March 21, 2016

Commandment #9: Don't Be Afraid to Put Your Work Out There

Rejection sucks. No one is going to argue that point, and no writer is going to pretend that they like being rejected.

But trite as it may sound, if you never try, you can never succeed. Sure, if you submit a short story to a literary journal, or send a novel off to an agent, you might get rejected. With the amount of other writers doing the same thing, odds are that you will get rejected. But if you don't submit anything, you lose any chance of being accepted at all.

Photo credit: kajojak via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
I figure submissions are kind of like the heads of a hydra: cut one off, and two more grow back in its place. So personally, when I get one rejection, I try to send the story off to two more places. The other day, I was looking around, trying to figure out where to send one of my stories, and I came across a link to The New Yorker's submissions page. Now, I am 99.9999999% sure that The New Yorker is never going to be interested in anything I write. But! What if? If I submit to them, maybe there's only a 0.00000001% chance that my story will get accepted—but if I don't, that number drops to a flat 0% chance, and those odds are even worse.

Another thing to consider is that, even when your work gets rejected, you could get helpful feedback. True, in many cases you'll get a form rejection. But every so often you'll get specific comments about what didn't work for that publication/agent, why they weren't interested, whether they're excited to see more of your work, etc. That feedback is a tool you can use to improve your writing, better understand what that publication/agent is looking for, and submit stronger work in the future. You can learn from it, and you can grow as a writer as a result.

Plus, though it may hurt to put your heart and soul into your writing only to have someone tell you it isn't good enough, ultimately it's good practice. Because once your work does get published, you're at the mercy of readers everywhere. No matter what you write, no matter how brilliant, some people are going to hate it. You may get scathing reviews—and again, that sucks—but if you've built up a thick skin from all those rejections, you'll have a bit more perspective on how subjective opinions are, and you won't let those opinions stop you.

Don't let rejections make you think your story isn't worthwhile. It might need revisions, or it might be a simple matter of not being a good fit for that particular publication/agent. Plenty of the most influential, bestselling writers were rejected dozens of times before finding success.

Your story deserves telling—but in order for the world to hear it, you need to get it out there.

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