Thursday, May 6, 2010

the making of a rejection

Sending out my writing to various contests and publications is an interesting process. It starts with knowing the publication where the piece is being submitted, their target audience, and so on.

Then I have to figure out (a) if my writing style in general matches this publication, (b) if I qualify for this publication (qualifications and credentials are topic for another day - but for now this may include geographic location, gender, age, alumni status, and so on), (c) if I have a piece I feel fits their publication in general, or for a specific theme or contest, and (d) if I want my piece to do whatever their process is, which may include sitting on their desk for six months before I know, or what type of rights they have/I have, payment/lack of payment, entry/submission/reading fees, and so on.

When I make the decision that all of that is acceptable and I want to submit a piece of writing, the next step is selecting the story or essay or poem. After making sure, of course, that it is not already sitting on some other editor's or judge's desk, which would be a violation of most submission guidelines (simultaneous submissions). Then I may need to reformat the piece so that it matches their guidelines (my name on the piece or not, the title on the top or not, contact information, single or double space).

The next to last step in preparing it for submission is another look over it to make sure it fits and if there is anything that needs to be edited. Hopefully not, but there may be, based on where it is going or I may have a revelation and think "ah ha!" when I look at the story for the ninetieth time. Then I print it or email it or submit it via an online submission tool - whatever the publication requires.

Oh - and pay the fee, either ahead of time and then include a confirmation number or include a check. Or not, if there's no fee.

Then I wait.


Sometimes I hear back from the place I sent the piece of writing and sometimes not. Sometimes the deadline for notification passes without a word: this is generally a definite rejection - except one time when the publication didn't receive enough submissions so they canceled the issue; which was still a "no" except that I don't count that on my list of rejections. Sometimes there is no notification deadline and it's the publication date that passes and the piece isn't in there that I know it was a rejection; check. A few places list the accepted pieces on their website on a specific date, so I can check there to see if I'm in or not, and then know which color to make the line on my spreadsheet.

That's what I do. I have a spreadsheet with what pieces are out where. If it was a general submission or a contest or a theme (and what the theme was). A column for any fees paid. A column for how (and where) it was submitted. And a column for the end result.

Then I color code. It helps me see at a glance how the trend is going. I made the accepted pieces a bright cheery yellow. Easy to see and the loudest on the document. Yay, it screams, I was published! I also use a cloudy gray for those that never let me know - so I know that it wasn't published, and I know next time I submit something to them that I won't hear anything. One gray place I've submitted to six times now; nothing published; not a note from them - and I don't expect it; it would be a cool place to be published and I know they get thousands of submissions, but it's not high on my list of places to submit, partly because of their "gray" status. I know they're busy - and so am I.

Yesterday I received another rejection from a magazine I've submitted to twice now. They get the lavender highlight: a rejection with a note. I know it's not truly a personal note - but it's a note - and it may not be totally generic, I'm not sure. It simply says "this piece was not a match for our publication" and they hope to see more, yada yada; the last one said something like the piece was in the running, but they decided to not use it... So they may have several form letters or it may be information. But this place is lavender in my book and I will submit again.

And I am wondering about that particular story. It's a complicated one in terms of how people react to it. One person called it a farce (which it is totally not; a couple other people were shocked that someone would label it that); several people really like it and "get" it; a few say it's pretty good.

So this writing submission process is complicated. Rejections are fine and expected; a natural part of being a writer. And as I look at the yellows and lavenders and grays (and the other assorted colors for other reasons), I again wonder about this process. Am I not a match? Is the publication not a match? Is this particular story not a match? Would this story match anywhere? If yes (and I think it would, yes, Pollyanna, I do), where?

Submitting writing is not a process with a yes or no answer. That acceptance or rejection is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many factors that go into the specific submission, so a reply - or lack of, when the answer can only be found in the target issue of the publication - releases or binds the writing, but the Why is still to be teased out.

Yes, I have another rejection. Which shows movement of energy related to my writing. I have another piece that is at the printer's right now with the work of other writers (Alltopia's Flora issue). Publication is the goal - and all movement toward that is good. And I still have several stories out there, pending a response - including another one to the big gray magazine.
wait, don't go so fast. (36/365)
by innaminnafly (Inna)
on Flikr