When I was between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, I sent a great deal of embarrassing poetry submissions to literary journals. I had no idea how to do it right, and I had an even tighter budget than I do now as a college student. Obviously I wasn’t buying sample copies of the journals, so, even if my work had been on par, I would have had a tough time getting accepted anywhere because I didn’t know what they liked. However, submitting (and getting rejected) at such a young age taught me a great deal.
To date, one of my favorite articles about writing is “Go the Distance: What Rocky Taught Me About Submission,” by Benjamin Percy. The title is self-explanatory: You’ve got to go into it like Rocky Balboa goes into a fight—and that means a lot of energy has to go into your submission process as well as your writing game. Think of the writing as the fight and making a submission schedule or researching a journal as running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I have recently decided to start submitting to journals again. The truth is that when I turned sixteen, I didn’t stop and decide I needed to take a break from submitting. It wasn’t that I was writing less or that there weren’t markets for my work. I lost my Rocky.
I lost confidence in my work, and that is the worst disservice you can ever do yourself as a writer.
There is a market for everything. If you don’t believe me, peruse the journals that publish only cowboy poetry or mystery tales involving cats in the nearest copy of Writers’ Market.
Editors out there want your writing. You just have to find them. You’ll go through dozens of rejections in the process.
In his article, Percy talked about an “unpublishable” beast of a story he wrote that was thirty-four pages long. He got it published in the end, but he had to send it to a couple dozen journals. I’ll leave you with a few more words of encouragement.
· Publishers told Emily Dickinson she needed to learn to rhyme
· Gone with the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers
· John Grisham sold books out of the trunk of his car before he was a bestselling author
· Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 20
· Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House on the Prairie books) wrote her most popular work when she was 64