After graduation, I finally did the thing tons of people told me to do: I made a schedule. I realized very quickly I had no time and that I had to make time to write happen. But time to write wasn’t enough. If I wanted to be a writer for real, I needed to make time to publish as well.
I’ve been familiar with the act of publishing work for a long time, and submitted work both before and during my time as an MFA student. I had a lot of success, too, but that success was directly proportional to the amount I actually wrote. Workshops demanded that I write a few pieces a year. That might sound like a lot, but I promise it wasn’t for me, the self-appointed Master of White Space.
After time to write happened, though, I had a pile of unpublished work and no idea what to do with it all. Things got revised and reordered and turned into actual books, but those books were still full of unpublished writing. I counted it all up at the end and there were about 100 polished, publishable pieces, which is the equivalent of one heart attack.
So I solved the problem the way I solve everything—I dove in headfirst with no regard for how it would affect the delicate balance of my already scheduled life by sending out tons of submissions at once to wherever I could think of while I watched the sun set and rise again the next day. It’s important to note here that I have a number of professional responsibilities in addition to writing (see bio below). Needless to say, commitment to those responsibilities suffered because of this approach. I even stopped writing altogether.
To fix this for real, I returned to that schedule and spent a lot of time figuring out how to squeeze in one last thing. As it turns out, making time to submit one piece of writing each day really works for me. Now I definitely publish more frequently, but something more unexpected happened. I was learning more about places to actually send work, and was able to make suggestions to other writers about what places might be a good fit for them to submit to depending on what they were writing.
Submitting work successfully isn’t haphazardly slapping new information on the same thing over and over; you really need to get to know each market you’re submitting to by reading the stuff inside it. Because all of that daily research was piling up in my notes, I created a website called Time to Publish to not only remind me that submitting work is an important part of my daily routine, but also to keep track of my research in a way that can benefit everyone that cares to look. I’ve met more writers and editors doing this than I can count, which has been amazingly motivating. Hopefully you’ll find a literary journal or independent press featured on the site that will inspire you to submit something as well.
Nicole Oquendo is the Nonfiction Editor of the annual anthology Best of the Net, as well as an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications and Flaming Giblet Press, and the Managing Editor of The Florida Review. She has sent out 331 submissions in 2014, which has led to 145 rejections and 22 acceptances so far this year, including publications forthcoming or in CutBank, Sundog Lit, and Gulf Stream. Her chapbook some prophets is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (2015), and her chapbook self is wolf is forthcoming from dancing girl press (2015). You’ll find her posting about a few literary markets each week at timetopublish.com.