started. In the then, very brief history of the internet, online literary magazines were an idea yet to be conceived. Writers were still sending to print journals, and don’t forget the SASE—self addressed, stamped envelope (and who ever heard of stamps!?). Then, from the foam of some cybernetic sea, CrossConnect was born! The first online literary magazine, the first rebel, the first mover/shaker.

Writing and the internet used to be this:

Now they’re more like this:

But, DON’T WORRY. They aren’t headed for this:

For a writer today, online lit journals are the shiz. They got all their ducks in a row. As a young writer, it is important to get out there, peruse the great-unknown. And, internet mags are the vehicle for that. However, that doesn’t make the process of submitting any less harrowing. Not everyone is George Saunders—by that I mean: don’t think the first time you get published, it will be in the New Yorker. Start small. Chances are, your first submission will be met with a rejection.

That’s ok, dolls. When that happens, it’s important to remember that there are two types of rejection letters.

1.)    The form rejection, going something like this:

Dear Elysia,

Thank you for your submission of “There are Tides” to SmokeLong Quarterly. We gave the story careful consideration, and though we are not accepting it for publication, we hope you find a better fit for it elsewhere.

Thanks again for trusting us with your work.

Best,

Editors

Somtimes I’m rull mad bout them rejections!

2.)    Then, there is the nice rejection. This is the kind to hope for. It’s the next best thing to a publication and in some cases even better. If a big magazine gives you a personalized rejection, that is much better than publishing a piece that might not have been ready in a less prominent magazine. My favorite nice rejection I have received was from SmokeLong Quarterly (a magazine I have been shooting for since last year).

Here it is, ladies:

Dear Elysia,
Thank you for your submission of “Teeth” to SmokeLong Quarterly. Unfortunately, we are going to pass on this story.
Elysia, this was a close one for us. There is some really great writing here, and we love your images. Hope you’ll send something else our way sometime.

Best,
Tara (notice the editor included her name. WOO.)

Now, in the case of the form rejection, it might be best to say “fuck ‘em!” and toss the letter in your trash (maybe print it out, and burn it. Deleting the email doesn’t always carry enough weight for me, personally). But, if you are lucky enough to receive a personalized rejection, heed their advice. These people know what they’re doing. You should agree with that sentiment if you are submitting there, at least, which leads me to my next point.

It is always a good idea to check out the website of the journal where you plan to submit. A really great resource for writers is Duotrope. It is a list of all online magazines. You can narrow your search to filter for only poetry magazines, only non-fiction, or flash fiction.  Duotrope also includes a link to the page of the journal. Check it out. Better to be safe than sorry.

Another thing I do is make sure I have covered everything on my checklist before I submit. I’ll include my own personal checklist to give you other writers an idea of what to do, but really each person should do what they think is best. If you have to light 15 candles and eat a bowl of Chex Mix before you submit, then so be it.

Homer does this before submitting to Elimae.

First things first: I copy edit for any minor spelling or grammatical errors in the piece I wish to publish.

Then: I send the piece off for polishing to three people I trust: my girlfriend, my best friend, and my mentor (a teacher for me). Also, I should mention that my girl and my bff are both writers…which is fortunate for me.

Next: after I’ve received their personal edits, I go over the story again, taking each of their ideas into consideration. It is important you are selecting people who you admire, that way you are more likely to listen to them. Remember, they still love you even if they hate that you used the word “glimmer” eight times.

Finally: I prepare a short (I mean short) and usually silly cover letter. Most magazines use Submishmash, an online submissions manager. This means that you’ll only have to make one account which you can then use for each different magazine. This is also really helpful for tracking your submissions.

*note* Most magazines will also take Simultaneous Submissions (when you send the same piece to multiple magazines), just be sure to mark the submission as a Sim. Sub.

Anywho, go to the submissions page of the magazine in question and begin the process. Don’t forget to list any previous publications. If you don’t have any, don’t mention it. It’s better to look like you simply forgot.

Lastly, for you femme fatales with a pen, I’ll include my list of favorite online literary magazines.

elimae {a very reputable and well established journal, almost as old as CrossConnect.}

Smokelong {as I mentioned earlier, one I’ve been working on. Smokelong is a good home for any flash-fiction pieces you’ve got.}

Brevity {a good place to go if you write non-fiction.}

The Diagram {a very well designed website interested in the experimental.}

The Collagist {edited by a writer I really admire, and an acquaintance of mine, this magazine is fresh and a challenge to get published in, but worth it!}

If you want a more comprehensive list of journals, check out Duotrope, as I mentioned earlier.

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