Dear Alexandra: Thank you for your submission. We find that your piece "Better Than Your Easter," does not fit our content guidelines at this time..."
It's Monday morning, the day I take all the submissions I have in drafts and prepare them for launch. I sit with my cup of coffee and a few lemon oreos at my side, and I begin sending out my work. Each one hopeful, but I'm also realistic. Rejections have made me that way, and are something I've gotten used to.
The list of the places where I submit my writing grows every month. It's a complicated process, I study the site to see the type of work they like, I prepare a first draft, second draft... I work on pieces that I feel are eternally relevant and I also stay up until 3:00 in the morning when I feel a topic is going to be hot the next day.
People have told me that they couldn't take the number of "Nos" that I get back. I see it this way, if you don't submit, no one sees your work. And so I send in my words. I note word count requested, my cover letter is double checked to make sure the editor's name is spelled correctly, I introduce myself so a hint of my personality comes through. Any honors or accolades I've picked up along the way, I mention briefly, as proof that I've done this before.
Rejection is part of submission. I've learned things from watching the work that is published on the sites I shoot for. And I have a checklist on the front page of a notebook I keep solely for writing tips. It's filled with bullet point items that I go through, line by line, making sure I've got them covered before I cross my fingers and then hit send.
I'm sharing my checklist here, hoping you find a place for your words so you can, with luck and dedication, feel the joy that comes with an email that begins, "Thank you for your submission! We're interested in your piece..."
Those words are worth the price of rejection.
1.) Study the site you want to write for. Learn the style they like and the topics that are most popular there. Go to their SUBMISSIONS PAGE and stick to the guidelines like your life depends on it. Word count is word count and double space is double space. You're no exception.
2.) See if you can get a direct contact or specific name of an editor of who would be in charge of your area of interest, and your genre of submission. BE SURE TO SPELL THEIR NAME CORRECTLY. Every last letter.
3.) Always include your name, address, email, blog link, twitter handle, word count, and title. Sounds obvious, but it's easy to focus on your piece and just send that in... with no information on who you are.
After you've done the above, which is the expected, that's when you're ready for:
*THE ESSENTIAL *
--Your voice must be present. You have to listen to your work and hear yourself in it. Otherwise, it won't hold any editor's interest. If there's humor, it has to make you laugh. If it's heartbreak, that pain in your chest must be translated. Make your words as clear as a knife ringing against the rim of a glass. Be strong in your style. Now is not a time for what I call "safe writing."
--Details must be alive. Work them in richly, along with your senses. Keep a note close by to remind yourself, can I see it? smell it? taste it? hear it? touch it? Bring things to life in the reader's mind so they smell the fish burning in the frying pan as you rush to your child that fell from his high chair.
--Fling your words like it's your last shot to snag that branch and pull yourself out of the icy creek you just fell through.
After you've written like a wild woman who finally gets to talk to someone after being alone for a year, stop - breathe -- and check for:
A.) Accuracy in punctuation and spelling . (Typos, misspellings, grammar errors -- are never acceptable.)
B.) Organization and logical flow. (Does the order make sense? Can you see how one thought leads to another?)
Lastly, always always and always read once, twice, three times. Then read it aloud one more time before you hit send. Because we all know the magic of hitting send: it's when your typos appear.
Good luck, and I wish you all happy emails.
P.S. Rejection just means polish it up a little. And no, for now. But I'll be back...
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