Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: Guaranteed Career Suicide

Looking for a guaranteed, no-fail, absolutely foolproof way to trash your writing career? Here’s the easiest way I know:

Never submit your work for publication.

If you never put your stories and novels in the mail (or, these days, in the email), I can guarantee you that they’ll never be published.

OK. I know how obvious that sounds. But I also know more than a few people who have trashed their careers in just this way.

Some of them never do the final polishing of the work so they can submit it. Others just keep revising and revising the same story or novel. But the ones who really bug me are the ones who send a story out one time to one editor, get a rejection, and decide that the story must not be good enough and never send it out again.

Rejection sucks, no question. But the proper response to a rejection letter is to yell “the editor is an idiot,” crumple up the letter, and toss it in the wastebasket. (Now that most of my rejections come via email, I find I miss the crumpling of the actual paper; hitting delete is not nearly as therapeutic.) And then, of course, you send the damn thing out to somebody else.

If I hadn’t continued sending out stories in the face of multiple rejections, I wouldn’t have any career at all. I’ve sold a few pieces the first place I sent them, true, but I’ve also made some of my best sales after a dozen rejections.

When I mentioned that I was going to write about people who don’t submit, Steven Piziks told me his reaction to those folks: “‘Oh good–I won’t have to compete with you.  All the more contracts for me.”

That’s probably the right attitude.

But the damn thing is, the people I know who don’t submit their work are really good writers. Near as I can tell, bad writers don’t have this problem. Maybe the same ego that makes bad writers ignore any advice about their work also makes them impervious to rejection.

It’s just such a waste for good fiction to languish on a hard drive somewhere, eventually being lost when the writer gets rid of that computer and neglects to save all the old files.

What’s the point of writing a story nobody ever gets to read?


The Shadow ConspiracyRocket Boy and the Geek Girls

Nancy Jane has stories in both of the anthologies recently published by Book View Press: “The Savage and the Monster” in The Shadow Conspiracy and “Blindsided by Venus in the House of Mars” in Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls.

Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press. All fifty of the short-short stories she posted as part of her year-long Flash Fiction Project are available for free here.




Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: Guaranteed Career Suicide — 8 Comments

  1. OTOH, there are historical examples. We are informed that Emily Dickinson actually did submit her poetry to publications, but most people still think of her as a recluse saving the poems up in desk drawers. The classic genre example is Austin Tappan Wright, who wrote ISLANDIA all his life and died with the ms in his desk. His heirs found it and sent it out, and when it was published it became a fantasy classic. And if you look at the coverage of J.D. Salinger since his recent demise, it seems he’s been writing for all these years. He just didn’t want to submit ms.

  2. Well, Salinger already had a outsized reputation when he quit publishing his work, so his career was assured. And we as readers are very fortunate that some great works are discovered by people who know what to do with them after the authors die.

    But really, do you want to count on your heirs to make sure your work gets read? Especially if those heirs are people who never quite understood why you spent a lot of time by yourself writing?

    I understand that some writing is meant to be private. I write to figure out things all the time, and that’s not material I share with anyone else; it’s how I understand the world. But what is the point of going to trouble of crafting a story or poem if you’re not going to share the finished product?

    Besides, we writers and poets are descended from the lineage of oral storytellers. It’s our vocation not just to create stories, but to share them with others.

  3. I see a number of ms that have been workshopped repeatedly, until they’re like chewing gum that’s been chomped on for a week. No flavor left! If the author won’t submit it, I urge them to put it into the trunk and start something new, but sometimes they can’t do it. I can’t imagine why.

  4. What about blogging? Do you consider that a form of publishing until you have worked enough on your manuscript to polish it and have gauged a reaction to your writing? I like the article, I just wanted to know your thoughts on blogging and using social media for writers.

  5. I don’t use blogging for my fiction. I tend to blog on other subjects that are interesting to me, though, and it is possible (and even likely) that I’ll use some things I’ve blogged about as the basis for longer essays, especially since I frequently devote way too much time to blog posts.

    I do consider blogging a form of publishing — and in fact, a lot of editors won’t accept something you’ve posted on a blog because it’s considered previously published. I don’t consider posting something in an online forum for comments by others to be publishing — that’s more like a workshop.

    But I wouldn’t count blogging as publishing in the sense I was writing about in this particular post on not submitting your work, because posting your stories on your own blog generally won’t help you build a writing career. To build a career, you need to send your work off to other publishers, not publish it yourself.

    There are exceptions, of course, but remember that exceptions are, well, exceptional.

    Here on Book View Cafe we’ve published some previously unpublished work by some of our members (more than half of the flash fictions I published last year were new, for example). But we’re publishing them on a group fiction site — not just a personal one — and we all have professional reputations built by having our work published in other venues.

  6. Wow, this hits home.

    I do post a weekly flash fiction story on my blog. I am a participant in a Friday flash community and we read the stories and make comments. It has grown from a handful of writers to 70 + people.

    And I now have two stories in anthologies.

    But as far as sending stuff out to other places…nothing.

    This has to become a goal. I do know myself, and while rejection would sting and make me cry in my room for a little while, I know I would try again.

    But, you are correct. So far I am trashing my writing career very well, because I am not submitting.

    Good reminder. Thanks.

  7. Oh, I’m so glad I hit a chord and provided some encouragement!

    Rejection always sucks, but it happens to everyone. And I do mean everyone; an editor who accepted one of my stories for an anthology told me the names of a few people who didn’t make it, and my eyes got big. I know those people don’t write bad stories, but the stories they submitted didn’t fit the editor’s idea for the book. That happens a lot.

    Plus sometimes rejection works to your advantage. I once got a story back from one market just a couple of days before the deadline for a better one. I quickly threw it back in the mail and sold it. I’m so glad the first editor rejected it!

  8. You have to think of it like tennis. They hit the ms back to you, and your job is to promptly smack it out again.