Tomorrow. Tomorrow all I care about is writing in the novel, as well as submitting again. I haven’t submitted stories in a good while. Why, you might ask. Isn’t publication a writer’s bread and butter, sometimes literally, why yes, you are correct, without showing people my stuff then how could they ever publish it? And therefore how could I ever hope to start building that bridge to novel publication and the outside shot at self-sustaining writerability as a career?
Well. This might be why.
October 2013, submit story to Glimmer Train, wait three months, hear back: form rejection.
October 2013, submit story to Missouri Review’s editor’s prize contest. No response, did not win or place.
January 2014, submit to Ploughshares, wait one hundred and nineteen days to get a rejection, but a very nice one, personal, they said it was close but just didn’t make the cut. My hopes are raised, eventually, once I heard back from them in May.
January 2014, submit to the New Yorker, because why not. No response.
September 2014, submit to Missouri Review as a non-contest entry this time, rejected in seventeen days, which is worse, for the record, than waiting six months. Form rejection, of course.
September 2014, submit story to One Story, form rejection after twenty-three days. Not much better.
September 2014, submit to Tin House, form rejection in one hundred and three days.
September 2014, I must’ve been motivated this particular month, submit story to American Short Fiction, wait two hundred and sixty-seven days, at which point I completely forget I’ve submitted or even that American Short Fiction is a thing, and they respond on the two-hundred sixty-eighth day. Form rejection.
September 2014, albeit a week later, submit to the Cincinnati Review. Form rejection arrives in just one hundred and twenty-three days.
Same week in September, submit story to Cimarron Review. I got some friends at Oklahoma State now, off getting their doctoring credentials, I figure that’s got to be a good omen. One hundred sixty days later, I change my mind. Form rejection.
So I revise. Change the title to the title I originally titled it. Figure, maybe that weird title was throwing off the mojo. January 2015, submit story to New Ohio Review (forty-nine days, form rejection), New England Review (ninety-one days, form rejection) and Gulf Coast (never got a response — I called time of death in August).
But calling that round of submissions officially dead does remind me the story has not been published yet, and I really think it ought to be, I think it’s a good story. Tim fucking O’Brien told me it was a good story, I have to remind myself of that sometimes, The Things They Fucking Carried himself told me so, that’s got to count for something. So August, year of our lord 2015, I send the story out to Black Warrior Review. Early December, they send me their Christmas present, a one-hunred-and-one day form rejection. Since it’s revised, and since it’s got a new title, I send it back to Cimarron that same August, and early January next year, same result, form rejection.
Then the record breaker. I tried my luck with the new title, same month, August 2015, back at the Cincinnati Review. After the January rejection, I put it out of my mind. I said, novel novel novel I’m a novelist anyway let’s just write novels. June of 2016, a mere two hundred and ninety-five days later, a full school year, I get my last rejection. It is not a form rejection. Not nearly as encouraging as the Ploughshares personal rejection, but still. They said they liked the story and hoped I would continue to submit.
By this point, I’m sure only my thesis director and my wife remember this story at all. Tim O’Brien, if he remembers me at all, probably remembers me as the e-cigarette guy and the one dating Gretchen. If I reminded him of it, he might say oh yeah, the dog story, it’s hard to get a dog story published, it’s been done so much.
To sum up: this is why. Every submission requires something unique to that journal, formatting, cover letter, sometimes a reading fee. I prioritize where to send stories by what I remember of what I’ve read in each journal, and how well I think my story will fit there, unless I think it’s a highly publishable story that could work most anywhere, in which case I’ll even send it to the New Yorker, because as I’ve said, why not, but still, even then I’ll send it where I think it works best first, and move down the list from there. It’s like I have this code that only I am aware of, with this system, trying to edit the magazine on an individual level, with one story, here you go, this one fits, you’re welcome, when really I should be carpet bombing the whole goddamn industry, indiscriminate-like.
Alas, that’s only sixteen submissions. Most writers will say twenty, thirty, or more, before their particular baby found a home. It is a colossal pain, especially when you’re trying to finish a novel, or work on another story, or simply finish a blog post. But this one is done. And tomorrow will be all for the writing.
As well as — sigh — more submitting. You’re welcome.