A Special Kind of Anxiety: Submitting Stories

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One of my 2017 goals is to submit each of my three shelved stories three times each by December 31st. This sounds relatively easy, right? The stories are written. They’ve been polished –two edited by a writer who is amazing at what she does. All I need is a market and a place to send the email.

I wish story submission was that simple.

I’m starting off with my short story “Brew Disaster,” using it to get back into the habit of sending a piece off for consideration. I wrote it in the fall of 2013 for a specific anthology I had found open online. My story was rejected, but the editor added an extra comment to lighten the sting: This piece is good. Keep putting it out there.

I’ve submitted it a few times, and by a few I mean twice. That’s a pathetic number for one story. Rejections are the name of the game.

Obviously, it’s time to put myself back out there. If I want to get anywhere with writing I have to.

My first step was finding a magazine or anthology editor looking for submissions. That was much more difficult this time around than I remember it being. My research skills in this area are rusty. It took me too long to enter in the exact words uncle Google wanted to give me the results I needed. Then they had to be combed through. I wouldn’t be surprised if the economy of late has affected the market, especially here in Canada.

After a lot of frustration I found a magazine that felt like a good fit for me. Of course, I’ll double check before actually submitting, but right now it’s my target.

I hope I found a bull’s eye.

The next step was reading my story. Coming back to it two years later, “Brew Disaster” is a pretty solid piece. Not that that that stopped me from grabbing my red pen and spending three-plus hours poring over it. Writers can learn a lot in two years, about the craft and about themselves, so I hope I made it stronger.

There were some holes that needed padding and elements that required fine-tuning. Not as many as I thought there might be, which was a relief. The most time-consuming aspect was working out my weaknesses. Thankfully, I had edited the story extensively before its two prior submissions, so the only weakness I had to focus on was crutch words.

Every writer has a variety of crutch words, their go-to’s during the drafting process. It’s important to let words flow at the time of writing; then, you don’t want to be worrying about your overused phrases and sentence constructions. But when it comes time to edit you really need to know your habits and how to identify them. I make a list of words right at the top of my printed manuscript –I always have at least one printed copy because I can see more on paper than I can on the screen.

When I used the navigation option in Word, I couldn’t believe how many times I used certain words. My story isn’t even 3000 words, and my worst crutch word had been used nearly 40 times. And that’s after I had gone over it 6 times just that day!

Between trying to find somewhere to submit, weeding out the less than stellar magazines, and bringing my story up to par, submitting is stressful. The anxiety I’m going to suffer between now and the 15th, when submissions open, is more than I can stand to think about. Expecting rejection and opening yourself up to it are still difficult to handle.

But that’s the price of trying to be a professional. In the end it will help me grow. If I survive the heart palpitations. Wish me luck!

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  1. I’m really curious now about what your crutch words are…and how you came to realize that they are crutch words for you. I struggle to be aware of them in my writing and haven’t figured out how to train myself in that awareness.

    Finding anthologies for submission can be a bit of a bugbear. I haven’t looked at Duotrope (sadly, no longer free) or Ralan in a couple years, but they’ve been great for me in the past. The Coffin Tree Hill blog is also a decent source, though it’s now a protected blog so you have to request access. They’re probably already on your radar, but just in case!

    1. I have SO many, the worst are: that, but, very, really, and finally. I have a cut-out from Angela Ackerman on my wall that lists common crutch words that I search for while editing. ‘That’ was pointed out to me in a workshop by a reader who opened my eyes to crutch words. Now, during the editing process, if my reader brain starts becoming too aware of words I make a list of those words to search for using the navigation option in word (I think Scrivener has a similar function) when I’m done my read-through. As aware of my crutches as I am, it’s still an ongoing struggle.

      I hadn’t heard of any of those–that’s how green I am!! I’m going to check them all out. Thank you!

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