Friday, 23 May 2008

Even Rejections Can Be Positive!

Pam Gallimore sent me her eighth assignment today and in her accompanying letter she said,

"Since my last assignment I am disappointed to report more rejections for short stories I have submitted. However on a couple of occasions I have received more positive responses, i.e. that they really liked the story but had already printed something similar, and a rejection email from My Weekly saying that they would be happy to see more of my work. So I will keep plodding on."

This is actually EXCELLENT news! Why? Well, remember, editors are not there to offer a free critiquing service. They don't have time. They've a magazine to produce. So if an editor gives you ANY feedback, that makes you special. The editor has gone out of their way to give you some feedback. And let's face it, these days, many people only go out of their way if they think they're going to get something back in return. So the editor clearly wants something in return - you to keep sending work in.

If you get a rejection saying that the magazine has just published something similar, DO NOT BE DISHEARTENED! Be pleased because:

  • it means you have obviously written an appropriate story for that readership,
  • your story must have been good enough - they only reason they have rejected it is because it's similar to one already published or just accepted.
  • you are clearly writing at a professional level, because your work is of a similar standard to other writers.
It may well be that Pam could resubmit this story again in 12 months time, and this time she may be lucky. I've done that with articles. I've sold an article to the very same editor at the very same magazine who'd rejected it ten years previously.

Pam's also had an email from My Weekly encouraging her to submit other work. Again, CELEBRATE! It's not every day that editors invite you to submit more work is it? Yes, the story enclosed may have been rejected, but editors don't invite those people who show no signs of being able to write to send more work in do they? They only encourage those worth encouraging!

So whilst on the face of it, Pam has received several rejections, the signs are looking very good indeed. In fact, I don't think she realises just how close she is to achieving this goal. I'm confident that she will receive an acceptance soon. I would urge her not to "keep plodding on" but to get cracking immediately on the next story, because it could well be the acceptance she's waiting for.

So next time you receive a rejection, just examine the letter closely. Are there any positive clues in there for you to find?

Good luck.

Monday, 19 May 2008

See? Even I get rejected!

I know, I know, I know. Two posts in one day, what is going on? Well I just thought I'd share with you my latest rejection. Yes - even I get rejections (and often I receive more than one on the same day!)

Like many writers, I too have written 'the novel' which I'm now trying to attract some interest in. In addition to publishers I'm trying to approach literary agents at the same time. Here's what the latest had to say:

Dear Simon Whaley,

Thank you for your submission of material to United Agents.

We regret that the volume of material we receive means that, in order to give priority to careful reading of work sent to us, we are unable to reply personally to submissions.

Having considered your material, we do not feel, sorry to say, sufficiently confident of being the right people to represent it successfully. It’s a cracking, funny read, and you are obviously a gifted writer, but we just weren’t passionate enough about the subject matter to want to take it any further. But we would love the chance to see anything else you write.

Decisions about representation are necessarily subjective; you might like to try other agencies for a different response from ours. We wish you the best of luck placing your work elsewhere.

All good wishes,

Reader, Submissions Department

The point I want to make here is that as with all written material, the decision between acceptance and rejection is so subjective. Your writing needs to win the approval of at least one person. Yet one person's great is another person's not-so-great...and the comments I received above demonstrate this.

So it's back to the drawing board and onto the next one on my list. Well you didn't expect me to give up that easily did you?

Network at every opportunity.

On Saturday we had two guest speakers at the writers' circle that I go to. Both were authors who had just had novels published - Sue Moorcroft (Family Matters - ISBN:978-0-7090-8523-2) and Judith Allnatt (A Mile of River - ISBN: 978-0-385-61306-4)

Both authors read passages from their novels and then explained about the actual process of writing, and how they went about researching various facts and figures.

The floor was then opened up to questions where we could ask them anything - and we did! Members asked where they got their inspiration from, what time of the day was best for them for their writing, how much planning did they do and what were the most difficult sections to tackle.

During our break, some members even continued interrogating our guest speakers, but who can blame them? Rarely do we get the opportunity to question authors at such a close quarter. One of them even gave me a 'name' to use when I'm ready to approach a publisher with my next book proposal. (More on that very soon I hope!)

So if ever you have an opportunity to go and listen to a professional writer, do make the effort. Swapping names, asking questions, and jotting down any ideas and pieces of advice can be so useful. Networking is important. Not only is it a great way to share knowledge, but it does take you away from your desk for a few hours, which has got to be a good thing!

So go on. Search the internet, your local library or bookshop for your nearest local author event. Or book some tickets at your nearest literary festival. You will enjoy it.

Good luck.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Any success is a success!

Jee Wan has emailed from Malaysia on a high! She's just seen her first piece of writing published in Malaysia's "The Star". You can read her piece by clicking here.

I couldn't help but smile as I read her email though, because she fell into what I consider a common 'trap'. This is what she said:

"I know it's really very basic kind of writing...But I'm determined to hone my writing skills and be a better writer."

The point I want to make is that it doesn't matter what kind of writing it is, it has been published after going through the paper's editorial process and been judged worthy of publication.

It's worked because she has written about a subject she knows well (her own Mother!) and it has been targetted at an appropriate time. If you read the piece, you'll see that it has been published on Sunday May 11th. In Malaysia, the second Sunday in May is always Mother's Day. This piece could not be published on any other day. If the editor was impressed enough to use it, he or she had to use on this date!

Always think about when an editor will or can use your writing. Target the publication and then target the specific issue. If the editor likes it, then he or she has got to use it in that particular issue.

And remember, a success is a success. It doesn't matter whether it is 'basic' writing, or intellectual writing, a writer has to write at whatever level the reader of the target publication requires. So enjoy your moment of glory Jee Wan. You deserve it!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Are You Feeling The Squeeze?

Shaheera from London emailed assignment 2 to me saying, "I've attached my attempt at Assignment 2. I struggled to get my piece down to 600 words (my first draft is closer to 1000!) and had to lose lots of facts."

Having read Shaheera's assignment, I can certainly confirm that her struggle was worth it. Why had she cut her piece to 600 words? Because that's how long the articles are in the section of the magazine she was targeting.

She was acting like a true professional. Six hundred words was all she was allowed, so that's what she's going to be sending to the magazine. Many people would be horrified at the thought of deleting 40% of their work, but it was what Shaheera had to do to fit the requirements of the magazine.

And this an important aspect of writing for publication. Remember, you are competing with the professionals, so you need to act professionally. If an editor rang up a professional writer and asked for 600 words, the professional writer would produce 600 words.

It doesn't matter that the 1,000 word piece may be better. The editor only has room for 600 words. The local car dealer may be selling a top of the range Rolls Royce, but if you only have room to park a Mini at home, then the Rolls Royce won't fit. It may well be a better car, with better workmanship and of a higher quality, but it's no use to you whatsoever, if you can't fit it in your garage or on your drive.

As Shaheera said, she's had to remove a lot of facts from her piece, but they're not wasted. Just because she couldn't use them in this article, it doesn't mean that she can't use them in another article. In fact if she can produce another article on a similar subject, she'll probably find that it's easier to write because she's already done much of the research.

So whilst the news is talking about subjects like the global credit crunch, and how the population is getting bigger and finding it more difficult to fit into our old clothes, think about the squeeze on your words. Less often means more. Ensuring you squeeze enough words from your first draft to make it fit your target publication, will really increase your chances of success.

Good luck.