Now you need to know what to do with it.
Writers who develop their work professionally may already have the end in mind when they start a project – they know where to submit it, they know what that particular magazine/newspaper/competition/publisher is looking for and have a game plan to tick every box on the guidelines. Many writers simply write what comes to them and think about the submission process later. Fair enough. But here’s where cold feet comes in.
In speaking to a lot of emerging writers, I find there’s often only one thing that many of them lack when compared to ‘veteran’ authors. It’s not creativity. It’s certainly not enthusiasm or dedication. In many cases it’s not even experience – I dare say there are many ‘emerging’ writers that have experimented more with their craft, and for a longer period of time, than other writers considered to be seasoned contributors. The difference is often one thing: the consideration of what to do after the last edit is complete. So that piece might end up in a blog feed, read and appreciated by the fanbase but eventually lost in the archives. When, maybe, it deserved a chance to be a contender.
It can be scary to think about those stories and poems being sent out, away from our reach and at the mercy of unknown editors and publishers. I know. I remember my first attempts at submission. I started off as a teenager still learning the process of targeting publications with the correct content. Heck, I was still learning how to write – the pieces I was writing at the time were far from ready. I’d spend days, or weeks, bringing a story to fruition and posting it off, waiting anxiously for a response that sometimes never came.
I took chances and didn’t get any breaks until years later. But in the early days after declaring ‘I’m going to be an author’, I probably put as much time in researching for opportunities as I did developing my ideas. By trial and error I gave myself deadlines and worked to them so that I could enter short story competitions that looked appealing. I’m not against the idea of writing only for oneself and only thinking about the wider possibilities after all is said and done, but I think in my case the focus on submission is what developed my writing the most.
If you’ve never thought about submitting before, or just don’t feel confident in taking that leap of faith, then make your latest piece the one to leave the nest. If you’ve never thought about putting it in a magazine or a competition*, I guarantee that sitting down and reading it through with a specific target in mind changes your perspective on whether everything on the page really worked the way you thought it had. And there’s no motivator like a deadline.
And then you’ll arrive at that point. You’ve gone over the story, the characters, and the line-by-line passage of text so many times you could probably recite passages backwards in a foreign language while juggling flaming torches. (Actually, if you can do that, for the love of god put it on Youtube.) So there’s no more stalling. The deadline is nigh. The piece has been correctly formatted, and it’s attached to the email or sealed in the envelope.
What are you waiting for?
If you’re confident enough to take the work this far, then not submitting would just be a missed opportunity. Who cares if it’s rejected? Their loss, really. And it gives you a chance to look at it again, maybe re-style the content to match another target’s criterion.
So let the bird leave the nest. Take the chance that someone else will appreciate it. Just because it might be rejected for publication, that doesn’t mean it won’t be appreciated – maybe even admired. And every time you let a bird leave the nest, unsure whether it’ll come back or find a home somewhere else, that’s a magic moment where you’re placing hope in your own work. In many ways that’s more uplifting than the validation of having the same work accepted. That magic moment, more than anything else, is what gives you the confidence to do it again and again, and grow as a writer because of it.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen
*And, of course, seriously consider submitting to page seventeen. Aside from the obvious fact that I want to see as many submissions as possible to the general and competition lists, it’s also objectively a good place for emerging writers to start. It’s unthemed, makes emerging writers a focus for content selection and is diverse in the types of content it will take.