On The Agony Of Submission

I realise the title of this post may sound a bit bondagey and discipliney, but it’s not about naughty stuff like that – oh no. I am talking about something that is much more painful than being strapped to a rotating table and whipped with a cat o’nine tails while an unmentionable thing happens on the floor beneath you with a blow torch.

Yes, writers. I am talking about submitting your work. I had another story accepted yesterday. It will be published in a collection of short stories that is coming out next year. Part of me is excited, but the other part is wondering what is going on. I am not used to not being rejected.

I have been rejected a lot. A LOT.  Whenever I get a rejection slip or email or no response at all I fixate on it a bit – ripping the rejected story apart like it is a box full of tissue paper without a present – wondering why I wrote this bit or that bit and lapsing into jaded, self-critical mode until my hair almost falls out.

It is often very hard to ascertain why something is rejected. You could analyse your work to death and never come up with the answer. Often, it is to do with publishing schedules and the expectations of editors rather than the work itself. Your story or poem may be well written and may be of merit but it just doesn’t fit what the publisher needs at the time. That makes sense, of course, but when you have been rejected 45 times in a row it is hard to see anything about it that appears sensible.

There is an interesting link between the two stories that were accepted. Often there will be guidelines that have to be followed with submission. You might have to follow a theme or a prompt or write about a particular subject. These guidelines can both aid and impede the creative process. Another thing that can act as an aid or an impediment is reading about the magazine you are submitting to or in the case of a writing competition, reading previous winning entries. Doing that can sometimes place a format for writing in your head that you feel you must follow.

Both of my accepted stories followed the F*ck it format. I was reading all the guidelines, was in a bit of a bolshy mood and thought : Bollocks to that. I’m writing what I want. I followed the basic theme and just went for it. Usually, there is a small part of me that writes what I think the editors or publishers will want to hear and I can see how that might dilute the colour in my work. I wrote what I wanted. I was passionate about it. It meant something to me. And most of all I didn’t care if someone else liked it or not (at that moment.) I only cared that I liked it.

Have I discovered a formula that might lessen the grip that old crone Rejection has on my shoulders? I have no idea. All I know is that in writing what I really wanted, in the way I wanted, my voice became clearer.

So I want to say to you – Don’t be afraid to be yourself as a writer. Don’t be afraid to be passionate and to write with conviction. Don’t be afraid to write about what you want to write about. I cannot guarantee by doing that you will be accepted every time but I can guarantee you will feel better about what you have written and about yourself. And maybe, if Rejection still manages to steal into the room, her withered, abrasive fingers will sting a little less.

Keep writing.

Keep submitting.

Be who you are.

And take the agony out of putting those stories and poems in envelopes and sending them out into the world.

I know you can do it.

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29 thoughts on “On The Agony Of Submission

  1. Will calls it the Law of Attrition. You’ve worn the Universe down with your Awesomeness and now you’re reaping the rewards. I’m so happy, lady. Yay! Dance of writerly happiness!

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  2. Well of course, we must always be who we are–letting our own authentic and unique voice be heard…. that’s what’s called INTEGRITY! And it’s so much easier to write what we want and then look for someone who appreciates THAT, rather than always trying to play the chameleon!
    So congratulations again!
    (And remember, each rejection only makes that eventual acceptance sweeter!)

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  3. Hi Selma,
    Congrats again and well done. I really admire you for sticking to your guns so to speak and continuing to submit your writings. It’s great that you didn’t let the rejection slips stop you from something that you love to do.
    You took up the challenge and kept on going 10 out of 10 for that. 🙂
    Footnote:-
    I wonder how many hits you will get from people that are actually looking for the bit of bondage. 😆

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  4. I used to have quite a collection of rejection letters, back in the days when we actually sent hard copy to each other. My favourite was:

    ‘ …. unfortunately, I have just accepted a piece on the same subject. Which is a pity, because your article is much more in line with what I was looking for …’

    I don’t have them any more. I donated them to an artist/writer friend doing a project called ‘Writers’ Block’ … a transparent cube, filled with rejection letters contributed by her friends. Last I heard, it was at an exhibition in Manchester …

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  5. I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am that you’re being accepted. Your writing is amazing and lyrical. I’m glad you’re using your true voice, for that is the one that leaves your readers begging for more.

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  6. Congrats again – let me kiss your feet 😉 I think you are definitely on to something – too many restrictions, especially our own monologue in our head, will stiltify (is that a word) work – I love it when you write like someone with ADHD (like your guest post for me, which was hilarious), thoughts going all over the place but still interconnected in your genius way. Hope these successes will motivate you even more (where’s the novel 😉 ).

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  7. I’m not one bit surprised, I knew it had to happen sometime, the law of averages demands it. But yea I can see how writing how you want and not what you think others want make it clearer. A zillion congrats girl, you deserve it and if that’s all it takes….well you got the magic formula now!! I too look forward to the NOVEL lol

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  8. SQUIRREL,
    We definitely need the T-shirts. It’s really hard to adopt that philosophy when you first start writing, I think. You’re so worried about how you’re perceived all the time. It’s like being the new girl in school. It’s quite freeing to know that what you say and how you say it is good enough. YAY!

    HEATHER,
    I like that. Law of Attrition. And you make a very good point about wearing the Universe down which is DON’T GIVE UP. If it’s really what you want to do and something won’t stop you from doing it – then GO FOR IT!!!!

    TIMOTEO,
    Oh, you are so right. Integrity all the way. I know a lot of writers who play the chameleon and while they get stuff published I think they lose their voice a bit. It’s also quite tiring to constantly be changing the way you write. And acceptance does make the rejection sweeter. So far this year I’ve been rejected 40 times but at least I have kept submitting and writing. And maybe I can adapt the rejected pieces into something better. That’s how you have to look at it!

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  9. MAGS,
    You will not believe this -so far I have had over 200 hits related to the bondage thing. Isn’t that hilarious? A guaranteed way to bring more traffic to your site is to mention porn-like things somewhere. What a crazy world we live in 😆

    TRAVELRAT,
    That exhibition is fabulous. What a brilliant idea. I would’ve loved to have seen it.

    You got a rejection letter with a sweetener that was really a stinger – ‘we liked your piece more but we’e still not going to publish it anyway’ *blowing them a virtual raspberry*

    KAREN,
    Of course I don’t mind. I just wish I was more organised and wrote some more stuff for A Novel Place. I need to hire a whip cracker. My mind is too scattered!

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  10. GABRIELLE,
    I have quite a bossy monologue in my head that I feel restricts me more than it should. I had a convo with a friend of mine the other day who writes romance novels (and hates romance novels) but just does it for the money. She says that monologue is constantly there but she likes it because it helps her to do her job, but if she wanted to branch out and write something different she probably couldn’t. The whole process of writing is so different for everyone and is something I find very interesting.

    I love writing the ADHD stuff. That is actually how I talk. It’s quite weird and wild. My son does it too. We’re very sort of free form and we cover a wide variety of subjects in a short space of time. Oddly enough, there always is a link. I don’t know how we got this way. At least we always have something to say 😮

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  11. CATHY,
    You are one of my biggest supporters and I want you to know how grateful I am. You are one of the nicest, coolest people I have met online. I’d hug you right now if I could ♥

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  12. This rocks! Not only for you getting two stories accepted (hooray you!), but what you have to say about the lesson learned. I will point my current students to this post.

    Ps – you know those boats you tweeted about a little while ago? I think you should make them out of rejection slips.

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  13. I think like that (the way you say you and your son talk) but can’t usually get it down on paper in time – and then it is gone with the wind. Wouldn’t it be good if we could record our thinking, like an MP3 track – haha. Thanks for linking to my poem 🙂

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  14. JENNIFER,
    I really like to share any insights I gain into this whole writing thing because it’s hard to get somewhere, you know? And if we can all help one another, then we should. I would love if your students visited me. What an honour!

    That is a fabulous idea. I have one particular rejection slip in mind. It’s going in the water and the mud!!

    GABRIELLE,
    Getting it down in time can be tricky, for sure. You often lose several trains of thought along the way. That’ll be Apple’s next product – iThink. I can just see it. The Thought Police are closer than we all think 😯

    Porn is a funny thing in blogging. When I first started blogging I wrote a completely harmless post that included me licking an ice-cream. You would not believe the number of hits I got on that post concerning ‘ice-cream porn.’ I didn’t even know there was such a thing. To date ‘ice cream porn’ is still my biggest search engine term.

    Blogging – it’s an education!!!

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  15. wonderful! this, and the eureka award (not surprising that it happens to be that word ‘eureka’) Soo great to see the opening of avenues by being yourself come to life with some steady traffic
    in a sort of energy-packed risk taken, and even more heartening to see the breakthrough. just all ways lovely and exciting. its true, there’s a certain stride that must continue, nothing wrong with being grateful though. but i think it is the very special voice you have that perked up the ears of the collective and i cant blame them, i mean, they done good, i mean, i can see it, and obviously you can do it! yay!

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  16. TIPOTA.
    The EUREKA part appealed to me too. It is a bit like finding gold when you get a story published. Thank you so much for your support – you are a lovely person. I really like your phrase – ‘energy packed risk taken.’ That’s what it’s like. You have such a wonderful way of putting things. You rock!

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  17. Congratulations again, girl. You’re on a roll. i’m so glad the editors are appreciating your writing the way we do.

    I also want to thank you for your kind words on my current blog post, …Ever After. Thanks in part to that encouragement, and to your words of wisdom in this post, I sent something out yesterday.

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  18. PATTIKEN!!!! I am thrilled to hear that. That was a fantastic story. I am delighted. I hope you get a positive response, I really do. Good on you. It has made my day to hear that!

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  19. Sooo happy for you Selma!! I love your theories and they sound perfectly right to me! And your guidelines can certainly be applied to many aspects of life. I used to write a blog that just wasn’t “me”. It was a good experiment but upon starting my current blog I knew I wanted to keep it real to me and not blog something just because it is trendy or expected etc. As a result it makes it a beautiful corner that I love being a part of with visitors. Thank you for visiting too. I truly hope more “f*ck it” success comes your way! 🙂

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  20. Selma, I am JUMPING for JOY!

    “I had another story accepted yesterday. It will be published in a collection of short stories that is coming out next year.” That is awesome!

    “All I know is that in writing what I really wanted, in the way I wanted, my voice became clearer.” AND THAT is FUCKING AWESOME!!

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  21. LUCENT IMAGERY,
    I love your blog. It really appeals to me and the photos are fabulous! I Love that you are doing a blog that is real to you. I am giggling aboit my rather ‘colourful’ turn of phrase. Hahaha.

    FORNORMALSTEPFATHERS,
    Fair point. Haha.
    Resilience is very important. You’ve got to be able to go with the flow!

    MELEAH,
    Thank you for your constant support throughout the years. I couldn’t have kept writing without you ♥

    CECI,
    Thank you so much. And please keep on writing. I appreciate the visit!

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  22. Oh wow! Congratulations dearest! That is wonderful news and I’m so pleased for you. I hope this run of acceptances continues indefinitely.

    I’m slowly catching up again. I threw caution to the wind and started a new novel and have been lost in the heady days of early romance as I start to get to know a new story. It feels quite illicit, like an affair. Very thrilling.

    Love ya. xxx

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    1. Glad to hear you have trhrown caution to the winds and have started a new novel, Daoine. I am so excited for you. I really look forward to hearing a bit more about it. I love the illicit part – I GET that, oh yeah, I really do. Hope it continues to go really really well for you ♥

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