For years and years and years I sent out my stories and got them back. And I got to be pretty methodical about my submission policy. For an example: I found as many little lit mags as I could that Raymond Carver sent his stories to thinking our vision and style were similar. There were about fifteen of these little lit mags still accepting submissions from unpublished writers. I sat in the Carnegie Library here in Pittsburgh and went through stacks of back issues of The New Yorker, all the way back to 1925, and read everything I could find of John O’Hara’s, to see how he got started in The New Yorker. I went through every back issue of The Saturday Evening Post, from 1920 to 1937, looking for stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I did my home work. I submitted my stories to all these publications and many, many others. Nothing. So, I decided to self-publish. Of course I took this decision after nearly thirty five years of frustration.
But because I did self-publish doesn’t mean my fiction is worth reading. The Internet and self-publishing allows everyone to present their stories to the world. As far as I can tell, much of what appears as fiction on the Internet and in self-publishing is by any standard poor writing. Even those who are serious about becoming good writers now use the Internet and self-publishing to reach a reading public while they are still learning their craft. This period of learning use to be done alone in a room over many years and only a very few, if any, trusted readers got to see the writer’s work.
I now sit in dismay when I go through my old manuscripts. No wonder I didn’t get published (this was before the Internet and easy self-publishing.) My stuff was bad, plain and simple. And it was bad for years; but I did keep writing and I did get better. Luckily for me I got good enough just as the Internet and easy self-publishing became accessible to nearly everyone.
So the lesson is, you still need to learn your craft if you want to be considered a serious words craftperson, if you want someone else to publish your work. This is not every writers’ goal; but if it’s yours this blog is for you.