What the Internet Taught Me About Submissions

I have a weird relationship with sharing work and submissions. I’ve done it; I have my little pile of rejection somewhere in a box and I’m totally okay with it. For one: there’s something funny about how after something is rejected, you start to look at it and go, “Oh yeah, that totally wasn’t ready.”

But my opinion of the submission process is very much affected by the way I’ve been sharing my writing since I was 17 — the Internet! (Ooooooooooh.) When it comes right down to it, the handful of submissions to small magazines and the single experience with sending a novel query is a minor experience compared to how I handle sharing most of my writing.

Allow me to make this point with math! (Ahhhhhhhhhh.) Then I’ll tell you what the Internet has taught me about the submission process.

By the Numbers

Only counting the two archives that offer word counts — not accounting for stuff that never got posted, or things that never made it onto these two archives — I’ve written and shared 356,498 words of fan fiction since I was 17 or so. (We’re not going to even pretend that those are all great, worthy words — but they were submitted for consumption by my fellow fans.)

By pulling up every piece of original fiction I wrote in the same time — three and a half novels, and a bunch of short stories that never got more than a couple hundred words (except one I’m working on) — I’ve written 200,321 words. Of those, two novels are probably forever relegated to trunk status, and all but one of the short stories may never again be opened.

Bringing It Back to Submitting Fiction

Submitting writing online isn’t just about throwing your words out there and hoping for the best. You often pick up a friend or stranger to help beta read and edit your work, sometimes multiple friends for long pieces. When the time comes to post, you have to evaluate the process accordingly:

  • Is this story the right genre/pairing/style for this commuity?
  • Is the story formatted correctly?
  • Would readers on this website enjoy my style and interpretation of characters?
  • Would I be proud to be associated with this community and these writers?

You also have to be able to self-promote, whether in the form of wild mass cross-posting or a quiet campaign just among friends. You have to be comfortable accepting responses and critiques of what you’ve written — most often expecting that you’ll get very little response at all, and sometimes knowing that you’re going to get a negative response. (And always, of course, hoping that you will be universally loved.)

What I’m trying to say is that these are all valuable skills to take to the submission process as I write more and more original fiction. When I was writing and submitting the query for my novel, I spent a lot of time pondering the exact same questions as I do when I join a new community on LiveJournal or join a new fan archive.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m still not a wreck when I first hit send, regardless of what I’m sending off, but I will say that I at least feel somewhat prepared when I face throwing my original fiction out there.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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