Friday, October 9, 2009

The Submission Process

It was nice to see Neil Gaiman on Twitter sweating over whether one of his stories was going to be accepted. Granted he only waited one day, but still, its good to know established writers, well rock star status writers, still have to sweat it out.

Which brings up the whole issue of submissions, rejections, acceptances. As a writer, I still get a little bummed out when I get a slew of rejections, as any writer does (maybe not folks like Gaiman) but as an editor, knowing the other side, I want to writers out there, especially writers new to the whole submission process, to not take rejections personally.

Many of the stories I reject are not simply due to quality, but more due to how they fit into the way a magazine is shaping up. If I get a slew of Sci-Fi stories and no horror or fantasy, I'll have to reject good Sci-Fi stories just so I'll have a balance. If I'm doing a seasonal issue such as a Halloween issue I might go heavy on accepting horror. But new writers always feel like its their fault their story is rejected and often that's not the case. Sometimes its a matter of style, sometimes a simpler matter of space in the publication.

The best thing I advise, as many writers before me have advised, when you send a story or poem or manuscript off, forget about it and go write more. Don't keep checking your e-mail box. Use Duotrope to keep track of your submissions, follow the markets' writers' guidelines and develop a thick skin. Research your market and make sure your work fits.

When an editor rejects your writing - they are not rejecting you as a person. Step away from your writing. When you get to the submitting point you've turned it into a business.

Magazines are innundated with hundreds, even thousands of stories per issue and only have room for 4 or 5. Many rejections are perfectly good stories. If an editor makes a suggestion for changes, even though rejecting the story, don't take it as a slam, but as a helping hand from an objective reader. After all that's what editors to - they present your work to their readers and they know better who they are than you do.

If an editor accepts your story, but suggests changes, don't blindly accept them, if you can argue a valid reason why you don't want a change or edit, a good writer will listen. Afterall, we are limited in our scope and writing evolves quickly. New styles of writing may stymie an editor who hasn't been exposed, but its often that kind of writing which ends up becoming classes, winning awards like The Pushcart Prize or The Booker Prize. So editors need you - the adventurous writers to teach us these new developments.

1 comment:

  1. I was very fortunate in that I developed that thick skin against rejection when I began applying for full-time jobs when I turned 18. After taking a rejection particularly hard, a friend looked me solid in the eye and said: "The worst they can do is say No."

    And that's stuck with me. They say No. That's it. I walk away, move on, and do my own thing. No can't harm me in the long run. It may suck, it may be for something I really wanted, but it just means I have to try again.

    When it comes to my writing, however, I'm still terribly shy about it. I've rarely heard anything bad about my writing (all I can expressly recall is one person who hated it when I went through a period of not using pronouns and merely using descriptors of a person), just creative, loving advise. Despite that, I still get such nerves when I show things to someone else.

    I saw the same from Neil Gaiman and it made me feel better. Even the great writers have days where they just don't feel good enough. It means I'm alright. It means I can do it.


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