Literary journals come and go. Some are glossy and smooth; they exist in the corporeal world. Others are comprised of code, existing on the Internet in an organized cloud of neutrons. Some pay well and are widely read. Others pay nothing at all and exist in obscurity.
I have a longish story that is better than a year away from being published. When the check for this one comes (if it comes, which will be another post altogether), I've been considering using the proceeds to pay ten writers $50 each for stories. I might solicit two or three and then open a call for submissions in a short window for the others. I'd pay for some cover art and set the anthology up myself. It's not much money, but whatever it amounts to, it would probably just be scattered on the wind.
I'm under no illusions that it would be a profitable venture. But I think I'd like to try it, all the same. If these were funds coming out of our savings account, that's one thing. But proceeds from a short-story sale are all together different...
I bring this up because I haven't been writing or submitting short fiction. I have a little folder on my hard drive where I lock up these misfit children. Although my file is called "retirees," so it's actually a bunch of obnoxious elderly folks, hitting each other with their walkers and fondling one another with wrinkled tentacles.
I wonder what life is like in that file?
I digress. These stories, maybe one day, will be infused with life. More than likely they won't.
There are thousands of journals, anthologies, magazines and digests on Duotrope. They need content. So why don't I keep making the rounds with these stories?
Many just aren't that good.
I think, at some point, every writer has to look at the less-than-successful work (which, in his or her eyes, once gleamed like a new bike on Christmas day) more objectively as practice. When that happens, it's time to expand your inventory.
Read the magazines upon whose covers you would like to see your name. Explore creative angles on universal themes. Grow the inventory, and try the markets you admire again.
Because the alternative is probably not optimal. It's nice to have a long list of credits, but quality should be the endgame. It's like that theme song to Cheers, right? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name (or will, if you are writing the kinds of things you also admire).
Writer and editor Rajan Khanna offers a useful insight into the editorial process here.
An excerpt: As far as the reading slush part goes, it can be trying of course. I think sometimes the hardest to take are the stories that have such promise, but don’t manage to deliver on that. Or those that start out with an interesting premise and then go in the direction of well-worn cliche.
I keep a file on my desktop of story ideas I'd like to explore, but I'm committed to working on the novel at this point. I'm tempted to blast older submissions out into the world, just because it's a little odd not having irons in the fire, but I think it's going to get crowded in that old folks home on my hard drive. The plan will be to complete the novel prior to Halloween, then grow the inventory again later in the year.