You did it! You wrote that story. You sat down there in front of that accursed word processor and opened up a soul-vein. Your soul poured out of it like an artistic geyser of prosaic verbosity, blasting plot, character development, and witticism into the greatest story ever written by un-unaided mortal. More than that, you found someone to send it to. Someone who says they like character driven stories. Someone who has a professional looking website. And you sent your baby off.
…And you waited…
You're response: a form rejection letter.
Thank you for submitting your story, but I'm afraid it just doesn't work for us. It's not you, it's me. Really. You've got a very special editor out there, alone in the world, who can appreciate your story for who it truly is.
What? Didn't they read it? Stupid editor probably went for some leather wearing, motorcycle riding, bad-boy story. Some manuscript who wears dark sunglasses and treats editors like Chihuahua poo. How dumb could that editor be? I mean, they say they like character driven stories, but look at that other Labrador doodoo they publish? Editors never say they want what they really want. Nice stories finish last. It's time to go home, drink and prepare your story for a life as an old cat lady.
But wait…it doesn't have to be this way. This story is a good story. But what can you do? Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and meet that agent your mother always talks about. Or perhaps internet or speed dating?
Internet or speed dating? Durn right!
It's time to go eHarmony on those b$#@tches.
While it may be inappropriate to ask out every dude at a bar, that strata"gem" will only help you in the attempt to shop around your writing.
What we need is a system. We need to email out that manuscript like it’s a snuggie on the QVC. We need to turn your home computer into a spam server that will make lolsec look like an 85 year old AOL user.
The first step is to make a list. Find a slew of Agents/Publishers where you can send your manuscript. You can find them with Google, a website like duotrope, a Writers's Guide from a semi recent decade, or any other source. Then map your story's path. That's right, assume rejection. Be ready for it. Relish it like it's Laura's Crème Brulee. If the editor rejects it, pass it on through to the next one in line. Unless they give you some advice on how to improve the story, or you see a problem, send that puppy right back out there into the rain. Keep those birds in the air. Don't let that story sit un-submitted for more than a day. Simultaneously submit whenever possible.
…And write more! The biggest lie about publishing you'll read on the internet is that it isn't an odds game. Well, maybe not if you're already a fancy schmantsy uber writer, or if you're so bad your work gets rejected from fan fiction websites. For the rest of us, there are many editors which would say no to our stories, and a handful who would buy them. You've got to find the handful amidst the unappreciative masses.
Don't wait with just one. Keep writing and keep learning, and then get those birds in the air.
As a personal example, I calculated that if I were to only submit one story at a time, that I would have to wait nearly three years in-between short story publishing. With ten stories in the air I get one published every three months.
On the internet they'll tell you trite things like "don't take it personally." Pansies! Rejection is weakness leaving your manuscript, what doesn't corrupt your computer's hardrive makes your story stronger. Get back out there on that horse and date the prom queen! Get your story a motorcycle and sunglasses. And whatever you do, under no uncertain circumstances, don't stop writing—or get drunk.*
*Unless you've had your work rejected by a fan fiction website. Then it's time to start drinking.