This month on From a Cabin in the Woods we are featuring Submitting Your Work by A. E. Decker

A. E. Decker is a former ESL tutor, tai chi instructor, and doll-maker. She holds degrees in English and colonial American history. Her Moonfall Mayhem series, chronicling the adventures of a half-vampire girl run amuck in the land of fairytales, is published by World Weaver Press. Her stories have been published in Fireside Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and PhobosMagazine, as well as in numerous anthologies. She has been a member of the Bethlehem Writers Group since 2010, and edited two of their anthologies. Like all writers, she is owned by three cats.

 


Submitting Your Work

A. E. Decker

 

I’ve come around to the belief that the real bugaboo of a writer’s world is not that dreaded phantom, writer’s block, nor even learning to take criticism without curling in a ball and weeping.

The very hardest part about being a writer is submitting your work. I’ve watched a lot of friends twist themselves into contortions trying to avoid it. One man I worked with in a critique group refused to hear any recommendations for his perfectly saleable military sci-fi novels, saying “he only wrote for his own enjoyment.” I have one friend who insists she doesn’t know how to write a query letter, and another whose work always needs one more revision before it’s ready to show to an editor. Speaking of query letters, I also know plenty of writers who spend more time agonizing over the perfect writing that will infallibly catch the agent/editor’s eye than they do on the work they’re submitting.

I’m not excusing myself from methods of submission avoidance, either. I have a formula worked out for short story queries, so I can whip them off pretty quickly, but I rarely refrain from dabbling with my work before submitting it, fiddling with a few lines here, adjusting the grammar there, as if these miniscule changes will somehow make all the difference in the editor’s mind. And, as far as novels go, present me with a perfectly good market that requires a summary as part of its conditions, and I’ll find any excuse to procrastinate until the deadline passes rather than think “Hooray! This might be someone who’s actually interested in reading my book.”

Why is submitting so hard? Surely most of us—the man from my critique group aside—write in the hopes of someday having people read our work, and unless we’re ready to go the self-publish route, that means finding someone to represent us.

I think the answer can be summed up in a single word: rejection. Rejection is harsh. The mere term carries many connotations. We equate it with Not Good Enough. “Loser” and “failure” might even drift through our cringing subconsciouses. We envision the editor/agent as some mighty judge on high, handing down the final word on our literary merit.

Of course it’s all nonsense. Editors and agents are as much flesh-and-blood people we are ourselves. People have their own tastes. As much as we all want to write that one great novel that transcends genre and is beloved by all who read it, we have to recognize that it isn’t possible. I personally would have rejected The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and anything written by Ernest Hemmingway, if I were an editor, and I bet half of you nodded along with that list, and the other half substituted your own choices.

So, what does this mean, when it comes to dealing with rejections? Am I suggesting that the next time you receive one of those form letters you should shake your fist at the screen, shouting: “You fool! You just turned down the next Herman Melville!”

Actually, yes, if it sounds like fun, and doesn’t scare your cats or members of your family too badly. Because getting a rejection, even a form rejection that tells you nothing of the editor’s true thoughts, means that you submitted. You took a chance. And I can tell you, personally, through the carnage of hundreds of rejection notices, that submitting is mostly a number’s game. It’s not about polishing your writing until it’s “good enough” to be published; it’s about managing to put it in front of a person whose taste matches your style.

Think about it: you only really have to appeal to one person, so long as it’s a person with the ability to publish you. Suddenly, the eighteen varying opinions in your writers’ group don’t seem so weighty. (That said, if they all agree on an aspect of your work, you likely have a problem.) With this thought in mind, submitting becomes more of a hide-and-seek game, searching out that one agent or editor who thinks your writing is marvelous. Yes, they are out there somewhere. It’s up to you to find them.

So stop fussing with your story or novel, trying to make it “perfect.” Take a breath, make a list of agents or publishers, and get to work. Keep records of who sends you encouraging feedback—they might like your style, if not the piece you sent them. Most importantly, remember submitting isn’t like the lottery; you will win if you just keep playing.

 

And until then, you can yell at your screen. Just don’t scare your cats.


About BWG
About BWG
The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (BWG), founded in 2006, is a community of mutually supportive, fiction and nonfiction authors based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The members are as different from each other as their stories, spanning a range of genres including: children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.

SalSally Paradysz wrote from a book-lined cabin in the woods beside the home she built from scratch. She was an ordained minister of the Assembly of the Word, founded in 1975. For two decades, she provided spiritual counseling and ministerial assistance. Sal completed undergraduate and graduate courses in business and journalism. She took courses at NOVA, and served as a hotline, hospital, and police interview volunteer in Bucks County, PA. She was definitely owned by her two Maine Coon cats, Kiva and Kodi.

Sal is missed by all who knew her.


65 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU RETIRE

Buy now!
65 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU RETIRE
70 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU TURN 70

A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER

Buy now!
A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST

FROM SCRATCH

Buy now!
FROM SCRATCH

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN
×
The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (BWG), founded in 2006, is a community of mutually supportive, fiction and nonfiction authors based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The members are as different from each other as their stories, spanning a range of genres including: children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.
Latest Posts
  • Veronica Jorge says:

    Thanks for the encouraging words and cheering us on. Ra, ra ra!

  • Neetu Malik says:

    Good advice, Ann. I may be one of those people who is hesitant to send my work out to new publishers and prefer to stick with the journals and magazines that have already published my poetry, which also can be limiting. I think, quite often, the fear of rejection prevents us from submitting. I know I struggled with that for a while, though I think I have become bolder about that lately. Thanks for nudging us to submit!

  • Well said! I swear sometimes there’s an invisible dome over the send button. The closet I am to the story, the harder the shield.

  • Dianna Sinovic says:

    Yes, a good reminder, Ann. I need to sit down with my stack of short stories and start submitting!

  • DT Krippene says:

    A great reminder on not letting the query process let you down. Thanks Ann.

  • Copyright ©2017 A Slice of Orange. All Rights Reserved. ~PROUDLY POWERED BY WORDPRESS ~ CREATED BY ISHYOBOY.COM

    >