How to Overcome The Fear of Submitting Your Fiction
About the Author: Annie Percik
Annie Percik lives in London with her husband, Dave, where she is revising her first novel, whilst working as a University Complaints Officer. She writes a blog about writing and posts short fiction on her website (www.alobear.co.uk). She likes to run away from zombies in her spare time.
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. Today, I’d like to help you overcome these fears by sharing insights gained from my own submission experience.
Step #1: Finish a project.
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, stopping you from getting to the end of your story.
To overcome it, 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.
Step #2: Learn not to take rejection personally.
Now you’re ready to send your project 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.
Also, just because one editor doesn’t take your story doesn’t mean nobody ever will. Your story may not be to their taste (fiction is pretty subjective, you know), they may have already accepted something similar, or they may not have space for it right now. The next person you send it to may 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 may get rejected — but if you don’t, it’ll never get accepted.
Step #3: Submit wisely and seek feedback.
Always make sure the place you’re submitting your story is suited to what you’ve written, and always follow guidelines carefully. The last thing you want is for your story to be rejected because you didn’t use the right font; editors will use any excuse to whittle down their submissions. You also want to increase your chances by reading the kind of thing they generally accept, or at least checking what genres they publish.
Another thing you can do is identify places you can submit your work that offer feedback. That way, if an editor rejects 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. For example, Scribble magazine in the UK 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.
Step #4: Revise, resubmit, and Persevere.
If you struggle with coming up with new story ideas, find competitions or anthologies that have specific requirements. This is a great way to generate ideas and motivate you to finish stories since it gives you a theme, a word count, and a hard deadline.
If you aren’t successful, don’t assume that means your story is no good. Just because you wrote it for a specific submission call doesn’t mean you can’t send it elsewhere. There are plenty of publishers looking for great work. If you get a rejection, run through your story again to see if there are any parts you can improve, then find somewhere else to send it.
One of my first publication successes came out of a rejection. I submitted a story to a prestigious fantasy anthology and the editor emailed to say it was a perfectly good story, but not quite what she was looking for. She encouraged me to submit it elsewhere. So I did, and the next editor accepted and published it.
In the last three years, I’ve made nearly 300 submissions to competitions, fiction sites, anthologies, and magazines. Of those, forty submissions have achieved some measure of success (competition shortlist or acceptance for publication), which is one in seven or eight submissions. 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 I sent in. So, don’t give up!
One thing I can tell you with certainty: rejection hurts, but the pain lessens with every rejection you receive. Acceptance feels amazing, too, and that feeling doesn’t diminish over time. My fortieth success was just as sweet as my first, and every rejection I now receive simply prompts the question “Where else can I send that?”.
If you’re thinking of submitting your work, take a deep breath and go for it. You’ll never know what you can achieve until you try.