Work never sent out is never finished. Hidden from the world it remains safely (and sadly) on the writer’s shelf. – Priscilla Long
I wrote recently that I altered my writing practice one morning – I sat by a window and penned thoughts on paper rather than staring into a pixelated screen and clacking keys on a keyboard – and the shift electrified me. It shuffled my synapses and portended a heightened level of productivity.
Since that day, I shifted my focus to not just producing more and more new work, but to doing something with all the words I’ve already written. I bought a copy of the 2013 Writer’s Market and devoured the first 180 pages in one sitting. I learned about query and cover letters, how to format a manuscript, how to negotiate contracts, track submissions, build an author platform, use LinkedIn. Then I scanned 400 pages of submission guidelines for consumer magazines, trade journals, and writing contests, highlighted titles that my work might fit, and marked pages with paper clips.
I browsed our library’s periodicals and checked out back issues of magazines to familiarize myself with the work they print. I ordered introductory issues to The Sun and Creative Nonfiction, journals our library doesn’t carry. I studied content on online journals like Brevity, who publishes brief, concise literary nonfiction (less than 750 words) and is happy to work with budding authors.
Then? I began the work of submitting. And have reaped the heightened level of productivity my pen and ink session activated. In the past two weeks I have submitted five manuscripts to online and print magazines, two to my critique group, and one to a blog I follow. And I’ve got four more queued up.
Meanwhile, I check email obsessively, wondering about a manuscript I sent out nearly 6 weeks ago. Waiting for the note that says, “We’d like to publish your work.” To my surprise, the first email I received was not about that 6-week old submission. It was about a piece I sent barely a week ago.
And it was a rejection. I received my first rejection this morning. I felt strangely calm about it as I entered today’s date in the “date returned” column of my submission spreadsheet. Maybe because I’ve known all along that this is part of the process. Writers probably write as much about rejection as they do about writer’s block, and before I began my submission process, I read a particularly entertaining piece by Alexis Paige on The Rumpus – Rejection Sucks and Then You Die: How to Take a Dear Sad Sack Letter (and Shove it). Paige, and every writer I’ve ever read, talked to, shared a critique room with, has prepared me for this first of what will be many rejections.
So though my heart flutters with every new email I receive, now dreading the next “So sorry,” rather than anticipating the “Congratulations” I originally hoped for, I will keep submitting. Today, I will buy envelopes so that I can mail a manuscript to a publication that does not accept submissions online or by email. I will continue through my queue.
I will complete my work.
13 thoughts on “Completing work: the submission process.”
Andrea, when you are published (and you will be published) I will be so proud to have known you when you were involved in your “other” ventures.
Thanks Cinders 🙂
I keep my stack of rejections in a folder titled, “They’ll be sorry one day.” Good luck! I look forward to hearing about your successes too.
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Ha! That’s awesome. I’m going to copy you on that 😀
Good for you! It takes guts submitting work you’ve written. Keep it up.
Guts, or just naïveté. Thanks Tatum.
We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.
Thank you for that reminder, Amy. It’s that inner value that keeps me writing. No other work has satisfied me more (and you know I like work :-D)
My original comment was going to be “Written like a true Virgo!” But I edited myself in favor of one of my gods. 😉
I’m still stuck in the “what the hell do I do with all these words” part. How do you begin organizing everything and figuring out how (and what) to submit?
Well, my 100th post (where I picked a favorite word from my first 100 blog entries) really helped me a lot because it required that I read every word I’ve written here on my blog. As I read each post, I took note of which entries seemed to activate readers, and also which pieces I am really proud of and am still passionate about. I made a long list of favorites, then reread those more closely to figure out which ones could be tweaked to read more like an article and less like a blog post. This became my shortlist of “to submit” pieces.
Once I had my shortlist, I started doing online research of the types of publications they might fit, bought the Writer’s Market book, picked my writer friend’s brain about her knowledge of suitable markets. I follow several journals on Twitter and Facebook – journals that I enjoy reading myself – so I’ve kind of been keeping an eye on the types of writing they typically publish. I read their submission guidelines carefully because some, like Creative Nonfiction, will not accept previously published work (publishing on a blog counts as being published). Then I tried to pair pieces with publications and started submitting.
I’m not sure any of my stuff is a great fit for any of the journals I’ve submitted to, but wanted to get it “off my desk.” I haven’t been able to move forward on new stuff lately because I feel like I’m wading through these piles of words that I want to send out. The Writer’s Market book was really helpful for some of the really basic stuff, like making sure you read the masthead and address your cover letter to a specific editor. For you, I’d check into film magazines, if you don’t already have a favorite that you read.
Thank you very much for the insight into your process. I guess a lot of it is simple courage! Best of luck to you– I’ve no doubt you will be published, and often. Thank you again.
Every rejection is one step closer to an acceptance. I’ve become numb to the rejections and simply insert the date into my spreadsheet as well. However, just yesterday, I received notice that a short essay will be published in an anthology coming out this fall. So I remind myself that I’m further along than I was 12 months ago. Keep it up and don’t forget to give yourself grace.
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