10 Steps for Submitting a Manuscript

Mar 31, 2010

This morning, I mailed off “Songs of Humanity” to a top science fiction magazine. ‘Cause if I start at the top, I can work my way down if needed, right?


I’m still in the super-excited-incredibly-nervous phase, but that’ll die down. I’ve got about five weeks before I can expect a response, after all. In the meantime, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty of submissions. Keep in mind, I’ve only got experience in submitting short stories– novel submissions are forthcoming! Still, a lot of the info is the same. Here’s my process:

1. Write a first draft. Get initial critiques, then rewrite. (With SOH, I totally scrapped the first draft and started over!)

2. Read actual copies of whatever magazine I plan on submitting to in order to make sure it’s a fit, and get an idea of their submission guidelines.

3. Rewrite some more. Let it sit for a week. Rewrite some more.

4. Get another critique. Let it sit for another few days. Rewrite again.

5. Go back to the magazine’s website and review their submission guidelines. Prepare my manuscript accordingly (include all contact info in top left corner, number pages, double space, 12 point Times New Roman, 1 inch margins).

6. Do a very detailed line edit and final rewrite. Let it sit for another few days.

7. Reread the entire story, all submission guidelines, make any final edits, then print. Use a paperclip, NOT a staple. Get my SASE ready to go.

8. Put on my Ghanaian earrings and necklace to channel good vibes from all my Ghanaian friends who ever wished blessings upon my head. Kiss the baby for luck, get another good luck kiss from the hubby, and head to the post office.

9. Mail it in! Sit in the car, breathe for a second, and say a little prayer.

10. Wait.

Notice anything particular about the process? There’s a lot of REWRITING, a lot of CRITIQUING and a lot of WAITING! I can’t even begin to describe how important those three things are. Especially the waiting. Take the time to let your manuscript sit! I did that multiple times with this submission. You have to do that even when you think you’re done. At least twice, I edited, thought the story was perfect, and put it aside for a few days. Without fail, I’d go back, look at it, and think, “oh wow, why didn’t I realize ____?” and make it better.

Of course, there has to be a stopping point. If you’re a perfectionist, you may end up going through that cycle until your hair falls out and you’ve actually made the story worse. In my opinion, it takes at least THREE periods of letting your work sit to really get it to a point where you can submit. And then, by golly, submit the heck out of it!

And please, please, please follow their guidelines when you do so!


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