On Saturday, I met with three other writers: One good friend I've known for a couple years, one FaithWriters friend I met once before at last year's conference, and one lovely lady who contacted me through Examiner.com and was actually the one who suggested the get-together. Over coffee, breakfast and lunch, we talked writing. It was the best 4 hours I've spent in a long time!
I won't go into our entire conversation (do you have four hours to spare?) but I want to mention something that came up. One of the ladies and I were talking about article submissions. She is frustrated because her article was recently rejected and she's wondering what she did wrong and what she should now do to fix it.
Her question is one I've heard a thousand times from other writers. And it reminded me of a common misconception writers have. The misconception is:
There is one perfect way to write my article in order for it to be accepted, and I need to figure out what it is.
This is so not true.
I can totally relate to the disappointment, frustration, and confusion that comes with rejection. Trust me. I've had my work rejected - many times! Early on in my writing career, yes. The rejections had to do with the quality of work. There are certain aspects of article or story writing that are essential - like grammar, point of view, structure, and the ability to actually make a point well. But now that I have learned how to write better, the rejections, more often than not, have more to do with my article not fitting the current needs of the publication, or that the editor just isn't all warm and fuzzy about my piece. But that does not mean the next editor won't love it.
If every time I got a rejection, I changed my article or story, pretty soon, it would be a mess - not at all like I originally intended it to be. And the truth is, the tone, style, and needs of every magazine is different. Listen: just because your work is rejected, does not mean it's bad. It probably just means it isn't what they're looking for at this time.
Three pieces of advice on submitting:
1. More eyes. Get your article or story critiqued by two or three trusted writers (no, your mother does not count). If one person comments on something they think should be changed or improved, go with your gut. If two or all of them comment on the same thing, go with the consensus.
2. Hit Send. Again. And again. If you get a standard rejection form, which may or may not include a comment from the editor about why your work was rejected - by them - take a couple minutes to wallow, then send it out again. Continue this process until the piece has been rejected at least 5 times. At that point, it may be worth another look at your work. You may want to find three new crit buddies to send it to for review. Not because the others didn't know what they were talking about, but to get fresh perspective.
3. Read those submission guidelines...carefully! Word count, types of articles published, query or full manuscript, editor's name...if you don't follow the guidelines to a T, you will be seen as sloppy and unprofessional. Taking the time to note exactly how to submit may be the key. And it may be what separates the rejected from the accepted.
Now go forth and submit!