Advice on Submissions and Rejection and All That Jazz

So I’ve been pretty self-focused lately.  (It’s actually much easier to write a post about whatever randomness is on my mind in a particular moment than it is to look at links I’ve bookmarked and says something coherent about them, so, in sum, I’ve been being lazy lately.)

But, I am, still and always, no one in particular.  (Don’t worry.  In my little personal version of reality I am GOD, so no self-esteem issues in saying that.)

Anyway.  Point being, I thought I’d share some thoughts from other people.  Smart people who’ve accomplished things in the writing sphere.  And since I sent out a few story submissions today, I thought a good theme for the day would be submissions and related topics.

So, without further ado:

What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines by Lynne Barrett posted on The Review Review.  (I don’t think that takes caps, but it looked weird lower case, so…)

It’s a long article, but good.  I just skimmed it again and remembered why I’d bookmarked it in the first place.  So, no quote for you on this one.  Seriously, worth reading all the way through.

Some Rules for Submitting Your Writing by Paul Cosca

I just found this one today on Making Light.  Some good, solid advice.  Be professional, polish your work until it shines, etc.  And why do you polish your work?  Because:

“…as a reader, it’s honestly a little heartbreaking to read a piece that you know has an incredible amount of potential, and still have to pass on it because it’s not ready.”

Don’t break someone’s heart.  It’s cruel.  (And it’s gets you rejected.)

Next: Carrie Vaughn on rejection

As we know by now, this business involves lots of rejection.  It’s part of the process.  What I liked about this post was this little tidbit:

“I imagine some people are asking, how did I keep going?….The answer:  my writing got better.  I could see it getting better ….Well then — Why didn’t I wait to send my stuff out until I was “good enough?”  Answer:  I didn’t know what good enough was.  I thought I was good enough with the very first story I sent out.  I realized very quickly that I wasn’t.  Repeat for ten years and several dozen stories.  Obviously, I was not the person to be judging if I was good enough.  So I sent stuff out and let the editors decide.”

That’s how it works.  You write and you submit and you KEEP WRITING.  You don’t polish one story or novel for ever.  You KEEP WRITING.

And what happens if you keep doing that?  Maybe you turn out like Carrie:

“I made my first pro sale in 1999, ten years after making my first submission.  Now, in 2013, I’m approaching 70 short story sales, plus 15 novels published.”

You read that ten years and you think it can’t really take that long, can it?  Well…yes.  And more often than you’d think.

(I went and depressed myself yesterday by looking at the bibliographies of a few now-successful authors.  It wasn’t pretty.  A high-profile workshop but two more years before first pub (semi-pro) and six more until award-winning first novel pub.  Another who says it was seventeen years before first story publication.  Another with one story pubbed and then nothing for another four years.)

It takes time.  Lots and lots and lots of it.  At least for your average Jack or Jill, which, well most of us are by the sheer law of averages.  (Yes, I did just abuse mathematical principles like that.  There are reasons I transferred from physics to psychology as a major.)

And, finally, the last post to share: Where the Rubber Meets the Road by Rachelle Gardner

I could happily quote most of this blog post, but I’ll just quote this little bit and recommend that you go read the rest of it yourself:

“When your moment of truth comes, remind yourself: They told me it would be hard. This is what hard feels like. I can do this.”

(I bolded that last little bit.  She’d italicized it in the original.)

Bottom line?  Be professional.  Think about what you’re doing and treat it like the professional endeavor it is.  Know that you’re going to get rejected and take it in stride as part of the process.  And, most importantly, keep going.



About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to Advice on Submissions and Rejection and All That Jazz

  1. Keri Peardon says:

    I think it’s hardest when you’re rejected, but you don’t know why (which is typical in American publishing). Is it because the market is saturated or they just don’t do female protagonists (or vampires or stories set in Tennessee), or is it because your opening is slow or your characters flat or your plot too predictable?

    Is it you or is it them (or the market in general)?

    Reading Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog about trying to get published in Ireland, it sounds like it’s common there for agents/publishers to write people back and give them a reason for rejection–even suggestions for improvement! That makes polishing a lot easier, because you know what you need to work on. No feedback at all leaves you wondering if you should keep spending valuable time working on the same thing, or if you just need to query more and start on something new in the meantime.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Good to see you again, Keri. (And sorry to hear about your grandma.)

      Yeah, agreed that it is tough when you get rejected and you have no idea why. My first round of queries to agents not a one asked for a partial or full and one of my friends said, “That’s good. At least they didn’t reject your writing.” My response was, “No, they just hated the entire premise of my book.” But who really knows why they weren’t interested. It’s crazy-making.

      Personally, I’ve gone with the keep moving philosophy. I figure with enough distance, time, and experience I’ll be able to see what it was that made them reject that first piece. And, if not, I’ll have more writing experience and maybe the next idea will appeal to someone somewhere.

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