You’ve written a novel! Or a short story, or an epic poem, or a confessional memoir that’s 350,000 words about your sexual exploits, drinking binges, crying jags, and occasional abduction by aliens. As one does.
As hard as that might have seemed, many writers find the next step to be much more difficult: Submitting that sucker. Whether it’s to an agent, a publisher, a magazine, or some other market, the moment you decide you’re done with a story and you want to sell it is terrifying, because you’re saying it’s done, you can’t improve it any more, and you’re about to voluntarily invite people to pass judgment on it. It can be paralyzing. Once you start reading the guidelines it gets easier and easier to think your story doesn’t fit, or it’s not good enough, so why bother?
I just sent off three story submissions to magazines, and one is probably a ridiculously inappropriate submissions. Wrong market, and I’m not 100% certain the story is actually any good. I submitted it anyway, because that’s the secret: Don’t read the guidelines. Don’t give the editor an opportunity to talk you out of it. Just send in the sub.
Like a Drunken Sailor
Submitting fiction like a drunken sailor may not make for the most efficient of submission processes. It may not make you any friends among editors, or result in any more sales than a more focused approach. But what skipping the guidelines—and the thought process over the appropriateness and quality of your work—gets you is peace of mind. Sure, you might still get that rejection, but better to be rejected and have had a chance at a sale than to talk yourself out of submitting in the first place.
I’ve certainly had the experience of submitting a story to a market that I think has no chance of selling, and, then selling it. The thing is that editors will always tell you how picky they are—you should only send them your absolute best work and then only when the moon is full and you have recently bathed in the blood of virgin goats, after spending decades in a cave contemplating your story. The more you read the guidelines, the easier it is to be talked out of any shred of confidence you might have in your work.
Just click submit. Your worst case scenario is a quick rejection. If you’re smart, you’ll do what I do and turn rejections into a slow-motion, long-term drinking game.