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I did something amazing today. I mailed a contest entry.
“Ho hum, so what,” you might say.
Well, putting a stamp on that envelope and popping it into the mailbox isn’t dull routine. It isn’t ordinary at all. I’ve just submitted my manuscript to a contest where several writers are going to give me their objective, honest opinion. Sound easy?
Submitting is hard. Submitting sounds like one simple step in the staircase on one’s way to be published. But it isn’t. Many, many writers do everything that’s required to get ready to submit. They write their book. Participate in a critique process, edit and revise their work. Research the most appropriate publisher and the best editor at that publisher for what they’ve written. Some find the perfect contest where that target editor is a final round judge or attend a writer’s conference, speak to that editor at scheduled appointment and receive an invitation to submit their manuscript.
But they never mail that manuscript.
The reasons why a writer doesn’t mail their work are numerous.
“It’s just not ready.”
“I need to edit it one more time.”
“I’ve started work on another manuscript, I’ll get back to that one just as soon as I’m finished the first draft of this one.”
“It’s been three months since the full was requested and the editor won’t remember me.”
There are lots of excuses, but it comes down to fear. People are afraid to submit their work. They’re afraid of rejection. They’re afraid of how they’ll feel. They’re afraid they won’t be able to handle the word ‘no’.
‘No’ is a powerful word, but don’t mistake it for ‘not ever’ or ‘you’re a terrible writer’. That’s not what a rejection means, that’s not what low contest scores mean.
A ‘no’ from an editor means ‘this manuscript isn’t right for me today’. That’s all. A low contest score means that judge saw some ways you might improve your writing. And even then you can’t take one judge’s or one editor’s opinion as fact.
Louis L’Amour received 350 rejections before he made his first sale. He went on to publish more than 100 novels, with more than 200 million copies in print. After his death his publisher has continued to print many of his previously unpublished works, some of them have become best-sellers. If he had given up after the first ‘no’ he wouldn’t have gone on to become one of publishing’s most prolific and accomplished authors.
Fear kills writing careers before they can start. Are you going to let fear kill your dream? It may not seem as risky as eating a six inch live bug or sticking your head in a tank full of piranha, but submitting is scary. Accept your fear and move through it. Mail your manuscript and keep mailing it until you get a ‘yes’.