Friday, February 27, 2009

Does Revision Ever End?

For those keeping score at home, my epilogue has now been rejected by 16 magazines and journals. The good news is, I made significant revisions that I think will really improve its chances. While I'm encouraged by the changes I've made, it's also a little grueling to revisit the same piece for, like, the hundredth time and see so many areas for improvement. Starts to make you feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, like you could revise the piece forever.

I believe the pursuit of perfection is, and should be, endless, but in terms of an artist's craft, not a particular piece. Ideally, a piece reaches a finite point where it is fully "realized," for lack of a better word, where any further changes become almost arbitrary, or even detract from the quality. If such is not the case, then what's to stop an artist from working on a piece indefinitely?

Perhaps "realized" simply means you keep improving the piece until it gains the specific approval you seek for it, whether it be approval from a general audience, or a critic, or a peer, or an institution --- in my case I seek approval from a reputable journal (and subsequently, with any luck, readers of that journal). Submitting the story according to my method, then, the story's development will end when it is published, i.e. when the progressively decreasing prominence of the journals I submit to intersects with the increasing quality of the story.

Still, it would be nice to think my story could be realized without the approval of a journal, that its development will reach some natural endpoint on its own. Next time I review my beloved epilogue (and I really do love it), whether it be published or not, I hope I come away thinking: "Wow, this doesn't really need much change at all. It's great the way it is. Good for me."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Submitting Short Stories to Literary Magazines (Part 2)

Of all the articles I've written so far, the post outlining my method for submitting short fiction to journals (written October last year) seems to be the most successful in drawing new readers to my blog, via search engines.

I'm not talking droves here, but for a while I'd say about a dozen people per month found me on Google (and such) via search phrases like "submit my short story," and actually stayed on my site a while, instead taking a quick look and leaving, as the majority of search-engine visitors do... at least for this site.

Since yesterday I sent the short-story version of my epilogue out to yet another group of journals, I figured I might as well get some mileage out of this popular search topic.

I've updated my submission guide, which now includes, to the best of my knowledge, every journal that's appeared either in Best American Short Stories or the O. Henry Prize Stories at least once in the last ten years. The journals that appeared once and only once --- which are the ones I've submitted to most recently --- are at the bottom.

As before, I sort them by whether simultaneous submissions are accepted or discouraged, and include info about length limits, reading periods, response times, and whether they take electronic submissions. It's an editable spreadsheet so you can add the journal's website, mailing address, and whatever else helps keep you organized.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Spike in Visits

Obviously I haven't posted anything in a while, so when I checked my Google Analytics report to see what my traffic looked like, I wasn't surprised to see it hovering around 12 visits-per-day. Even on the days I post something new, and send an alert via e-mail and Facebook, I rarely get more than 35 visits in a single day.

But then on Monday, out of nowhere, I had 113 visitors. Sweet!

Naturally I was curious how this happened. The report indicated that the post receiving the most hits that day, by far, was the summary of results from my Blue Pen vs. Black Pen, published two months ago.

Turns out my poll results were discovered and talked about on the Fountain Pen Network --- a discussion forum for ink and fountain pen fanatics. To be sure, my article did not generate nearly the level of in-depth discussion that many other topics on the FPN do, but I was flattered just the same.

My traffic has already returned to normal levels, but this was an exciting blip, and gives me hope that in the future other posts might get spontaneously "picked up" by various online networks, be they discussion forums, e-mail networks, or just other blogs with more activity than the serene pond that is Ink and Beans.