Saturday, September 13, 2008

Creative Writing Tips: Submitting Manuscript, Coping with Rejection

Submitting Your Manuscript

You have chosen the market, asked for their Writers' Guidelines and produced something appropriate for that market's readers. Now you need to convince the Editor it is worth reading and then publishing.

First Appearances are critical. Use a new manilla envelope, big enough to hold the unfolded manuscript. Include the right postage and a stamped self-addressed envelope. Address it to the correct Department or Editor.

Most Editors prefer a typed rather than handwritten manuscript. It should be double spaced and printed on one side of reasonable quality A4 paper. Pages should be numbered consecutively. As regards fastenings - loose leaves are acceptable provided they are enclosed in a sturdy folder or envelope. Editors generally dislike pins, paper clips or more than one staple.

Enclose a covering letter with your manuscript. The letter should be polite and to the point and addressed to the Editor by name. Make sure you spell their name correctly.

Before you submit the manuscript, proofread it. Check the spelling and punctuation. Spell check programs are very useful but be careful. They may insert words similar to the word you have chosen simply because they do not recognise the original.

If your manuscript looks shoddy, some Editors may not bother reading it at all so at all times be professional.

Multiple submissions are generally discouraged. Some writers submit their work to various publishers simultaneously. If you do this, you should let the Editors know. As a rule, this is done more frequently with novels tahn short stories. Many magazines will blacklist you if they find out you have been sending the same of piece of work to their rivals at the same time.

Editing Your Manuscript

At some point during, or perhaps after the first draft has been written, you will need to revise it. Be objective and be ruthless.

Firstly, remove any sections not relevant to the plot. These may be phrases or entire paragraphs. No matter how well written they seem, they are redundant and a distraction. Check the shape of the story. Does it start at or shortly after a crisis? Are there small crises within the story and a satisfying climax at the end?
Secondly, remove any unnecessary words. Overuse of adjectives and metaphors (as previously mentioned in Part I) can be counter-productive. Ensure the story is consistent, that ambiguities are removed.
Thirdly, read it aloud. The ear is better than the eye at picking up repetitions of words and rhythm.
Fourthly, read the story from start to finish in a quiet environment. If it seems to lag, try removing a further 5%.
If a story is rejected a number of times without comment, take a break from it for a while. When you return to it, flaws may be obvious.


It happens to all writers. Don't take it personally. If you aren't collection rejection slips, you're either abnormally brilliant or you're not trying. Some of History's most famous authors and playwrights collected several hundred rejection slips before their manuscripts were accepted.

There are several reasons why your manuscript might be rejected.

  1. It's awful.
    Okay, noone wants to hear that but sometimes the story simply isn't good enough to publish.
  2. It's a good story but it's not suitable for publication in that particular magazine.
    There could be many reasons for this. They include: inappropriate content, the wrong word count or inappropriate style. Sometimes it is merely that the magazine is no longer accepting unsolicited material. The latter may be seasonal - at certain times of year they have sufficient material , or a general policy - they have their own in-house writers.
    Always check before submitting a manuscript that your intended market actually accepts unsolicited material. This information can be found in The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or in the magazine itself.
    Small tip - if the magazine states it won't be held responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, it probably does at least read them. To a writer, that's as good as an invitation to send something in.
    If the magazine states categorically that no unsolicted manuscripts will be read, it means just that. Don't waste your time and money sending material to these magazines - it will not be read.
    One ray of hope - the story may still be suitable for another magazine.
  3. It's a good story but for whatever reason it doesn't grab that particular Editor.
    Editors are human too and they have likes and dislikes when it comes to stories. Just remember that a good Editor knows exactly what their readership like to read and that is what they'll choose to publish.

      Conversely, there are several reasons why awful manuscripts are published.

      1. The author is already established.
      2. The senior Editor adores the story and pushes it through.
      3. The story was commissioned before it was written.

      What to do if Your Work is Rejected

      Well, that depends on you. On a personal note, I once received six rejection slips during a two day period. Firstly I cried, then I ranted in the privacy of my own house about the stupidity of Editors in general and finally I put the slips away and started writing something new.
      The point is, the Editor is rejecting a piece of work, not your entire ability as a writer. Sometimes they will say why they rejected the story. Don't ignore these comments. They may be valid. If you think they're rubbish, fine, send the story off to another magazine unchanged. If you think the comments are valid, act on them.
      If a story is rejected by a number of Editors, put it away for a while then come back to it. It's amazing how different the story will seem after a period of absence. Flaws may become obvious, in which case you can edit it and send it off again.

      Keep trying. Never give up on a story if you believe in it.

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