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This Writing Life: Putting my Submission Hat On

22 October, 2012

I realise I’ve been a bit hopeless at posting here lately. However, that’s not to say I haven’t been writing – there’s been plenty going on in the background here, as I plug away at finishing various projects (that’s one project at once, at the moment, rather than the ‘bit of everything’ I was working on when I had more time).

And yes, I have actually been finishing things, which brings us to the topic of this post. Finishing a piece of fiction means, invariably, that it’s time to start submitting. In my case, I’ve been writing to specific deadlines for specific projects, which means only a single submission – which is nice in that I don’t have to do many submissions, but a bit of a disaster if they don’t sell, given how specific these markets are.

It’s the actual process of submitting a piece of work to a market that I really want to talk about, though. I can’t be the only writer who baulks at this stage. I have no problem finishing first drafts, or even editing if I’m committed enough to a story, but submitting? That’s where I really fall down.

Of course, there’s a certain fear of rejection. No-one likes to pour their heart and soul into a piece, only for it to receive what feels like a summary rejection (and it’s likely you’ll never know whether the editor really considered your work, or whether they were just having a bad day and hit ‘delete’). I try not to think too much about acceptance or rejection, though – getting a reply could take weeks, or months, so it’s sending the work out there that’s the important bit.

Then there’s the ‘physical’ side of submitting, which if anything I hate even more. This is the point where you find out that standard manuscript format isn’t really standard at all. Submit to a few markets, and you’ll see requests for half a dozen different fonts, file types, paragraph spacings, line spacings and page numberings – and that’s before you even get to the point of navigating the minefield of query letters and automated online submission systems.

So, how to cope? I’ve found that submitting work requires a certain sort of detachment: you have to do your layouts and queries without reading your work again (and finding a dozen more ‘mistakes’ that will stop you submitting after all), and generally just do the whole lot in one go. Format. File type and name. Query email. Attach. Send. The process can easily take a couple of hours, particularly for a longer story (with more to go wrong in that dreaded formatting stage), but doing it in a single sitting is the only way I’ve found to get myself to submit anything at all.

So, over to you. Do you find submitting as hair-pullingly awful as I do? Or have you devised a system that gets your work out there quickly, and saves you stress in the process?

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