Then I tweeted this:
"OH MY GOSH, TWITTER, I JUST PRESSED SEND. They HAVE the story. The story I've had around for a YEAR AND A HALF. AHHHHHHHH. #firstsubmissions"
"I would like to think such occasions will be much less panicky as time goes on. Sadly, I'm not certain that will be the case. XD"
And was met with several reassuring/sympathetic/commiserating tweets, along with an imaginary paper bag to breathe into and some imaginary bite-size brownies.
This is not the first thing I’ve ever submitted, though, guys. It’s one of the biggest contests I’ve entered, sure, and I haven’t submitted much anywhere (yet). But I’ve entered contests, including a few small-scale, local ones in elementary and middle school that I, uh, won/placed in. *blush*
Just recently, I got back results from a major contest I entered at artandwriting.org. An Honorable Mention in my region. Not great, but not bad, either. And I didn’t freak out as much about that contest.
I still freaked out, mind you. I just freaked out less.
Why? I think because my entry for that contest was not the best thing that I’ve written. I knew that, was okay with that, and decided to send it in anyway (partially because winners there would lose the rights for two years, and I wanted to possibly submit some other stories to magazines, etc.). Because I knew it wasn’t my best work, I was thrilled to get an honorable mention.
It’s different with the story I’m submitting now. It has been around since October 3rd, 2010. I wrote it late at night (*cough*earlyinthemorning*cough*onaschoolnight*cough*) while listening to the song Airplanes by B.o.B. and Hayley Williams. I loved the thing. And I blogged about it way back then, for heaven’s sake, before this blog was even active.
To this day, I think it’s one of the better rough drafts I’ve written. It’s changed in small spurts, with just a few major paragraphs altered or deleted after getting feedback from I-forget-how-many people. A few changed wordings. A few lines ironed into something smoother. That’s about it. The core is the same as it always was, and yet there’s a stronger focus now. A stronger character. A stronger story.
It’s probably the most completely polished thing I have ever written thus far.
Which is what makes this 1,500-ish word story so terrifying to send out into the world.
For me, and every other person who’s begun submitting stories, I’m sure there’s more than a few questions floating around. We just need to live with those questions, and try to hold on to the answers.
What if I lose?
There will be other contests. Other places to submit. Other stories to polish, that will be better than this one ever was. Maybe they loved the story – they just loved someone else’s even more.
What if they don’t even like it?
Then they don’t like it. It’s a matter of opinion, a matter of who the judge is, and even a matter of what stories they’ve already read. It’s no different than when you sent this story out to reviewers, asking for feedback. There was a chance they wouldn’t like it. Your response to a rejection here should be similar to your response to a bad review; Make it better, or move on to something else.
Most terrifyingly, what if I screwed up the formatting and get disqualified for something dumb? And then DIE?
You will not die. Probably. I know this part is stressful, especially for people who haven’t submitted much before, but this should not be the most paralyzing part of the experience. Just follow the given directions as closely as you can, and if you’re not sure about something, ask someone. Preferably someone who knows what they’re talking about.
… What do I do now?
The answer to this one is simple. You keep writing. Write another story. Work on polishing other projects. Or maybe just write a blog post about the experience. *looks around innocently*
And now, some questions for you.
Have you started the submission/querying process? If so, what’s your experience been like? Any tips for the inexperienced submitter, or things about the process that have always tripped you up?