Writing Contests & Rejections: Turn Rejections Into Acceptances

Hi – did you miss me? I was having so much fun with my family last Saturday that I forgot to log this blog. That’s right. James took me over to Bonita’s house – who is Bonita? She’s the Mother of our four children. As I was saying, James took me over to Bonita’s house so we could play with one of my sons, Bailey, and one of my daughters, River. Boy did we have a fantastic time!


Left to right: River, Bailey, Ollie, Bonita


Having fallen behind in posting to my blog reminded James this morning while we were out walking – he walks while I run around – that there were writing contests he was falling behind in sending submissions. He told me that if he sent three a day for the next five days that he could get them all done. I couldn’t help but notice how excited he got because he stepped up his pace and was almost, but not quite, running to get home.

When we got back James hurried straight to his computer and opened his email and found four notices from contests to which he had already submitted work, and he didn’t win any of them. I noticed that James’ excitement evaporated when the smile on his face disappeared. I knew it was time for me to take action, so I put my chin on his arm, which made him smile and bend down to kiss my snout.


That’s me, Ollie, and James’ hand, right before a kiss.


It was then he told me that it might be time to examine those pieces of writing to see what might make them better. James doesn’t like to admit it, but he had been submitting them to other writing contests and been declined – James prefers “declined” to “rejected” since it is softer. So, James made a note not to submit them again until he had had a chance to review them and make changes, as revisions were evidently required. That, he told me, is how you turn declines/rejections into acceptances. Editing, also known as revisions, is key.

Another way to turn declines/rejections into acceptances is to know what type of stories, poems and art the journal typically accepts. If James’ writing style isn’t in line with what they print, he knows not to submit to them. A story about two lovers shouldn’t be sent to a science fiction journal unless the lovers are in a science fiction story. Makes sense, but is so often overlooked.

James also knows that the story might not need any further revisions/edits even though it is being declined. That might be because the journal has already published a similar story, or it might not fit with the other stories being selected for that issue. James told me a bit of information he learned in school, “timing is everything.”

Now James knows that winning any writing contest where thousands of other writers have entered is nearly impossible. Being nearly impossible, though, won’t prevent him from trying again. Why, you might ask? Because, as James has told me, if you don’t try then why write in the first place? He writes stories to be read. That’s why he submits them to publications. Immediately after giving my snout that kiss, James dove into making sure three new contests were sent a short story, a poem, or a piece of flash fiction (that’s a tiny short story James has recently begun writing).

Smiling at me so that his teeth showed, which means he’s extremely happy, James said it was time to write a new blog. He asked me what I wanted to write about. After contemplating the red ball we played with yesterday and returning mentally to my family’s gathering, I decided I’d dictate to James about turning declines into acceptances. He liked that idea so much that I got a special treat. I have to dictate to him because my paws are too big for the keyboard.

James and I would like to know if you’ve been submitting your work, whether writings or art, to any contests. If you have, we’d love to know about them and your experience. Please consider sharing them in the comments.

I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

 Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com 
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

How to Breakthrough the Repetitiousness of Writing.

Hello, everyone. It’s me, Ollie. James has recently returned from a trip while I was at the kennel playing with my friends. Why, you might ask, am I telling you this? Because, as James told me during our extra long walk this morning, it helps to change venues from time-to-time to aid in our writing. Yes, this is my blog, but James has to type it for me since my paws are too big for the keyboard.

Photo was taken in Asheville, NC.

So, while I was at the kennel using telepathy to communicate with James, we were both taking advantage of being in a different place from where we usually write. And that place is typically in James’ study, with him at the keyboard and me under his desk snuggling around his feet. We’ve actually been taking advantage of this more often than not since James has been traveling frequently.

How could this help with our writing, you might also ask? Well, when you leave the steady and true environment in which you spend hours writing, you break the monotony of being trapped in a cocoon. You may not feel as if you are imprisoned, but when you do something so little as to change rooms you’ve changed the stimuli surrounding you. Being confined to the same space can lead to stagnant, repetitive words and ideas. Something so little as the direction of the sun’s rays landing on a familiar object can stimulate impulses in the brain to generate fresh and bold verses and thoughts, primarily unbeknownst to you.

Version 2
Notice how the morning sun plays on the sepals and petals.

This is especially helpful while editing, which James has been doing extensively these last few months. Moving to a new location offers new incitements that alter one’s frame of mind, allowing the writer to view their words in a new context. This helps relieve the repetitiveness of multiple drafts. Leaving the safety of a writing nest exposes one to new sensory experiences, reminding is that our characters are also undergoing numerous physical assaults. It’s these sensual feelings that will propel our characters to live in our minds and for our readers. This will also relieve the tedium of revisions.

How, you may further ask, do James and I know this? Because when James finds himself searching for an expression or phrase, he’ll take his laptop into the kitchen or living room, or outside on the terrace or into the woods to our favorite bench, and his writing picks up speed and abundance. He tells me that the simple movements made to change locations also change perspective. And I agree with him since it also alters my assessment on what we might be working, as he always reads his writing out loud to me for my input. (Note: Reading your writing out loud is a big help and a topic for another post.)

Of course, I can’t hear James reading out loud when we are in two different places, but I can hear his thoughts. Not that I’m always listening for them since I’m busy playing with my friends. But when he needs me to focus, I am at the ready. (Yes, that one would have gotten me a treat were we in the same place. There are many advantages to our being together.)

View from bench atop backfield at Skygate Farm.

So, if you find you are struggling with a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, dialogue, poem, chapter, story, or idea, simply get up and move to a new location. It doesn’t have to be as far away as another state or country, but when you do change venues, take full advantage of what that space has to offer. You may be pleasantly surprised to find copious words appearing on paper as if they were flowing over Niagara Falls. You can edit them out later if they don’t apply.

Have you also found that changing where you write helps with your writing? Let me know where you’ve found it helpful. Perhaps at a coffee shop or the mall. You can let me know in the comments section. I always like hearing from you, even if you want to tell me something unrelated to today’s topic, so please feel free to comment on my site.

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated