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Writing Tips for Fiction Writers!


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  Are You Following Rules or Jumping through Hoops?
by Tina Morgan

A very talented writer from one of my critique groups once sent an email submission to an e-zine that promptly returned it to him. Upset by the rapid rejection, he refused to submit to them again. Many writers might think his anger was justified but the e-zine clearly stated in their submissions guidelines that they do not accept email submissions. The writer did not to read the guidelines, or if he had read them chose not to follow them.

Often the very thing that drives us to write is our creative nature. The very definition of creativity defies conformity.

Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships and the like (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary copyright 2001).

Following guidelines can feel too restrictive and confining to an imaginative spirit.

Compromising our need for free thought and the business aspect of the publishing industry can be difficult but it is a necessity. Unless you have a good friend or relative who can help you get published you're going to need to play by the rules of the business.

Industry, business, these are the terms I've used to describe publishing, not creativity or art. Every publisher tries to craft a business platform that runs smoothly and economically. They must control costs in order to make a profit. One way of controlling costs is to have all submissions arrive in the same format. This has more than one benefit, first the editors have an easy to read font and a format that they can transport should they need to spend time working from home. Second, this format is typically the easiest for the publisher to reproduce into their chosen medium: print or e-publishing.

So if publishers are interested in ease of reproduction why wouldn't an e-zine want email subs? Good question and one I don't have a ready answer for other than computer viri and formatting issues. The fear of a computer virus needs no explanation to most web-savvy writers. However, not all word processing programs are compatible with web page making software. The editors may be using a format that won't allow them to copy and paste most word processing files into their program. There's also the possibility that they read submissions when they're away from their computer and they would prefer to take a folder of paper work than a heavy laptop.

Other editors use their guidelines to weed out potential problem writers. Writers that might not like conforming to rules and guidelines and can be obstinate when asked to rewrite or reformat their work.

How do you know if a publisher has a legitimate concern or if he/she is enjoying the power they have in the submissions process?

You don't.

Unless you know an editor personally you have no way of knowing what their intentions are. Listening to gossip in writers' groups isn't always the best way of finding out either. Some writers are angry because their work was rejected, others are repeating gossip they heard from another group.

If you want to be published, it helps to behave like a professional. Learn all you can about the business. Read the publisher's guidelines.


Networking is a major factor in the publishing industry. You want editors and publishers to recognize your name as a writer they want to work with, not as the writer with the fuchsia paper and hard to read font.

Following what may seem like incomprehensible guidelines can feel like you're being told to jump through hoops, but sometimes we have to swallow our creative pride and remember that we're in the business world when it comes to publishing. Gimmicks and defiance aren't going to buy you a spot on the bookstore shelves.

Copyright 2003 Tina Morgan. All rights reserved




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