It’s summer. We have more hours of daylight which boosts my energy. I feel that I accomplish much more in the summer because the days are longer. So, I went through another pile of files and papers on my desk (I have four I go through periodically) and found again the notice for the North Street Book Prize (“Your self-published book can win up to $1,500 plus expert marketing services”) that I’d printed out last March. The deadline is June 30 and the entry fee is a somewhat hefty $50. I’ve been debating with myself about entering this contest. It’s been drifting in the back of my mind….
Then I read Damyanti’s take at Daily (w)rite about how men vs. women writers respond to a “positive” rejection, i.e. one that rejects the submitted work but asks to see something else the writer has written. I’m not sure a gender difference in approach is that pronounced, actually, although I think there’s a learning curve for dealing with rejection. Male or female. I tend to not think too much about a rejection anymore — an editor or agent could have so many different reasons for deciding to pass on the piece ranging from disinterest in the genre to being swamped with work — unless it comes with a note of some kind. Then I pay attention to what the editor or agent has written. I’ll think about it for days before deciding whether or not it’s applicable, and then whether or not I’ll take action on any suggestions.
What to do if the editor/agent requests to see something else? If I have something to send, I send it within a week of receiving the request. As they say, “hit when the iron is hot!” Wait longer and the editor/agent may not remember me or my work or her request. If I don’t have anything to send, I agonize. What to do? Earlier in my career, I did nothing, especially if I wasn’t working on anything I might be able to send at a later date. Now, I think I may write the editor/agent a thank you note, handwritten, of course, and not an e-mail or text message. I want to stand out with this person. I want to be memorable in a positive way. I want to begin a relationship with this person, even if it’s just the beginning of one because publishing is all about relationships, right?
Then I thought about my fiction. What do I have completed that I could submit? And why haven’t I been submitting lately? What are the most common reasons for not submitting writing to editors and/or agents?
- Fear of rejection: You can’t be rejected if you don’t send anything out. But if you’re going to be a professional writer, you need to make peace with the fear. Confront it. Wrestle with it. Stand on its chest and howl. You control your emotions and how you think about this. You can choose to think of rejection as an opportunity to try a different market, or an opportunity to make the piece better. An important point to remember: rejection in the writing business is NOT about the writer. It’s about the written work that was submitted and is as impersonal as the submission process should be.
- Fear of success: The flip side does exist for some people. It can be just as crippling. Success and the recognition, attention, etc. that it brings can be a very scary thing with which to deal. Overwhelming. It’s important to have a solid network of friends and/or fellow writers who can support you and help you keep your head screwed on straight when you succeed. It’s amazing how the confidence level increases with that kind of support.
- Lack of confidence: This is “full of doubts syndrome.” You just have no sense of whether or not your writing is “good” or publishable. This is where trusted readers can be quite helpful, i.e. people whom you trust to be honest in their feedback and are good readers. Having said that, doubt can be a good thing, too. Doubt can be a force behind the drive to write the best that you can, i.e. doubting it’s good enough so always looking for ways to improve the writing. This can be taken to the extreme, however, so don’t get carried away.
- Lack of completed writing to send out: This is where I’m at right now. I have a couple short stories that are sort of done but I suspect could benefit from a close reading. I’d actually planned to self-publish them as short stories on Amazon eventually rather than submitting them to magazines. One is a horror story (at Wattpad here) and the other a sci fi story (at Wattpad here). Feel free to read them and leave feedback! I also have another sci fi short story idea that pushes against my mind occasionally, nagging at me to write it. I do have a self-published novel that I could submit to the North Street Book Prize, though.
As Damyanti says in her blog post, “Writing, and acceptance for publication are two different things. Writing is from a white-hot place of emotion, then pruning from a place of balance. Submitting for publication is just where the process ends — just like cooking ends at the table, and in someone’s stomach.”
Professional writers submit their work for publication, and they continue to write…because they must.