Blog or Journal? The submitter’s quandary.

I’ve been blogging regularly for almost a year now and it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I try to publish Wednesday/Saturday as a (frequently broken) rule. The discipline is healthy and often forces me to write late into the night or to try to jumpstart the creative process in order to get ideas for stories or articles.

I do, however, find that I am asking the following question of myself on a regular basis:

‘Should I be submitting this to a magazine or journal instead of publishing on my own site?’

It’s never been a question I am particularly comfortable with and I wanted to spend a couple of minutes examining why.

Publishing on my blog is easy. If I can summon the wherewithal to click on the right buttons on WordPress then I am guaranteed a publication. There is no fuss and no-one to tell me that it’s good but that it doesn’t quite feel right for their particular journal. What is more, I get almost instant feedback. I can (and do) watch my WordPress statistics obsessively. Each view feels like a victory, and each like and comment even more so. I’ve met fellow bloggers such as Nadine, Tom Burton, and whenmarsmetsaturn whose work I admire and whose opinion I value. We support each other’s writing and I look forward to their thoughts on my stories.

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Blogging also has the advantage of being easily editable should a typo make its way into the final copy. I can remember my first acceptance for a literary magazine back in 2015. I ordered three copies (bookshelf, framed, one for mum) only to find that the work had been credited to a ‘Michael Richardson’. The editors were most apologetic and immediately changed the online version, but it did take the shine off the experience a bit.

And yet…

There is something intensely satisfying when a journal responds positively to a submission. Somehow it feels like a rubber-stamped vindication of my hard work – the official letter of acceptance for Hogwarts rather than your parents’ assurances that you’ll get in. There’s the undeniable feeling that you have won something. Your work is the work that the editor wants in their publications because your work will help shift copies from the shelves. What an ego boost!

Also notable is the commercial benefit of having your work featured in an established magazine. Having a writer’s bio filled with prior acceptances shouldn’t influence editors when they assess your work, but the human experience suggests that it must. Editors want their journals to be taken seriously, and one of the ways by which they achieve this is by featuring authors whose work has been in magazines more highly regarded than theirs. So it is then that I include my previous acceptances in my writer’s bio, the equivalent of carrying around with me the severed heads of the enemies I’ve slain.

Unfortunately, what magazine submissions lack is exactly what blogging provides. I miss that instant feedback from readers when my writing goes outwith my immediate control. I know that the editor liked it, but what does the reader think? Is my story the one that gets flicked past on the way to something juicier? Also lacking is the control of my writing that I retain when blogging. I have a piece being considered for a website at present that’s been away since the end of November. Thanks to Submittable, I know that it’s been received, but not whether it’s been read, laughed at, mocked, or burned in some editor’s mind. It is a state of ennui that a writer simply doesn’t have to experience when blogging.

As a compromise, then, I try to keep both ends of the candle burning. I always try to have a piece away for consideration at a magazine and I usually have a post scheduled to go out on WordPress. They are different experiences and should be enjoyed as such. I imagine one as going to an awards ceremony like the Oscars – thrilling to get dressed up and walk down the red carpet, but not something you’d want to be doing every day of the week. Blogging, in my mind, is sitting down at your favourite table in the pub by the fire and flipping beer mats with your pals.

blog or journal 3

***Thanks for reading, folks. If any of you have a system for deciding what gets blogged and what gets submitted I’d be fascinated to hear!***

18 thoughts on “Blog or Journal? The submitter’s quandary.

    1. We write using very different processes, so I haven’t seriously considered submitting my work to journals for a while now.
      I treat my blog like a scribbling book. It’s an undisciplined hodge podge… Which is not a good thing, but I have fun doing it… Helps me think

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thank you ever so much for the shoutout! Really loving your stories so far 😀
    I like to keep track of which short stories get positive responses from readers so I’ll earmark them as flash-fics that do their job well – invoking emotions within the reader & drawing them into the story. That’ll give me a much better idea which ones have good potential for getting submitted to a magazine.
    ‘I include my previous acceptances in my writer’s bio, the equivalent of carrying around with me the severed heads of the enemies I’ve slain.’ – this is pretty much everyone’s ‘previous experience’ resume, imo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh I love this SO MUCH! THIS IS THE QUANDARY. And so well written. And I’ve come to the same conclusions exactly. Except for the severed heads. Is that a Scottish thing, lol? Loved that.

    I have only submitted to contests, and I had fun doing it. But then I stopped completely in favour of blogging. I used to be terrified of publishing anything at all, and submitting (about 5 pieces I think) got me past that. Then blogging really got me past that. I too love the immediate feedback and I love the community of writers more than anything. At the time I came from a business background and books like The Lean Startup and quick iterations and Minimum Viable Products and I just felt I needed to test the response waters. Matthew, you were one of the first people who responded here on WP, I really valued your opinion, and it truly felt like a light in the dark.

    Just this morning, I’d thought “I HAVE to give up blogging. It’s far too addictive.” But then here I am again, partly because of you guys! It feels like a writing family.

    I am so, so, so honoured to be listed here on your page. It was such an unexpected surprise, especially while reading a post I love so much, and it warms my heart to no end. Thank you Matthew and thanks also Tom for visiting my blog with your kind comments! You guys are the best. Matthew I hope you keep writing these honest process pieces, very enjoyable reads.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Do both. I use the blog to test my painting – posting it up and looking at it from a different angle and then changing it later perhaps. It also keeps you pushing if you want to keep up a regular work ethic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. On top of which, if you’re trying to build up some credibility as a writer, journal publications help. I’m not sure blogging does, although I also love it. For me, it’s been freeing to write without looking over my shoulder to see (or imagine, to be more accurate) what an editor will think of it. In my however many years of blogging, I’ve learned to be reckless, fast, and funny. But I still value the approval–and even more, the input–of an editor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree it’s the freedom of blogging that appeals to me. I do think though that editors are increasingly looking for writers to have an online presence to allow them some free advertising etc. Like you say though, always nice to have input from someone in the industry!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, the theory is that an online presence means you can publicize whatever they publish. My limited experience (I’ve published one novel since I started blogging) is that it doesn’t hurt but it’s not a magical solution to the problems of promoting a book. I offered some copies free to people who’d promise me a review anywhere–Goodreads, Amazon, their own blogs, anyplace else they could think of. It did give me a solid base of reviews on those places, but I can’t say the book ever broke out. Still, the first step is to interest an editor. Then we can fret about the problems that follow.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not sure where you are. In the U.S., you can get it from the publisher, Kensington: https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/30520. I left a couple of other links on my blog, at https://notesfromtheuk.com/the-divorce-diet/, trying to cover all bases.

    For whatever it’s worth, I believe in troubling the inboxes of editors–as long as you’ve got something you think you’ll still feel good about in a year or two and as long as you won’t be crushed if they don’t accept it, because they may well not, even if it’s good. Their job is to reject us. Don’t do their work for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely agree with that. For me it’s going to be three more years of PhD and as many short stories as I can churn out between the studying. I’ll take on a more substantial project after that. Just had a flick through your interview. What a great idea for a book!

      Liked by 1 person

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