After spending years of your life writing a story, you don’t want it to be rejected in the first sixty seconds by an editor. Using pink paper for your novel manuscript submission or dressing like a chicken for your audition on America’s Got Talent both might get you attention, but it is not the attention you want.
How do you avoid the rejection pile and get your writing published?
Let the quality of your written work, and the richness of your singing voice, be what the editors and judges remember. Keep the pink paper for an art project and the chicken costume for a dress up party.
How to Keep Your Writing Out of The Rejection Pile
Rejection happens. Every writer gets rejected. The only way to stay out of the rejection pile completely is to never share your writing (and you should definitely share your writing).
But there are three things that matter if you want to avoid rejection (recognizing you will never escape it completely).
1. Presentation Matters
Follow the rules and guidelines: Research the publication or contest you want to submit to. Like, really research them.Find out what other books the agent has represented, and submit to the agent who represents similar work. Be specific. Your letter is not a mass mailing. You are talking to a person, a specific person.
Stick to the word count. If the publication asks for 750 words, give them 750 words. If they want twelve-point type, double spaced, in Times New Roman, write in twelve-point type, double spaced, Times New Roman.
Format your manuscript to industry standards: indent paragraphs, no line breaks between paragraphs, proper punctuation for dialogue, white paper, and black ink.
Do not send a stained, dog-eared manuscript that was rejected by a different publication. The editor receiving the document may be inclined to think of your submission in a negative way, as in, “No-one else wanted this.”
Noah Lukeman, a literary agent, gives a detailed list of writing errors that will keep an editor from reading your manuscript, in his book, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. The list includes; a weak opening, too many adjectives, and adverbs, telling and not showing, weak characterization, and lifeless settings.
The best way to improve your writing is to write and read. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Read books on best-seller lists. An agent represented them, a publisher bought the book and published it. Read more than one book, read and read and read. Then write and write and write. And read.
The best way to avoid the rejection pile is to read The Write Practice and practice. (smile, right Joe?)
2. Content Matters
When I was a child I watched my cousin Laura iron each individual paper for her writing term paper on the ironing board, she said, “It will give the paper more volume.” She never told me about how to write a strong essay, or what her paper was about. She was concerned about the presentation.
Please don’t iron your manuscripts.
If you are submitting your article online in a digital format, make sure to use the proper file format, and to write in the subject line of the text as instructed by the editor. If they ask you to say, “Hodges_Essay_2017,” then type, “Hodges_Essay_2017”
Make sure you have no spelling errors or grammar mistakes in your cover letter, and in your manuscript. I know that might seem obvious. Of course, you are going to proof your piece. I use the free software, Grammarly, it helps me catch typing errors or missed punctuation. Read your piece out-loud, and your cover letter out-loud. Does it say what you want to say? Does it sound like you? Have a friend read it.
Take time and do not hurry.
There is no such thing as a great writer; there are only great re-writers.
— Noah Lukeman, The First Five Page.
Edit your story for content and for word choice. Editing your work like a New York Times Publisher will help you write precisely and hopefully get your piece out of the rejection pile.
3. Being Brave Matters
It is important to submit your writing. If you are entering a contest, the deadline will help you finish your piece. Every time you finish a story, you are a winner, because you are getting better as a writer with each story you write and finish.
Submitting the story is winning, because you faced rejection and still shared your story.
Right now I am taking a Master memoir class with Marion Roach Smith, we meet once a month for six months. Each of the seven students reads their 750-word piece, and then we offer comments on each other’s work. At the end of the six months, I will have a finished manuscript. I made a commitment to write three to five pages a day five days a week.
Make a plan, follow the plan, and finish an imperfect first draft. Then edit to avoid the rejection pile.
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. — Margaret Atwood
Have you ever been brave and submitted a piece and had it rejected? Let me know in the comments section.
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