Organization: Submission Board

When I have writer’s block, I organize. 
Sometimes it’s furniture, sometimes wall decorations, but often my organizing has to do with my writing. Organizing helps me stay up to date on my projects, reminds me of goals I’ve set, and unearths old stories I once thought were rubbish but now think are quite ok.
My latest organization project is a submission board. 
Submission Zone, still in progress

Separating the Creative Self from the Business Self

I’ve been having a lot of writing anxiety lately – just completely unable to get a first draft done. Today I remembered the advice to separate the creative writer from the business writer. The creative writer writes the stories; the business writer sells them.

I’ve had my submission sheets taped to the wall behind my laptop for the past few weeks, and today I decided to move them – to create two different spaces. One for the creative writer and one for the business writer.

I’m making my desk space, where I create, free of clutter and surrounded by inspiration and encouragement. On the other side of the room is a small bookcase. Inside the bookcase are short story journals that I love to read (both SFF and literary) as well as my rejectomancy and acceptance boxes. Above the bookcase are my submission boards.

I have a few genre stories on submission at the moment, and I’m gearing up for a big submission push once the literary journals open back up in the fall.

Since I’m submitting to both genre and literary magazines, I needed to make two separate systems.

My Genre Submission Board

Genre magazines usually do not allow simultaneous submissions. They have a faster turnaround (some as fast as two days) and usually ask that you do not submit to the magazine again for a certain period of time after being rejected (usually a week or two).

So I need to make sure that I don’t submit multiple stories to one magazine at the same time and also respect the magazine’s guidelines for waiting to submit again.

My SFF submission board is organized by the name of the magazine. I put the names of the stories I’m submitting on post it notes and move them around the board.

There are more genre magazines than I could fit on a wall, but for the purpose of this board I’m sticking with journals that are SFWA qualifying markets (Pro markets), pay at least a token amount, or have an aesthetic similar to my own. I’ve narrowed my initial submissions to magazines that I love to read and where I think my stories would fit.

If I’ve been rejected from a magazine that has a courtesy period, then I put a different colored post it with the date rejected or the date when I can submit again.

I can also use the post its to mark when a magazine is closed to submissions, so I don’t waste time wondering if a story is a good fit.

Submission Board for SFF Stories

This tactic is working really well for me so far. I can see where my stories are at a glance, and it also reminds me of all of the magazines where I’d love to be published. This makes me consider which of my stories might be a good fit for those markets, and encourages me to send them out.

My Literary Submission Board

The submission board for literary stories is a bit different.

Literary magazines usually encourage simultaneous submissions, as the turnaround time can take up to a year. Like genre magazines, multiple submissions to the same magazine are not allowed.

With my literary stories, I need to make sure that I’ve got each story out at several different journals for consideration at any given time. This way they have the best chance of finding the right reader at the right market.

My literary submission board is organized based on the stories that I currently have on submission.

Each sticky note has the name of a journal, with a little “E” or “P” at the bottom to designate whether I submitted electronically or through the post, and therefore where I should be on a lookout for a response.

I’ve also got several journal sticky notes that have a star in the corner, to indicate that the last time I submitted to the magazine I received a “please send us more” or similar encouragement.

I like to think of these submission boards as the volume control. If there aren’t any bars beneath a story title, then it’s too quiet. I need to find some new markets for the story and send it out.

Submission Board for Lit Stories

My submission board is pretty cheap – just printed pieces of paper and post it notes. But one day I might upgrade to a dry erase board or cork board.

I prefer to keep my own submission board low tech, but I bet this would work really well on Kanbanpad or in a simple spreadsheet.

I’m hoping that these submission boards and the separated spaces will help me push through my block. From my desk I can look over my shoulder and see by the colors on my submission board that my stories are out in the world, doing their work. Then I can turn back to my computer and be the creative self who worries about the story at hand.

8 thoughts on “Organization: Submission Board

  1. Nice peek behind the curtain.

    I like that your system is a visible, no-fuss reminder. I use a spreadsheet that I open up when I'm submitting a story or have received a response. I track by story title, market, dates submitted and replied, outcome, rights sold, pay rate, and date published. I'll probably add a couple of more fields, like your encouragement stars.

  2. Wow , I love this system. I just use a spreadsheet on my computer, so it lacks the visual pop that yours has. I also need to devise some way of tracking encouraging responses. I can never remember which places wanted to see more. Great idea!

  3. That's a really good way to do it. My tracking thing is a stack of index cards, but there's no easy way to see which stories are out at a glance.

  4. Thank you Alberto! I like your idea of adding the encouragement stars to the detailed spreadsheet – I hadn't thought of combining elements from the submission board with the nuts and bolts spreadsheet that I keep. WOOT organization!! 😀

  5. Yay! Glad you like it! 🙂 I have a spreadsheet for all of the technical details and to maintain a long-term record, but sometimes the spreadsheet feels like a monument to rejection. I like the submission board because it lets me focus on what's going on with my stories right now and lets me forget about the past. “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.” 😀

  6. Thanks! I'd love to see how you use the index cards. It sounds like a really good way to keep track. One of my organizational downfalls is that I sometimes do too much organizing – too many different electronic files with no hard copy to fall back on.

  7. An explanation:

    Every story gets an index card. It has the title of the story at the top, and on every line, a market. So

    Walking Home
    Asimov's month/year rej
    CW month/year rej
    FSF month/year rej
    DSF month/year rej

    And so forth. They're all in a stack, alphabetical order, and when one goes out I turn it perpendicular so I can see that it's out. It doesn't do as good a job of alerting me to an empty market– and it doesn't acknowledge trunk stories at all– but in terms of keeping track of what's where and when, it works for me. I've never found a way to make a spreadsheet do that.

  8. Ah! I like how the unimportant information (like which stories aren't currently out on sub) falls into the background, but is still easily accessible. This seems like a really excellent model! 😀

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