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Submissions: The Right Way To Dust Off Your Old Pieces

Dust off your old piecesYou might not know it, but you could have a treasure trove of creative writing just waiting to land on the desk of the right agent or editor. Your old submissions—those that you have already sent around but that did not find any “takers”—might just garner your next acceptance letter.

Rejection letters can wreak havoc with a writer’s emotions. Five, twelve, twenty-four, or even fifty rejections can make a writer want to crumple those works into a ball and toss them in a wastebasket (or—just hit delete).

Be careful: Rejection letters can be misleading.

Here’s why:

PROBLEM: You just don’t like your old work. You’re a better writer now so you want to let the old works go. We all grow over the years as we learn and improve. But don’t forget that there was a reason you liked those old manuscripts to begin with. Time and human nature can play tricks with your feelings about your work. Almost anything you live with for too long may disappoint or irritate you. It becomes easy to see everything as wrong and lose track of what’s right.

Action Plan: Make room for the possibility that you will almost always judge your writing more harshly than anyone else does. And remember: Your “old” submissions that no longer give you that buzzy, happy feeling of accomplishment are totally NEW to the editors who haven’t seen them yet.

PROBLEM: You received some rejections on the older works, so you think they must be “dead in the water.” Certainly, too many rejections could mean revision is in order. But if you take an emotional step back and look at the actual number of rejections you received, is it really true that you’ve sent the work to a sufficient number of editors or agents? (Before you give up on a piece, 100 is the goal number.)

Consider this:

  • We recommend that a writer submit a work to 100 markets before going back to square one. Often, this isn’t because a given work is “bad”; it’s because making submissions is a numbers game to some extent.
  • A work that didn’t connect with an agent or editor at some point in history might simply have been sent out at the wrong time; trends and submission guidelines are constantly changing.
  • Don’t read more into rejections than what is actually there. It’s tempting to draw broad conclusions from specific examples, but doing that is potentially damaging. Instead, always step back and try to take an unemotional approach (or, if you’re a client of Writer’s Relief, just trust your submission strategists to do it for you!).

Action Plan: Go for it. Try for one more round of submissions. Remember: Those works aren’t doing any good collecting virtual dust on your hard drive!

Before you give up on prior submissions that didn’t immediately take off, look objectively at the situation and understand that your castoffs might be an editor’s diamond in the rough. But you won’t know unless you keep submitting!

Photo by angeloangelo.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Has perseverance ever paid off in your life?

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