The moving hands have written–now what?

I took a lesson from Joe Bunting last week from his How to write a short story and wrote a story–my shortest ever at 1,500 words. I’m pleased with it. Now it’s like windfall cash in my pocket, burning its way out, demanding to be read.

I put it on Story PenPal and one kind writer reviewed it well.

So far, so good.

But what now? This morning, I opened the Gotham Writers Workshop Newsletter and found a link to this: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Published in a Literary Magazine, by Lincoln Michel. It’s so much better than anything else I’ve ever seen on BuzzFeed. This is a terrific essay from someone who knows the ground about every unpublished fiction writers’ struggle with how to approach literary magazines. The only question Michel didn’t answer, the one that lingers despite the clarity and fullness of his writing, is about the gap between stories like those in Gotham’s own Fiction Gallery and those in most of the literary magazines. And by this I mean the gap between stories that tell a story, and stories that leave the reader puzzled–not just wondering about the ending and so on, but about what the writer’s entire purpose in writing was. What was that? Why was it in print?

Michel says to send work to magazines that print what we write. And that’s my problem. I subscribe to three literary magazines (one more than the average writer, Michel suggests) . I don’t enjoy most of their stories; I find them dull, obscure, grotty, without value. Many don’t qualify as stories in the way that short stories we were taught with did. I’m still looking for a journal that prints what I write.

Ah well, writers complain, apparently. But I’d rather question.

Where do editors draw the line between writing that tries the reader’s ability to stay awake, takes her into cold and dry territory for no memorable end, exercises some skill only the editors can explain, and writing that engages the reader and leaves a mark on her mind?

I’d like to know.


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