Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that we writers are all in this together. We all have roughly the same dream. We are all going about it roughly the same way. We’re all putting in our hours, honing our craft, putting our stuff out there on our blogs for others to read, paying our dues.
But there’s a few things I want to get off my chest about this writing thing.
I have been reading some books lately on the best way to get a short story published. Almost all of them suggest reading some of the literary magazines you hope to get published in. Sounds reasonable. It’s certainly sound advice that we should know our target market.
So, I went to the book store and bought some of these short, thick, stubby little magazines printed on thick paper.
First off, these things are outrageously expensive. I can buy virtually any magazine on the stand for four or five or six dollars. But not THESE magazines. Get out your credit card, you poor, starving writer you, and be prepared to fork over the price of a fine steak dinner at a five-dollar-mark restaurant. These things are twelve, sixteen, twenty dollars a whack. That is why they can afford to pay you in contributor’s copies. Or maybe just a byline. Or maybe nothing at all.
But hey, we’re not in this for the money. (Are we?)
But that’s not what I’m here to complain about. Hey, I understand economics. Their circulation is small. Printing and shipping costs are high. Most of their staff are volunteers. This has nothing to do with the price of the magazines. It is what it is. It is what the market will bear.
No, what I want to complain about is the dreck that I’ve been wading through since I paid good, hard-earned, legal tender for these well-bound collections of future recycling.
Hey, I get it. We all have different tastes. The literary world is a big tent, and there’s room for everyone (theoretically). One writer’s trash is another writer’s treasure. And vice-versa. One writer’s meat is another writer’s potatoes. We don’t all like the same things. Some of us can eat no fat; other can eat no lean. And that’s a good thing.
But after wading through a couple of these literary magazines, I was left wondering, to paraphrase the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the literature?!”
I’ve never been so discouraged in all my born days as I was after reading these things. If I hadn’t just paid about 16 dollars apiece for these things, I’d have sworn I was reading a high school literary magazine. (Not to cast aspersions on high school literary magazines. I think they are wonderful things.)
So here are some things I don’t understand (apparently):
- What is up with the obsession with bodily functions? Seriously … are we all stuck in a perpetual state of being in middle school?
- Why must everything in a lit mag make the reader want to put a noose around their neck and kick the chair out from underneath themselves? What is so wrong about writing things that make people happy or feel good? Whither humor? Where are the Benchleys, the Perelmans, the Twains, the O. Henrys, the Wodehouses, the Bensons, the Thurbers? Come on, man! Not everything about life is dour, humorless, depressing, and dark.
- Why the obsession with drug and/or alcohol abuse? Or abuse in general. It borders on reader-abuse! I know, I know … it makes for compelling reason to read about someone struggling with an addiction. But not … every … single … story needs to have a drug/alcohol angle in it. Perhaps characters just find that it is too hard to make it through the average-length short story without the use of narcotics. Hell, I started thinking that myself after reading a few of them.
- You know what’s getting old? Anti-heroes. I have had it up to here with anti-heroes. They’re not brooding and complex. They’re just jerks.
- Why must everything be so abstruse? I hate reading the last word of a short story and thinking to myself, “What the $*&# did I just read?” I’m not sure who the characters were … or what they did … or why. Was that allegory? Metaphor? Symbolism? Or just really bad writing? Was there a climax? A point? Whatever happened to the old practice of having a beginning, a middle, and an end? Which brings me to my next point.
- Why don’t stories have endings any more? They just sort of … peter out. The story builds and builds and then … it just ends. I keep flipping the pages of the magazine back and forth. Did a page get ripped out? Is it continued on page 37? Continued in the next issue? What in blue blazes is going on here?
What makes me mad is that I have spent the last 40-some-odd years of my life thinking that my writing was not good enough to even submit to a magazine, let alone get published. I wrote and wrote in solitude for years, thinking I needed to get just a little bit better before I submitted anything.
Well, I no longer feel that way. What I feel like now is that I waited so long to submit something that I missed the era in which my writing might have stood a chance of being published.
Am I bitter? Yeah … a little bit.
But this, too, shall pass. I shall take up pen in hand again someday and begin to write again.
But now I’m not going to do it with the hopes of getting published. I’m just going to do it because I enjoy it.
Free Tip For Writer’s Who Think Blogging Is Good For Your Writing Career
I have found, in the course of looking into getting published, that 99.999% of all magazines out there will not accept anything that has been previously printed or published. And, guess what? That means anything you posted on your blog.
So if you have some writing you hope to get published someday, don’t post it on your blog!
The more you know!