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Short Story Submission Part 1: Research
For Christmas, my wife lovingly gifted me the 2020 edition of The Best American Series. I asked for the Science Fiction & Fantasy as well as the Short Stories books. She got me both! Of course, I got them to read the stories chosen for the annual publication, but also for research. I figure if they are going through the trouble of selecting these stories and publishing them, then looking into where they get their stories is important. I might even go so far as to say it’s vital to completing one of my three goals for 2021; submitting my stories to publications.
Right away I notice a few patterns emerging. The first one being the gatekeeper. That is to say, who decides what’s good and what isn’t. I must admit it leaves me a bit disheartened when I see the same name across not only the series itself but the publications where these stories come from originally. It means you are left with pleasing one person’s (or in this case, man’s) tastes in storytelling. Of course, I’d like to think their tastes are eclectic enough not to have any bias towards one type of storytelling over another. But the very nature of bias is to believe you have none is a bias in and of itself. Everyone has them.
I guess if I do enough research I can determine the right formula and play to those strengths versus my own? But that would defeat the very purpose of my goal for 2021. So I won’t do that. I just wanted to point out the repetitiveness of editor, judge and jury across the majority of places where I will undoubtedly wish to play.
Another pattern I couldn’t help but notice is the percentage of “new authors” versus “recognizable authors” found within the pages of any publication. However, unlike the previous pattern, in this instance I am torn between the purpose of the publication and the follow-through. That is to say, on the one-hand, all of them want to serve the unknown. They want to shed light on the author whom no one has heard of before, but who have just as amazing a story to tell. But on the other hand, to catch the attention of the voracious reader it stands to reason why you’d want to sprinkle in the names of a more recognized author. Would I be more or less inclined to read The Best American Series anything if I didn’t see it was edited by Diana Gabaldon or contain a story by Ken Liu within its pages? Both are authors whose works I’ve honestly never read, but I’ve heard their name in literary social circles and therefore they come with an air of trust that whatever they are associated with must be good. Right?
So, can I blame these literary publications, both print and digital, for showcasing the known names on the covers and choosing their work to publish, and then sprinkling some unknowns here and there (the purpose for their existence)? I guess I can’t. I mean, I’d like to think those who are now known, were, in the beginning, unknown. I wonder how many times they had to be chosen before they became worthy enough to either be an editor or just a name on the cover to bring in new readers?
Something else I noticed during my early research is the really amazing titles. If you’ve watched my streams on either Twitch or YouTube, where I show myself writing my Friday Fiction stories, then you’ll know that the title is how I like to begin. A title, I truly believe, is the gateway towards knowing (or needing to know) what a story is about. These titles I’ve read are no exception.
The last thing I’ll mention for this 1st part in my multi-part series about my journey towards submitting to publications in 2021, ties into my streaming. For starters, I can’t actually show what I’m writing if I’m writing a story I want to submit. This will be tricky as I planned on choosing the story I submit AFTER I’ve written it. This will mean I’ll either not show myself writing any of my Friday Fiction when I stream (which I know other #TwitchWriters who do this) or I’ll choose ahead of time. Not sure yet. Then there is Simultaneous versus Multiple submissions in the guidelines of all the publications I’m considering submitting to. They all basically go by the same rules, which is “NO” on both counts. I’ll go into greater detail on what those are in part two.
One thing my research has showed me is how excited I am to be doing this and I can’t wait to share the lessons I learn along the way.