Submission, Rejection, Revision . . .

Sending out one’s manuscript or short story is one part relief–you think it’s ready for publication–and one part suspense–will it be accepted? Does the editor like it? Does it suit their personal taste? Does it fit within the other stories (if for an anthology) or books that editor is working to publish?

You cross your fingers and do . . . what?

Move on. Begin your next work. Or, as sometimes happens, you think of something you should have done with the story you just sent off. That’s probably the hardest feeling to cope with.

Do you tweak the publication now, before hearing back from the editor? Do you let it go and move on? I’m the type who’d at least make notes on what I think should be added, tweaked, or removed from the submitted work. I can then set it aside and move on to something else. Who knows whether the editor might accept it and ask for changes that correlate to your late-addition thoughts? And if the editor rejects it, you’ve already laid out some changes to work on before submitting it elsewhere.

 There is sometimes nothing better than the time delay between submitting a story and receiving a rejection to gain clarity as to how it comes across to others and what could improve it.

Claire A. Murray

While writing this, I checked an online submission tracker and learned that another story I’d submitted months ago hadn’t made the cut. That’s another story to review, revise (perhaps), and submit elsewhere. It’s like washing your hair: rinse, lather, rinse, repeat.

Deadlines Are My Friend

Writers work with plenty of deadlines, whether self-imposed or from a submission date or editor’s need to get revisions back from you. I’ve found that writing short stories with upcoming deadlines helps me maintain a steady writing schedule, and that supports my follow-through on long manuscripts with no deadline. As soon as I finish and submit a short, I’m back to work on the long.

Invariably, when I’m working on one thing, I get ideas about another. I go back and forth, sometimes having both documents open at once, to keep the creativity flowing. It’s easy for me because when I worked at other jobs (and I consider this my full-time job now), I wore many hats and had to shift between projects throughout the day.

Rejections Make Me Work Harder

Rejections can be tough to take. You worked so hard on that story or book and–gasp–someone doesn’t like it. Most rejections don’t come with any helpful words on why the story or book didn’t work for that editor. Believe me, writers appreciate it so much when they do.

But every rejection is an opportunity to critique that work and perhaps make it better. Whether it’s my stubborn nature or what others might call persistence, I want that story published. I dig in, read it again, wonder if I should . . . ??? and then make notes on what changes might make it a better story. There is sometimes nothing better than the time delay between submitting a story and receiving a rejection to gain clarity as to how it comes across to others and what could improve it.


There are times, such as this week for me, when you realize your story isn’t ready, even though the deadline is here. I worked all this month to make an already-written story work for a June 1st submission that required a humorous story. For me, the challenge was to get the right mix of humor into it. Every day, I massaged and massaged each scene. A few days ago, I tore it apart, moved things around, added a character who would become a red herring, and transformed narrative into dialogue.

Guess what? It didn’t work. It’s not humorous. I’d wrecked the original story and am not submitting it.

I have all the versions so haven’t lost anything in the process of learning that I tried to fit humor into something that wasn’t a good fit with my writing style. Someone else could have written the same story and it would have been outright funny. Not me . . . at least this time.

I set that story aside yesterday. Many things I added or edited during the month make it a better story, but some don’t. It needs refinement, but with no looming deadline, there’s time.

I turned to a venue with a deadline of tomorrow and discovered I have 2 stories that seem to fit. The irony is that one story is humorous. And, while I thought it was too short for the June 1st venue, I rechecked the guidelines and can send it there as well. I just need to take a final look at both, make sure GSP (grammar, spelling, punctuation) is absolutely correct, and submit.

All in All, Not a Bad Month

While the story I worked on so diligently this month isn’t what I’ll send anywhere soon, I wrote, revised, critiqued, received feedback from others, and made progress on the story and my novella.

Also, with two stories that seem ready for tomorrow’s deadline, one of which I may end submitting to the original venue, as well, May turned out to be fairly productive. I’m ready for more rejections, but it would be nice to get an acceptance instead.

Feel free to comment on your experience with rejections, how you handle them, and if you think you improve your stories with each rejections.