This is an article I wrote this month for the Get Your Words Out online community:
So, you’re fearful of putting your writing out there into the world…
Well, you’re not alone. Every writer experiences anxiety about letting other people read their work. Every writer fears rejection and criticism of their work.
The first thing to do is actually finish something and get it ready to submit. Now, I’m very familiar with the feeling that your writing is never good enough to reach that point. That’s your fear talking, and stopping you from getting to the end of your story. So, focus on the process and not the predicted result. What do you need to do to finish? Break it down into small, manageable steps. Make a list. Work on each stage one at a time, and enjoy the satisfaction of ticking things off.
No story is ever going to be perfect. If you think it can be, you’ll never be able to let it go. So, give up on perfection, but don’t give up on improving. You can always learn new things about the craft of writing, and apply them to your work. But, at some point, you have to declare your story done, and accept that it will never be as amazing as the beautiful, shining vision you had in your mind when you first came up with it.
Now you’re ready to send it out into the world to seek its fortune. But you’re still scared, and that’s okay. Acknowledge your fear, but don’t let it tell you what to do. What are you really scared of, after all? That you’ll send your story to an editor and they’ll reject it? Well, there’s no getting around the fact that this *will* happen. But that doesn’t have to be the end of that story’s life, or your continued life as a writer.
You are not your writing, so don’t take rejection personally. And, also, just because one editor doesn’t take your story, that doesn’t mean nobody ever will. It might not be to their taste (fiction is pretty subjective, you know), or they might have already accepted something similar, or they might just not have space for it right now. The next person you send it to might love it and have just the right place to put it - you won’t know until you try.
At the end of the day, if you submit, your story might get rejected. But, if you don’t, it’ll never get accepted.
One thing you can do is identify places you can submit your work that offer feedback. That way, if they reject your writing, you’ll have some idea why. And, more importantly, you’ll have a way forwards to revise and improve the story so you can send it somewhere else and be more likely to be successful.
These places are few and far between, but they do exist.
Scribble magazine in the UK, for example, prints ten short stories in every issue, and the editor always gives feedback if he rejects something. If he accepts something and prints it in the magazine, the readers then send in feedback that gets printed in the next edition, so it’s a great place to find out what works and what doesn’t work for some people.
For science fiction and fantasy short stories, there’s a website called Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and they also always provide feedback on the stories they reject.
One of my first publication successes came out of a rejection. I submitted a story to a prestigious fantasy anthology and the editor emailed me to say it was a perfectly good story, but not quite what she was looking for, but she said I should certainly submit it elsewhere. So I did, and the next editor accepted and published it!
If you’ll allow me the indulgence of relating more of my personal experience of submitting writing…
Since January 2016, I have made 110 submissions to competitions, fiction sites, anthologies, and magazines. Of those, 24 have achieved some measure of success (competition shortlist or acceptance for publication) - and perseverance is the key!
One of my stories was rejected by five different places before the sixth accepted it for publication. And one magazine rejected three of my stories, before finally accepting the fourth one I sent them. So, don’t give up!
One thing I can tell you with certainty. Rejection hurts - but the pain lessens with every rejection you receive. And acceptance feels amazing - plus, that feeling doesn’t diminish over time. My 24th success was just as sweet as my first, and every rejection now just prompts the question - where else can I send that?
So, take a deep breath - and go for it! You’ll never know what you can achieve until you try.
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