It’s the moment every writer dreams about. You’ve honed your story to a sharpened dagger and finally summoned the courage to share it with another human being. You write the cover letter, send the manuscript, and wait seven painstaking months for a reply, one you’re sure will end in certain rejection. At dinner one evening, you get an e-mail from an editor you’d almost forgotten about, and the message reads, “We’d love to publish your story in the next issue of the Joe-Bob Review.” You’ve done it–you’re a published writer! Now where do you go from here?
Publications don’t come along every day, and the first one is especially important. All the years of reading, revising, and praying have brought you to the rarest of moments. Text every person you know or love, and let them hear about your milestone accomplishment. Schedule an evening out with your spouse and talk about the process, savoring every minute of celebration between spoonfuls of your favorite dessert. You’ve accomplished a challenging feat, something that only occurs when the moon howls at dogs and the ocean boils with cappuccino cupcakes. It’s a rare feeling, one you’ll want to remember–live it up!
When the honeymoon ends, you’ll no doubt consider the implications of your great achievement. If you’re like thousands of other writers, the moment will be hard-won, riddled with multiple rejections along the way. Use your published work as a benchmark, and consider whether the other pieces you’re shopping around have the same potential. Although the individual tastes of each editor will vary greatly, it’s often said that “good writing is good writing.” If you can identify the strengths of your accepted work, you may be able to find flaws in other works (especially those that have been rejected multiple times). You shouldn’t worry about trying to replicate every nuance of the accepted work, but there’s something that brought it to the top of the editor’s pile. Find the magic, and rub it on your other stories.
Never ignore the natural instinct to create. Once your work is accepted, you gain a temporary but powerful ego boost with the potential to inspire another successful story. As a writer, you know that the muse only sings when she’s well-fed, so use your literary high as a rocket to the next level. Writers spend too much time creating works under self-doubt. Don’t miss an opportunity to write from the other end of the motivational spectrum. It’s amazing the quality of work you’ll produce without the specter of uncertainty snickering on your shoulder.
Publication success doesn’t occur with every story. There are some stories we bury deep on the flash drive, hoping they’ll never see the light of another monitor. The key to ongoing literary success is to write, write, write. Success is a great motivator for future submissions, and it should drive us to persevere through the rejections that will inevitably come. Remember, it only takes two or three good publications to break into the market, and if you can keep in the rhythm of writing and submitting, your skill will continue to increase, even if your numbers do not. Publication is a game of grit as much as talent.
So where do you go from here? Celebrate, Consider, Create, and Continue!