Killing Your Darlings: On the Submissions, Rejections, Acceptances, and Why to Bite the Bullet and Do It… by Genelle Chaconas


Congratulations! You’ve written an awesome piece. You wrote, edited, rewrote, you cut-up, you first thought best thought, you summoned the muse, you just did it.

To quote Richard Brautigan: “so what?”*

You might perform at the local open mic or workshop it with a group, and you’re going to spend many nights up late writing more like it. All of that’s great. You also have another option: why not submit your writing for publication? Here are a few reasons why you should.

Risking rejection is scary.

And you should risk it. Performance anxiety affects everyone. All writers, no matter how experienced, fear receiving an impersonal rejection or a nightmarish, vitriolic rejection rant. Anxiety doesn’t make you cowardly; everyone experiences anxiety. But anxiety shouldn’t prevent you from submitting. The way to challenge your fear of rejection is to take risks.

Friends always praise your writing.

This is a good/bad thing. Your friends support you. They either always publish your work or put you at the front of the list. But your friends are biased towards you. It makes their opinion of your writing a little (or very) inaccurate. They may or may not be able to tell you when your works deserves improvement. Submitting your work invites the opinion of an unbiased stranger.

There is a publisher out there dying to publish your writing.

If only your friends read your writing, other badass writers won’t know you. Other radical, underground publishers won’t read your writing, and that’s a shame. There’s a publisher out there who will publish your work, I promise. There’s no ‘outsider art’ so outsider it can’t find an audience.

There are thousands of publications reading submissions now.

If you search Poets &Writers or Duotrope, or search for submissions for your form or genre, you’ll learn submission opportunities are plentiful. If you’ve missed the deadline on the ideal contest or your favorite publication, research, take chances, trust your gut, and submit to another publication. Submit relentlessly. Most contests and publications accept simultaneous submissions: you can submit a piece many times to different publications.

Rejection may be a compliment.

You’re a wild writer. You break rules, you address challenging content, you’re passionate, you hold nothing back. Many publications shy away. Do not compromise. Keep submitting: your work will find the right submission reader who shares your vision.

You’re in great company. Rejection happens to famous writers, too.

There are many examples. Here’s one. One day, Tabitha King, author and wife of Stephen King, found a draft of Carrie in their trash. He’d become frustrated after initial rejections of the then novella. Tabitha encouraged him to expand Carrie and submit again. Carrie became his first published novel.


A few times, I’ve had submissions accepted (or rejected) the next day. This is rare; most publications won’t respond for months. Some don’t respond to submissions they deny. Be patient. This gives you time to simultaneously submit. This gives you time to rewrite, improve, reshape your work. Take advantage. If you feel sufficient time has elapsed, then inquire.

Always inform a simultaneous submission immediately after your piece is accepted elsewhere; you never know what could happen.

Always inform simultaneous submissions if your pieces are accepted elsewhere for publication. Once I emailed a publication informing them that one poem in a submission had been accepted elsewhere. He emailed back asking to publish the other poems and asked me to send more. I sent more and he published them that day. Once I missed a publication opportunity because I neglected to inform them the piece had been accepted elsewhere. Don’t make that mistake.

Form rejections can mean many things.

It can mean they received more submissions than expected and can’t accept more. Or the submission reader reading your submission didn’t read deeply enough. Or the publication is on hiatus or no longer exists. Or your piece exceeds or falls short of length or format requirements. Or your submission doesn’t fit the theme.

Maybe your submission didn’t conform to guidelines. Read, understand, and follow guidelines. They make it easier for volunteer submission readers. Don’t put your name on submissions: this ensures it’s read blindly (doesn’t allow readers to see authors’ names) and will be judged impartially.

A near success is success.

You’re a runner-up for a contest. Your submission is called a ‘strong submission’, but denied. Celebrate! Runner-ups are often published. Strong submission means ‘submit elsewhere’. If you’re ‘under consideration’, relax; your work passed the first rounds of critique. It’s not accepted, it’s not denied. Don’t feel discouraged if this goes on for months before rejection: submit elsewhere.

You don’t deserve abuse.

Every writer’s nightmare is a vitriolic rejection from a submission reader who didn’t sleep, didn’t eat breakfast, or is an asshole. It’s rare, but it happens. There’s no excuse for bullying responses. Don’t submit to them again, and if you want, forward the message to the Head Editor.

Accept constructive criticism.

When you receive a rejection with constructive criticism, try to see their point of view. Constructive criticism means the reader sees potential in the piece. Reread, reimagine, rewrite. Then submit the rewritten, improved piece to other publications.

It’s not about your feelings.

Your writing deserves to be the best it can be. Your ability to improve in part depends on ignoring your tenderfoot feelings towards your work to foster improvement. Rejection gives you a chance to reevaluate your process. Welcome progress, even difficult progress, and grow.

Publication opens everything up.

Your piece is published: so what?

So, many things can happen.

You Facebook friend or follow the publication and editors. You might build a writer’s website, a writer’s Facebook page, or a writer’s Twitter account.

Some publications ask you to record readings of your work, or to publish your photo. Your author’s bio and publication history begin to show variety.

You’re asked write a special piece for, intern with, take a volunteer position or even paid position at a publication. Or you decide to start your own publication.

You write more.

You submit relentlessly.

*Quote from Richard Brautigan’s “Haiku Ambulance” first published in The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Massacre, 1968.

Genelle Chaconas earned their Creative Writing BA from CSUS (2009) and their Writing & Poetics MFA from Naropa University (2015). Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints, and Dirty Pictures (2011, little m press). They enjoy industrial music, cheap takeout, shoot-em-up B movies, Facebook stalking, and long walks off short piers.  They submitted their work 250 times in the last 365 days.