Feel the fear and submit anyway

12th Oct 2016

What's stopping you from sending off that story you've been working on? Severine founding editor Terri-Jane Dow explores the most common excuses, and gives some practical advice on feeling the fear and submitting anyway...

The fear of rejection is a really large reason why writing doesn’t get submitted as often as it should. Writers, it’s well documented, are known for their fragile egos and constant need for validation.

I joke, but in all seriousness, getting a rejection for a piece of writing you’ve worked hard on, for characters you love, for poetry that feels like your soul is on display, is tough. It’s also, sadly, inevitable.

It’s not possible for every lit mag to pick up everything they’re sent, and much of the time, good writing has to be declined purely for reasons of space, or because it maybe doesn’t quite fit with the other work for a particular issue. If anything, that’s far more likely to be the case than that the writing just wasn’t good enough.

Fear of rejection means you’re taking a risk, and putting yourself out there takes guts, but I promise it gets easier. We all know that J.K. Rowling had the manuscript for Harry Potter rejected twelve times before it was accepted, but Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected one hundred and twenty-one times. That’s perseverance.

Here’s some advice to get you a Submittable list longer than your arm…

Do your research

If you’re writing a specific genre, look for lit mags who specifically publish that genre. Make lists of lit mags you love, and see what it is about them, the style of writing they publish, that draws you in. Send your writing somewhere it will fit.

Pay attention

If there’s a deadline for submissions on the website, don’t send your work after the deadline. If a lit mag wants writing about birds, and you’ve written a great story about the sea, don’t send it to them.

Send simultaneous submissions

Simultaneous submissions are a gift from the gods. Lit mag editors know that they can’t accept everything, and most don’t expect to have sole ownership of your writing during their reading periods.

Sending your work out to a handful of lit mags means a) more people will see it and potentially say yes, and b) (from personal experience) the other editors will kick themselves for not being quicker (and be very happy for you) if you get accepted elsewhere.

(NB. This should come with a disclaimer: five or six simultaneous submissions is totally acceptable. Mass-emailing your writing to twenty-five lit mags is not.)

Forget it

Keep a list of where you’ve submitted. Write them down, and then close your notebook and forget about them. Some litmags take a while to get back to everyone, especially if they’re small, or if they only publish one or two issues a year.

Not hearing back immediately doesn’t mean a “no” is on it’s way. If anything, the longer they have it, the more people are potentially reading it.

Aim high!

Send your writing to the biggest, best litmags on your list. Why not? Yes, they’ll have a bigger pile to read through, and yes, they’ll have more time/space constraints, and yes, you might have reams of excuses for why you shouldn’t send them something, but what if they say YES?!

Be proud of your writing

This is a super important one. Love your stories really hard, believe in them, ask for feedback on them from your friends, significant others, cats. Ask for feedback from lit mags they get rejections from. Use the feedback to make them better, then send them out again.

Armed with the knowledge that you can do it; that if you write, you’re a writer; and that with some savvy submitting, you can up your chances for an acceptance, get going. That story has a home somewhere, and you just need to find it. We believe in you.


Terri-Jane Dow is the founding editor of Severine Literary Journal. She’s written for TYCI, and has had creative writing published in Halo Lit Mag, The Jellyfish Review, and Black Fox Literary Magazine, among others. She tweets too much and posts pictures of everything she eats and reads.