Monday, May 12, 2014

I Have An Inferiority Complex And I Blame The Internet

So recently I was all like, "I'm gonna be a writer! Like for realzzz."

What happened was I found this website. It's called Duotrope. It costs $5 a month so now my granny can't have that operation. But it makes submitting your writing for publication about a thousand times easier.

Submitting is hard, yo. It still kind of sucks, but it sucked way harder before Duotrope.

Before Duotrope, it went like this. Say you wrote a story. Say it's a story about a garden of potatoes who become sentient and they form factions and have a potato civil war.

So first you have to decide what genre your story is. It's fantasy, right? But what's the sub-genre? Is it magical realism? Let's say it's magical realism. (I don't really know that it is, but let's say that it is.)

So you go online and start searching for magazines and journals and e-zines and so forth that publish magical realism. (Let's not even talk about what this was like before the Internet. Ok, let's do talk about it. You had to go to the bookstore and plunk down $30 for a giant phone book-sized thing called The Writer's Market. Then you had to gather to yourself the dark tools of paper and postage: stamps, big-ass envelopes, SASEs, printer ink, standing in line at Kinko's. And let's not talk about what happened when you got confused and bound your story with a staple instead of paper clips and they sent you back a nasty letter in your SASE because you didn't follow their precious fucking guidelines.)

So anyway. You find a magazine that might buy your potato story. Let's call it Potato Stories. But then you read their submission guidelines and realize that you have to reformat the whole thing in a different font, with different spacing, and you have to add new info to the heading. They only want plain text in the body of the email. For God's sake don't send them attachments. And it can't be longer than 3,000 words or they'll call the cops.

And don't forget: you can't submit your story anywhere else while they're reading it. Their average response time, according to their website, is 60 days. (This is pretty common. In real life. Seriously.) So you wait 64 days and get a rejection. A form letter rejection.

Now you have to find another magazine. This one wants attachments, do not put anything in the body of the email for the love of Satan except your cover letter (and please for the love of Athena read some guidelines about cover letters) and make sure it's a .doc and not a .docx because if it's a .docx we'll delete it while we call you names and make a dartboard out of your story and throw darts at it all the time and laugh about how hard you suck. Ninety days later, we'll send you a form rejection.

Now imagine you're going through this process with six or seven - or more! - stories, all at the same time. That's a lot of shit to keep track of. Duotrope does it for you. I mean, you have to do the actual bullshit work of submitting. But you can look at your little submission tracker and be like, "I submitted to Corpse Dirt Review thirty-one days ago. Their average response time is 42 days. I have a few days before they reject me."

The other cool thing Duotrope does is gather data from all the writers who use Duotrope, so you can glance at a market's page and see they take 112 days on average to reply, and reject 99.2% of submissions, and be like, "Fuck that noise." Or, if you're Neil Gaiman or whoever, go ahead and submit.

Anyway I found Duotrope recently, and I decided to start submitting some of the stories I've written over the past several years. I've never really tried to get my fiction published, and I guess it's time.

So why do I have an inferiority complex? Because in researching markets for my stories, I've been glancing through their back issues and discovering this:

There are a lot of writers. Like, a lot. And they are better than me. They are all better than me.

How come when I write things it sounds like a kid wrote it? Or I wrote it for kids? Why aren't my sentences all beautiful and shit? Why don't impressive words come out of my fingers onto the screen? How come I'm a dumbass who can't write?

These are the questions I'm asking myself.

I'll be looking at a magazine online and thinking, "Hey, they might like my potato story!" (This is just an example. I didn't actually write a story about a potato civil war, although now I'm considering it.) And so I'll go to their archives and click on a random story and it will be all breathtaking. It happens every time. It never stops happening.

Just once I want to click on a story title and read

"Help me!" screamed Miranda as she jogged down the freeway, her large breasts bouncing. 
"No one is going to help you!" replied her attacker, subsequently attacking her.

I never see that. I always see the most beautiful shit. It's so frustrating. You have no idea.

Before the Internet, I had no way of knowing all those assholes were out there, writing shit and getting it put online and getting paid for it. And their bios are always like, "Priscilla Varnish-Hurdle has an MFA from Impressive University and a law degree from Columbia just for fun. She has published 4,205 stories in magazines that would impress the shit out of you if you were smart enough to know about them. She has three children who will have better lives because she is their mother. She has lots of progressive viewpoints and Amnesty International headquarters in her breakfast nook. Go to hell."

My bio says this:

Kristen Hatten has no degrees from anywhere. Once, when she was 20, she self-published a "chapbook" of her poetry, which is to say she decorated it with Microsoft clipart, printed it out thirty copies at Kinko's, bound them with staples, and handed them out for free on the street at the Deep Ellum Arts Fest in 1999. Most of the people she gave them to were Hare Krishnas, because she knew they were too nice to say no.

There is no point to this post. I'm just ranting into the void.

This is the part where I take a deep breath and say Fuck It.

(Does this.)

Okay. That's better.


  1. As a perspiring writer writing about a writer writing about writer's writing, I'm inspired. Thank you Queen of Radness.

  2. Kristen, you are one of the few bloggers that can get me to crack up with your writing. You never seem to have a "miss" on your humor. Keep up the great work and hopefully you start seeing dollars flow in!