Competition / editing / Insight / Interview / Marjorie Graber-McGuinness Award / Rejection

Brave New Work: Submitting Writing to Competitions

You’ve poured your heart and your essence onto the page but what do you do with it now?

You could lock it away, only to pull it out on a raining day OR you could submit it to a publication or competition.

– by Laura Bartlett

Did your heart just stop? Did your stomach drop and churn ominously? Did your brain immediately put on the breaks and yell ‘NOPE!’? You are not alone! Submitting work is always going to be daunting but it shouldn’t be something you fear. Rachael Rippon, 2013 winner of the Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award, gave us her advice for preparing work for submission.

First thing first, after you’ve written the piece of course, is to prepare for submitting. ‘Ensure that the work you are submitting is readable. This means you’ve had other people read it, you’ve edited it several times and there are no glaring typos or plot issues. Secondly, that you read through the submission guidelines thoroughly. Sometimes competitions will not accept work that has not been properly submitted, even if it’s fantastic writing. ‘ says Rippon.

‘I find competitions I would like to submit to, paying particular attention to the entry closing date as well as submission guidelines. If I think I can finish something in the allotted amount of time, I get to work. I try not to look at past winning entries because whenever I do my stories always seem to mimic them. When I’ve finished the story, I leave it for a few weeks (if possible) and then come back to it. I edit it, get other people to read it, and edit it some more. And then – usually on the closing date! – I finally submit the story. After that, I forget about it. If I win, I win. If I don’t, well… I’m sure I was a close second… probably…’

Now, it’s not the end of the world if your work doesn’t get selected for publication. You put yourself out there and took a chance! That’s the important thing. You can learn and try again. Everyone has doubts about their writing. I constantly have doubt. It feels as though this is one of the integral parts of being a writer: surviving your doubt. Rachael’s sentiments seem to echo my own. Perseverance, she advocates, is entirely part of a practical submission process.

‘Keep on submitting to competitions – and publications – even if you get rejected.’ She adds, ‘It’s not fun being rejected, but it happens to all of us. And remember, whilst you may not win, that does not mean your story isn’t any good. It may have been excellent. So do something with it, don’t just hide it away! Re-read it (perhaps you’ll find parts you can improve) and submit it in other places.’

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