Overcoming the Fear of Submission:

 What You May Not Know About Rejection

by: Frances Gregory Pasch

As the leader of a Christian writers’ group for the past 20 years, I find that most writers love putting words on paper, but many of their finished pieces remain in their desk drawers

Mailing or e-mailing my work has always been a fun experience. When I submit regularly, waiting for a response is a highlight of my day. When my mailbox or my inbox is filled only with advertisements, bills or junk mail, I know I haven’t been using my writing gift.

I’ve had over two hundred devotions and poems published and have resubmitted many of them as reprints. But I still get rejections.

No one likes being turned down, but I’ve learned that a large percentage of all submissions will be rejected. Here are some of the reasons:

The magazine just printed a similar article.

Your piece may be well written, but subscribers don’t want to read the same subject matter within the same year.

You didn’t follow the guidelines.

It’s important to send for a copy of the writers’ guidelines for each magazine and read through a few sample copies.

Your article needs to meet the criteria the editor expects: suitable topic, correct word count, right slant, etc.

Inaccurate Research

Be sure to double check your facts. You don’t want to lead your reader astray.

Wrong Format

An editor recognizes that you have done your homework when you submit your piece following the standard format used by writers. If you don’t know how to send in your manuscript, check your local bookstore or library for material to learn the proper procedure. Writing classes and conferences are also great places for learning.

One of the best investments you can make is “Sally Stuart’s Christian Market Guide,” published yearly by Shaw Books. Visit Sally’s website at http://www.stuartmarket.com.

1. Sally’s guide lists magazines by type of market, i.e. women, children, teens, general adult, etc., and their needs. There is also a topical index.

2. Editor’s names, addresses and e-mail addresses are included so you can get guidelines and a sample copy.

3. Sally lists the circulation of each magazine, whether or not the market pays, and what rights it buys. She also states whether the editor prefers submissions by regular mail or e-mail.

4. The guide contains locations and contacts for writers’ groups, workshops, and conferences in each state. Getting together with other writers is a great motivator. If you can’t attend any of these groups, you can meet other writers on line or consider starting a group of your own.

5. Sally lists other resources: editorial services, book publishers, correspondence courses, websites geared to writers, writing instruction on tape, and more.

Locating a suitable market for your polished piece will take time, but when you find one, immediately send your manuscript, along with a short cover letter. If submitting by regular mail, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

If you are sending poems, devotions, or short pieces, I suggest including more than one. That gives you a better chance of acceptance.

Keeping track of your submissions is an important part of the process. Record the name of each piece you submit, the date you sent it, and the rights you are offering. Be sure to note the results when you receive an answer. If the publication cannot use your piece, state why. If accepted, jot down when it will be published and what they will pay. Some magazines pay on acceptance, others on publication.

I still keep track of my submissions on index cards. You may find it easier to use a notebook or set up a computer file. Whatever method you choose, be consistent. Many publications take at least ninety days or longer to respond, so while you are waiting., start on your next piece.

Editors are looking for good writers like you and me. Don’t be afraid of them. We just need to use our God-given writing gift to the best of our ability for His glory.

I believe that if you take advantage of these tools and follow these rules, one day you will see your name in print.

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Three Keys to Creativity

By: Brenda K. Hendricks

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

Throughout my trek as a writer/illustrator, I have discovered there are keys that propel our vehicle forward.

1)  Surrender unlocks opportunities to improve.

Surrender to the demands of hours of solitude. As writers/illustrators, our lives are not our own. We have audiences who deserve the very best we have to offer.

Surrender to research. Authenticity is a must whether we’re writing non-fiction or fiction, children’s books or adult literature, curricula or short stories, articles, essays, or poems. The more we understand about our topic of interest, the richer our writings will be.

Surrender to the fact that we are just one piece of the puzzle. There are others like editors, publishers, and agents who are vital to the production and circulation of our work. Let everyone add their piece of the puzzle, and the picture will turn out exactly right.

Surrender to critiques from other writers, illustrators, and readers who are willing to tell you the truth. The ability to cast our thoughts onto the page and project them into the minds of our readers doesn’t come naturally, at least not for most of us. Guess what! Not everyone thinks alike. What appears clear to us may not be that obvious to our readers. We all have “blind” spots when reading our own prose therefore, an extra set of eyes is essential.

Surrender to revisions, rewrites, and manuscript mutilation. As rose bushes bloom better through regular pruning, manuscripts flourish through serious rewrites. It’s inevitable. Our babies are NOT perfect at the moment of creation. They need to be shaped, trimmed, and polished.

Surrender to rejection without accepting defeat. Not everyone is going to want to print our work. Rejection is a useful tool to the serious writer. It forces us to examine our work more intently, to search the market more diligently, and to strive for excellence.

2)  Concentrate on our craft. It’s the secret of every successful person, whether their area of expertise is science, finances, sports, music, or the arts. Deep thinking goes into every experiment, every calculation, every play, every performance, and every stroke of the brush until the very act of concentration is ingrained in the subconscious.

Concentration opens the door to adventure.

Writers perform their duties at their day jobs, thinking about their next manuscript. While their spouses snore beside them in bed, writers lie on their backs plotting their next novel or organizing their next how to article. Muse isn’t always easy to come by nor does it always show up at opportune times, but it does come. And when it does, it compels us to write.

Many great writers remain mediocre because they refuse to commit to the needed practice of concentration. And who can blame them for being reluctant? Exercising concentration can cause temporary insanity. We are caught talking out loud to ourselves and even laughing at a private joke in the bathroom. We answer questions with irrelevant tidbits of information or we don’t hear the question at all. We leave notes all over the house so we don’t lose those really important thoughts. Or worse, those of us who write novels leave notes to our characters on the table, vanity, and counter.

3)  Fascinate, not our audience but ourselves with the process of writing. According to the dictionary, it means to hold one spellbound by some irresistible charm. How long to do we stay with anything that doesn’t fascinate us? People lose all track of time surfing the Internet. Body builders work out six to eight hours a day. Skydivers jump out of airplanes. Why? Those pastimes captivate the participant.

Likewise, the process of painting a picture with words holds writers spellbound. The correct word placed properly in the sentence, strategically located in the paragraph, and positioned just so in the article written on the blank page fascinates us. If it didn’t, we’d be Internet surfers, weightlifters, or skydivers.

Fascination releases a child-like curiosity that inspires us to continue on the journey.

While there may be others on our key ring, these keys are essential to the writer’s and/or illustrator’s odyssey. As we utilize them, may every opportunity unlock powerful improvements, every assignment open doors to adventure, and every child-like curiosity release inspiration not only for us but for our audiences as well.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Author/illustrator of the Bumbly Bee Books

To Brand or Not to Brand

By: Beth Shriver

 

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

As I navigate through this publishing industry, I’ve learned many things: voice, pacing, motivation, characterization, and internal/external conflict, to name a few. But there is one aspect that I still have a problem with…branding. Although I understand the concept that as a writer or illustrator, to label yourself into a certain genre and style of writing and the reason for doing so is to develop a following of readers who know what to expect from your writing, I’ve had a considerable amount of difficulty doing so.
 
When I started writing eight years ago, the only published author I knew well enough to contact was a romance writer, Shelley Galloway, who informed me that romance is the biggest-selling genre. Although I’d never read a romance, with Shelley’s encouragement, I did. After studying how to put a story together, I wrote a young adult romance, Love at First Flight. Then I wrote a romantic suspense, A Case of the Heart, and another Reclaiming Faith. Two were published, which gave me the motivation to write still another romance, Love is a Rose. But through this process, I realized romance wasn’t what I truly wanted to write. I like a romance as a subplot, but it seemed to leave out so much of the characters lives about which I wanted to write.
 
I decided to try my hand at a historical fiction with strong romantic elements, Remnant of the Fall. This gave me an opportunity to tell more about the first-century Palestine setting and to show what it was like for Christians during that era. I liked the balance, and the romance seemed more real being a part of the story instead of the entire story. My next project, Annie’s Truth, was a women’s fiction. I thought I’d finally found my genre, until a speculative fiction idea, Fear of Falling, came bounding into my head that just poured out of me. Although my manuscript has been requested and has gone to the publishing board a couple of times, the Christian market is still warming up to this new genre in the CBA. So I left my niche and wrote another woman’s fiction, Funeral Hopper,/em>. My agent loved it, and so far it has been well received by editors.
 
Are you dizzy yet? I know my agent is, but she’s wonderfully and patiently waiting for me to settle down so she can brand me. I commend her for doing so. I sometimes feel like a rebellious teenager not wanting to follow the rules of the literary industry, which brings me to the next genre, none other than non-fiction. Yep, you heard me. My absolutely-God-given devotional, Peace for Parents of Teens, was released in May. Inspired by the difficulties my teen went through, I poured out my heart onto the keyboard with the desire to aide other parents struggling with teen issues. I’d never, ever planned to write non-fiction, but He had different plans for me and my writing.
 
After all that you ask, what exactly is a “brand?” Your brand should say something about you. One needs to learn how to create and reflect the brand that you want readers to know about you. Know how to build, to communicate, and to maintain (my weakness) a personal brand. The following steps may help you with this:
 
1. Develop a vision for your brand.
2. Position your brand in order to differentiate yourself from competitors as well as building one’s image using the media as a vehicle.
3. Create a personality for your brand.
4. Articulate the benefits your brand delivers to customers.

5. Define the values your brand represents.
 
It seems there is always something new to learn about the writing industry, and branding has become an important one, one that you and I, as writers and illustrators, need to settle into and find out where we’re comfortable. And that will be where God makes us comfortable, where he wants us to be.

Hello world!

Welcome to the Odd Duck Society.

If you love to write or illustrate, you’re at the right place because you’re an Odd Duck. I hope that doesn’t  ruffle your feathers.

Let me explain how we got our name and all will be well.

Writers and Illustrators are Odd Ducks

AN ODD DUCK OR A PLAID FLAMINGO?

By: Brenda K. Hendricks

“I feel like a plaid flamingo standing on one foot at the edge of the water, while everyone else floats by with ease,” I squawked.

“You’re an odd duck,” my friend responded. “We writers are all odd ducks.”

I phoned to get my feathers stroked not ruffled,I thought.

After our conversation, I decided to pray for confirmation as I prepared for the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference.

The time finally arrived for my friend and I to migrate north for a week of meditation, motivation, and inspiration.

Sunday evening I followed the flock to the chapel.

“All of us in this room,” the speaker began, “are odd ducks.”

That’s my confirmation, motivation, and inspiration? We’re all odd ducks?

Each morning in chapel a speaker challenged us for the day. In my mind, two of the challenges stuck out like a duck’s bill. One challenge encouraged us to take time to fail.

“Failure promotes success,” she said.  “Forcing us to dig a little deeper, it stimulates us to become better writers. If used properly, failure strengthens our character. We will never soar to greater heights by staying in our comfort zone only doing what we know we do well.” She then asked us to promise to fail four times this coming year.

Ironically, the other challenge inspired us to accept our rejection slips with enthusiasm. This successful author encircled the conference room with “just a few” of her rejection slips she had taped end to end. I felt as if she gave us an enormous group hug.

“Don’t let the sun go down on a rejection slip. They pave the way to success,” she said. “Within 48 hours, make any revisions you deem necessary and send your manuscript out again to another editor.”

Like a lame duck, I shuffled to my first session at the Manuscript Clinic. The instructor began her examination of our prose by explaining the importance of a solid foundation.

“Purpose, content, and structure foster a healthy manuscript. Our first exercise: summarize your manuscript in one sentence,” she recommended.

Next we examined the lead, body, and conclusion. I amputated over half of my lead statement, reconstructed my body, and toned up my conclusion. Anecdotes and illustrations added sparkle. Careful choice of words gave character. Description and dialogue sparked interest. My manuscript breathed a deep sigh. Its pulse beat stronger. Its purpose grew clearer. I thought I saw feathers beginning to sprout.

Then the time came to strut my hatchling in front of its first critique group.

They pecked and plucked at my manuscript, not maliciously, but with observant, caring eyes. As they pointed out unclear statements, made suggestions, and even mentioned strengths, I was encouraged to continue flapping my wings.

“Close observation of other people equips us with realism in our writing and puts pizzazz on each page.” Our instructor insisted as we pledged to eavesdrop at every opportunity.

It became obvious that, like a duck’s tail, details navigate the reader from point to point.

The week flew by like a gaggle of geese on a warm autumn evening. Friday morning, the rest of the flock and I waddled into the chapel for the last time.

The speaker began his farewell discourse, “You were not chosen because of wit, intelligence, or any other ability. No one was. God chose you because of your inability so that He could equip you and so that He would receive all the glory. Now go and embrace your quirkiness,” he concluded.

Why does that make sense? Oh, no! I think my feet are beginning to web.

With a promise to fail four times, a pledge to eavesdrop, and a challenge to embrace my quirkiness, I emerged from the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference with a new found vigor for writing.

Ducks plunge into the water while flamingos stand on one foot at the edge of the lake as though they are afraid to get the other foot wet. I choose to plunge like a duck!

Cross & Quill, volume 26, issue 3, May/June 2004

Hope you’ll return to Odd Ducks Society, the place to be for writers and illustrators. Every month we feature a published author, editor, agent, or illustrator.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks
author/illustrator of the Bumbly Bee Books
View my books at My Quotes of Encouragement
Purchase them at Two Small Fish
What’s the Buzz, Bumbly Bee? is now available as an E-book
View it at Brenda K. Hendrick’s E-books