“Also, I was in possession of a positive outlook, which is just a trick whereby you convince yourself that the desolation of your world is a phase in your personal growth. The weird thing is it works.”
—Sam Lipsyte, The Fun Parts
I often get questions from new writers asking what it takes to become a successful writer. In their questions is the implicit suggestion that there is a an answer to this question, a formula that can be easily replicated. Other times, I’m asked how writers can get published in X, Y, or Z magazine, as if writers have magical connections.
It’s a nice fantasy, the idea that success has a marked path, that there are secret passages that will gain you entrance to the publications of your dreams. These things may exist but I know not of them.
I try to write every day. I try to read every day. I try to get better by taking a hard look at what I’ve written, where the weaknesses are, why those weaknesses might be there. I am familiar with most magazines now but when I wasn’t, I used Duotrope to learn about publications that might be a good fit for my work. When I found a writer in a literary magazine whose work resonated, I looked at where else they’ve been published and sent my work there. I learned to deal with constant rejection, I mean constant, and it sucked and I had little pity parties about it, and then I got back to reading and writing and learning and trying to get better.
Most of the time, I submit to publications like everyone else. I don’t have very many magical contacts. I find submission guidelines on magazine websites and submit via whatever means these guidelines indicate. I keep doing this over and over until I get a yes. I’m pretty relentless. I call this the cockroach school of submission. Not even nuclear winter will keep me from submitting my work.
Now that I’m more established, I am solicited by editors but these solicitations only happen because I’ve created a body of work and maybe some of it is good. You can’t just go from zero to 60, most of the time. Knowing the “right” people is perhaps 10% of the battle. The other 90% is writing. It’s always going to be writing. The sooner you accept that at some point, you just have to write, the easier it will be to get where you want to go.
There’s a nice little rush when a solicitation happens. And then, I submit more work.
Also, I offer these tips.
I’m sorry the secret is not more glamorous.