Rejections Revisited – Think of Them as “Declines”

It’s Ollie here. I’ve had a rather interesting two weeks. I saved my friend Dragon (you can read about it here ), after consoling my dear friend James. I’m basically a hero. (I’m not bragging, simply stating facts – James can be so sensitive.) I’m also dictating this while looking after my recuperating, dearest of friends, Dragon.

Speaking of how sensitive James is, he received a “decline” for his screenplay. Yes, the very same one I told you about two weeks ago. They didn’t call it a decline or a rejection, but that they were taking a “pass.” So very civilized of them, don’t you think?

Well, James was, to say the least, upset. I’ve never seen him like this. Usually he lets these things roll away like kibble dropping into my mouth. (He didn’t take the hint.) However, I understood why he was upset: he’d spent hours learning how to use the screenplay option of Scrivener. Then to be told that his format for the screenplay wasn’t correct was quite a shock.

After letting him sulk for a few days (You did too, admit it.), I told him to look on the bright side. He’d learned a new software to aid in his writing, AND he had been given some wonderful insight into the movie industry. (At last he started to feel better.) After all, one of the things in which the movie people appeared to be interested was whether or not two of his characters were superheroes. As a hero (Please see above should you have forgotten.), I can tell you that whether one is super or not is irrelevant. At least in real life. Another thing in which they were interested was having buildings blown to smithereens. Yes, fantasy and violence seem to be a big deal in Hollywood. At least James had a rather large building destroyed in the first fifteen pages of his screenplay.

The people James was writing about were typical high school kids who stumbled upon a cure for a deadly virus, and their overachieving parents who become instrumental in getting the kids out of an international predicament. It involved Big Pharmacy, ISIS and Navy Seals. However, no superheroes were included, unless, like James, you think of Navy Seals as superheroes. If only James had created a story where the kids stumble across how to fly or see through walls or lift tall buildings or – (Okay. James tells me there’s this guy who already does that stuff called Superman. Who knew?)

The one thing that stuck in James’ craw was the format comment. He’d looked online and seen screenplays and then utilized Scrivener to create his first fifteen pages. There should have been nothing wrong with it, but they said there was. As such, James has decided not to try to repair the story to one Hollywood might prefer. Even though repairing, or editing, is something he will do when a story or poem receives ongoing declines from multiple sources. However, the format he uses for stories and poems is not at issue as it appears to be with screenplays.

Something James wants everyone to know is that the correct format for plays and screenplays makes you look like a professional, therefore you are taken seriously. Without that, even when using a software to help, it isn’t worthwhile pursuing. That is key: know the correct format in which to put your submission.

James was telling me about the different formats for a short story submission. He says they should usually, but not always, be double spaced in twelve-point type with numbered pages. Some publications ask for the word count to be in the header. Others ask for your name and contact information not to be anywhere on the piece or else to be on the first page in the upper left side with the word count on the upper right side and the story’s title to begin halfway down the first page. Others will only take a file saved in Microsoft Word’s “.doc” format. Others only accept a story copied directly into the body of an email. You see what James means: following the correct format is critical. Most journals and magazines won’t even read a submission if it isn’t done correctly. A word of caution: there are also different styles to be followed with include how to spell words (different for a British publication than an American one) and denote numbers, etc.

Note: haphazardly torn from what would appear to be a long list of declines.

When it isn’t in the correct format or style, the declines begin to arrive. A typical decline via the mail comes in the form of a postcard or note-sized paper. Some consider this decline cold and heartless. Nonetheless, every so often there will be a handwritten note like the one James received from “Hank.” He said, “I found your piece moving. Please write again.” It is such a simple gesture that can mean the world to a writer. I know it did to James because he read it to me at least five times.

Note: They don’t respond personally to submissions, yet Hank did.

When he least expects it, James receives a decline via email that actually offers encouragement. While a publication recently decided not to use the short story he’d submitted, they wrote that they were interested in his work, and would be glad to see more of it. An offer to keep submitting, without cost, is something James always appreciates. Of course, had they accepted his story it would have been time to celebrate. Next time.

Note: they would appreciate seeing more of James’ work.

Rejections, or as James likes to call them ** declines **, are part of the playing field. He tries to think of them as infield fly balls. (I know about balls, but I’m not sure about “infield fly balls” – just sayin’.) James reports that some get dropped and the player gets on base, yet most get picked off. Nonetheless, there is always another time at bat – another publication that might be interested in your story.

Like Hank said, keep writing. Also, remember that editing is also writing. This past week alone James has edited three stories that he will begin submitting again. He’ll step up to plate and take a swing.

Have you received any handwritten notes on a decline that inspired you? If so, James and I’d like to hear about them. Please let us know in the comments section below.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please 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
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

Scrivener Is an Excellent Organizational Tool for Writers

Hello my furry friends and not-so-furry people! We finally had a little bit of rain here in New England. It made for great days to play indoors. Of course, James doesn’t appreciate it when I play inside, but….

So, while I was playing with my toys and distracting James from his writing, he was spending time taking a tutorial on how to use Scrivener. What is Scrivener, I can hear you asking? I have been told on the best authority (yes, I knew that would get me a treat) that it is a writing tool, and not simply any device. It comes with all kinds of beeps and squeaks.

(Logo borrowed from

Well, James found a writing contest to distract him from his novel (okay, I won’t go there again, at least not anytime soon) that required a screenplay. James had already written a play, yet wasn’t sure if a screenplay was written in the same manner. While searching online how one is formatted, James noticed that Scrivener was recommended as one of several software options to aid in creating a screenplay.

(Borrowed from website)

Last November James had participated, to my detriment (ouch, well, it’s true) in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Since he was a winner, which means he wrote the required 50,000 words during November, he was given a discount on downloading the Scrivener software. He took advantage of that discount, and he’s now glad he did. In fact, if you, too, have an offer to get Scriveners, James recommends that you grab it. Full disclosure, James has no, none, nada affiliation with Scrivener. (SCORE a “yuge” – as The Donald would say – treat).

(Borrowed from their website)

During the tutorial, James ran to find me (I was cooling myself on the slate floor on the back terrace) and said that there was a section, all be it small, on writing screenplays. All he had to do was to choose “Scriptwriting” under the “Format” tab and then “Script-Mode, Screenplay.” It was that simple.


Within that format, there are multiple options (the beeps and squeaks mentioned above) such as character, parenthetical, action, etc. Each one of these options places the cursor (James told me that is the vertical bar that pulsates – okay, I don’t get it either, but maybe you do) exactly within the screenplay where you want to begin typing. It made James’ life so easy, and my life a quite one since I wouldn’t have to listen to how frustrated he can get when trying to…. (Okay, sorry. James can be so sensitive.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So James banged out the first fifteen pages of the screenplay and wrote a synopsis. James says that’s a one page overview of what the story is about from beginning to end – I’m not sure how that works, but I trust James. (Double score, a double treat). He then submitted both to the contest and was told he would hear back in seven to fourteen days.

Well, it’s sixteen days since he submitted and he’s still waiting to hear. Then again, who’s counting the days? James knows that it is highly probable that nothing will happen with the screenplay he’s begun, which will mean he can get back to his novel. (His dear friend Kathy, a lawyer, is reading it and will have editing comments for him later this month.) In the final analysis, James says Scrivener is an ideal tool for writers. Whether working on a screenplay, novel (fiction) or memoir (non-fiction), Scrivener has a format for every writer.

The other day James was participating in a webinar (news to me, but James says it’s an online seminar) that was similar to the tutorial offered by Scrivener. The leader of the seminar was Joseph Michael, known as “the world’s greatest Scrivener coach,” and hosted by K.M. Weiland. It covered multiple topics from reviewing how Scrivener appears to some of the key tools a writer can use to make their life easier while writing. In a nutshell (It could be fun leaving some of these shells lying around so I could catch a chipmunk or squirrel), Scrivener is an organizational tool. It has “folders” that house drafts, research, templates and more.

James realizes that he has only peeked inside what Scrivener has to offer while working on his screenplay. He’s looking forward to using it more often. One thing he did tell me was that he’s going to take baby steps. (How, as an old man, he’s going to do that, I’ll never know – ouch!) What he says he means is that he’ll take it one writing project at a time until he’s comfortable with the software. I imagine, now that I know what he meant, that it’s a fantastic idea to take his time. (Yes, a treat and a belly rub!)

Oh, and James this very moment received an email that says Scrivener is on sale through 8-August. There is an eleven percent discount from $45 to $39.99. It may be cheaper at another time, but if you are interested, you can get this offer here. There is also a thirty-day free trial of which you might be interested in taking advantage – or so James tells me.

Let us know if you have tried Scrivener? If so, what is your opinion of it? If not, why not? Would you consider using it? I know for James it took a swift kick in – (What? That’s not a dirty word! Okay, but don’t delete that cause I want my friends to know how you censor me.) As I was saying, it took a jab in the side (is that better?) to get him to begin to use it.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please 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
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated