Impostor Syndrome in Writing

pencil-918449_1920There’s this thing called “Impostor Syndrome“, which is essentially when someone is unable to accept that they are skilled or competent in a given area regardless of any achievements or accomplishments that prove otherwise.

People who suffer from it are able to acknowledge their successes, but attribute them to luck or good timing, without being able to take credit for their success personally. They are, in short, incapable of giving credit where credit is due when they are on the receiving end of said credit.

And while there is debate over whether or not it should even be classified as a syndrome, or whether it should even be considered a problem seeing as a massive number of people admit to experiencing it, I think it’s still a valid point of conversation, especially when it comes to my fellow writers.

During my career, I have come across writers of all kinds. There are writers who are beyond confident in their abilities (and who won’t let you forget just how good they are), and there are writers who will quietly and carefully outwrite their peers while refusing to acknowledge their real skills. The rest generally fit somewhere in between.

After training, reviewing, and working with so many writers over the years, I think that I can safely say that the writers I have met who undersell their abilities, the ones who question their competency, are the ones who create the strongest content. It is the writers who still believe they have room to learn and to grow, who take feedback and apply it in earnest, who become the masters.

One of the things I look for when hiring a writer is their ability to take edits without letting their ego get involved because those who can take critiques are the ones who are willing to keep honing their skills, regardless of their level of education or how many years of experience they have.

Even though I have come across a lot of writers who are convinced that they are the next big thing, it’s the ones who have at least a touch of Impostor Syndrome (or self-doubt) that actually go on to do great things.

While confidence is important, letting it overshadow your willingness to learn and to expand as a writer will only stunt your professional growth and keep you from becoming better.

I think a lot of us probably suffer from Impostor Syndrome to some degree, especially when it comes to our writing. Hell, I go to work every day and wonder how someone ever thought it was a good idea to put me in charge of a content team. But then I remember that it wasn’t an accident and that, as far as I know, no bribes were involved in the process.

While you should never let self-doubt take over or keep you from writing, letting go of your ego and accepting that there is probably always going to be a way to improve your content or your skills is often what separates the good writers from the great ones.

In short, a little self-doubt is probably normal and healthy. Too much or too little and you end up crippling your skills.

To find a happy balance, be open to edits and feedback. Take time to look over your own writing and consider where you think your weaknesses are. Remember that writing is subjective and that it’s important to find a balance between the technical and creative aspects of a piece of content in order to make it shine.

 

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Whom Is Dead

sculpture-3055967_1920There are writing rules that we must never break (like using a serial comma), and there are writing rules that are meant to be broken (or dismissed altogether). Part of being a good writer is to know when to break the rules and when to embrace them.

I am a writer in the legal industry, which means that I work with a lot of highly educated, verbose, and technical people. It is my job to take the concepts that these people wish to communicate and shape them into something that an average Joe could understand.

Doing so involves a lot of energy, but after awhile, you get the hang of it. Especially after having spent four years in the trenches and passing your knowledge on to your burgeoning content team.

Recently, one of said team members wrote a blog post about some rather complicated legal process for the general public. Blog posts usually have a lighter tone and style than, say, an article. Aside from social posts, they’re the most casual form of content that we write at my place of employment.

When he sent it to me for review, he had left a comment highlighting the use of “who” in the post, noting that he was aware it should technically be “whom”, but that it threw off the rest of the piece and made it sound pretentious. He said he would change it if I wanted him to.

But he was right, the proper use of “whom’ would have been jarring to the reader, causing them to stagger and interrupting the otherwise smooth flow of the content.

“Leave it out,” I said. “Whom is dead.”

So, he published the post as usual and continued his day as usual. For about five minutes.

A notification.

A comment.

Great.

One of our subscribers had, seemingly, read the post as soon as it appeared in their email inbox, apparently eager to read content that could quite possibly bore a rock to death.

Not only had she read the post, she had left a comment. Regarding—you guessed it—our misuse of “who”. She explained to us (a team of professional writers) that we had made a typo and proceeded to teach us when to use “who” and when to use “whom”. Shame on us.

As you can imagine, we were very thankful (we weren’t).

Though our hearts wanted to reply with a touch of sass, we curbed our desires and explained why we had used “who” instead of “whom”, letting her know that in modern content, especially for online readers, it is often accepted as a style choice as opposed to a hard and fast rule. She didn’t respond.

“Whom” just happens to be another casualty in the transition from print content to digital content; the formal to the informal; the standard practice to the trend. A rule that is becoming something to be broken instead of followed.

May “whom” rest in peace, along with double-spacing after periods and (much to my personal dismay) cursive writing.

Everything is Sad

pug-1209129_1920The last US election brought with it a variety of changes, as we all know. But, one of the most irritating, incessant, and persistent changes is the newfound popularity of the word “sad”.

Everything is sad now.

Someone has a different political view than you? It is sad.

A website that you like stopped posting the kind of content you like? Sad.

Millennials exist? Sad.

Vegetarian? Sad. Omnivore? Sad.

Your clothing, hair, or makeup choices? Sad.

Your political affiliation, education, employment history, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and basic existence are all, according to the internet, sad.

And how unequivocally, ridiculously sad is that?

Can we not make use of the multitude of adjectives we all know and love? Can we not use language to communicate how we actually feel or think to someone else? Maybe, just maybe, if we made use of the sparkling and wondrous gift of language that all internet users have access to, our comments and opinions wouldn’t seem so pathetic.

Because yes, choosing to always describe someone that differs from you as “sad” is pathetic. It has become a go-to word used to lazily and hastily place yourself on a pedestal above someone else. Regardless of which side of the argument you are on. As we would say back in Nova Scotia, it is a word meant to get someone “riled up”.

According to the dictionary, there are two possible definitions:

Sad

Obviously, today’s use isn’t about sorrow. So, we must assume that when people use the word, they mean to say “pathetically inadequate or unfashionable”. That becomes quite pretentious when we substitute it for “sad”, but at least it better conveys your thoughts and feelings on whatever matter you are discussing.

For example: “I think it’s sad how everything is sad” could become “I think using the word “sad” to describe everything is pathetically inadequate”. Then it makes that sentiment much more pointed.

It would also help to make everyone seem less dramatic. Is it really, honestly pathetically inadequate that someone wears clothing differently than you, or that they don’t know or believe something that you do? Do you really expect all 7.6 billion of us to think and believe the same things? What gives you the right to determine that someone else’s life or actions are pathetically inadequate? And in relation to what, your own?

Sad, though it may seem like such a small, casual word, is actually a cruel and harsh little adjective, full of venom and pretentiousness when used properly.

So use it wisely.

Or just use a bloody thesaurus.

 

A Writer of All Trades

resume-1799953_1280While I am relatively content in my current position, I still make an effort to scope out new positions at different companies every once in a while. It never hurts to see what other opportunities are out there, and so this morning, I did just that.

But after looking through the results that came up after searching “Content Manager”, I regret the amount of stress and exasperation that I put myself through at not even 10:00 in the morning. Good grief.

First of all, I saw a position for a Social Media Manager that offered minimum wage. Intrigued, not because I wanted it, but because I was wondering exactly how amazing their company must be to pay someone that little, I clicked the posting. Now, I can’t even remember what the company was or how absolutely wonderful they were (which speaks for itself), but I do remember the requirements for the position.

They wanted someone with excellent written communication skills with experience in Photoshop, CSS, HTML, and JS, as well as a Master’s Degree. Oh, and aside from the responsibilities you would associate with the title, they also wanted someone who could write speeches, prepare reports, and, a little cherry on top for good measure, someone who had management experience. For minimum wage.

Next, I was taken on a different kind of journey. This time, the job title actually matched my search for “Content Manager”. A good sign. The posting was fairly straightforward, but there were a couple of typos, which just goes to show that yes, they really do need a Content Manager.

Since the posting looked relatively interesting, I decided to move onto the next phase of pre-application investigation: I reviewed their website. Oh, boy. Here are some of the issues that I can remember:

  • On their About page, the company name was spelled incorrectly (an obvious typo).
  • They had links to their Team, Websites, and Company pages that just redirected back to the Home page.
  • Their social media links also went back to the Home page.
  • They had nothing on the site to indicate that it was under construction.

While this may not seem as bad as my first finding, I felt it was a bit of a slap in the face. Why? Because the hiring company expects applicants to put in time and effort to apply for this position when they can’t even take the time to ensure that their posting is free of typos and to even mention that their site is in development.

And, as a potential candidate, I was decidedly unenthused after learning that I wouldn’t be able to view their site or social media pages. Something that virtually every applicant will want to do before sending in a resume.

Next was a position from a company that not only spelled the job title incorrectly but that I had worked for in the past, albeit in a different department. I’ll be honest and tell you that I looked at this position mostly out of curiosity and not genuine interest.

Now, this posting was a little more subtle in its faults, but it was a perfect example of how writers, communications professionals, and content leads are expected to “do all the things” in a role that should be specific to their skills.

This job wanted someone who would communicate effectively with clean writing and grammar, develop a cross-country marketing strategy, and create content for online, print, radio, and everything in between, aside from a plethora of other responsibilities.

Now, it doesn’t sound that terrible, I know. But the issue with it lays in the desire to have a writer who can create content for so many different platforms. Yes, we writers are versatile, but just because we know how to write for one medium does not mean we can write in another.

For example, writing for radio is a writing specialization. Certainly, any writer who wishes to can learn how to do it, but it isn’t something that we necessarily just know how to do. It isn’t a ready-made skill that we have in a back pocket, picked up while we took a general communications certification or degree.

Job hunting is hard enough on its own, without all of the garbage job postings and unrealistic expectations these postings seem to be looking for. We are writers. We create content. That does not mean that we can also code a website, design branding, kill it on social media, and essentially run the entire marketing department for a company.

And for those of us who can, minimum wage isn’t going to cut it.

A Semblance of Balance

water-747618_1920When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

While some make lemonade, I neglect my blog. Not that I have been handed lemons so much as 34 bags of groceries that I am supposed to carry to my house in one trip. With four of those bags threatening to spill their contents in the driveway. In -40 degrees Celsius.

What I am trying to say is that I have been busy.

The older that I get, the more responsibilities I seem to have each day.

If I want to decrease my chances of having a heart attack and stay in relatively good physical shape I have to exercise and eat healthy.

If I want to expand my knowledge and understanding of the world and the people within it so that I don’t become an ignorant, crotchety old bat in my later years, I need to keep learning.

If I want to be emotionally happy and whole, I need to nurture the important relationships in my life by being present and available to those around me.

And if I want to continue to hone my professional skills, I need to write, edit, read, and learn as much as I can so that I stay on top of things and avoid looking like a fool.

With all of these things, and the limited time available in a day, I often feel as though I am frantically trying to juggle 4 calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree all while sitting atop a unicycle going down the autobahn towards oncoming traffic. At night. In the rain.

The truth is, in order to maintain even a semblance of balance, you sometimes have to choose what to set aside in order to make room for something else. For me, that has been my blog. But now, since some things have quieted down, and because I have sorely missed writing about things that are not related to either publishing or my work, I am going to attempt to find some sort of equilibrium between posting all the time and never posting at all.

That being said, finding that balance may take some concerted effort. We’ll see how it goes. I am notoriously bad at keeping my blogs consistent.

Wish me luck.

 

Blogging: Cold Emails

Blogging: Cold EmailsFirst, I must apologize for my absence. I took some time to myself this summer to do things that were not writing blog posts, and it was absolutely lovely. But let’s jump right in, shall we?

As a senior writer at my place of employment, I frequently receive inquiries from hopeful freelancers asking to write content for the company blog. Some of these want to drop links for companies they work for and others just want to see their work published on a blog that gets around 15k visitors per month. Either type is fine, as long as they meet our requirements.

The emails that I receive usually go something like this:

Hi Brittany. I was just looking over the _______ company blog and think that I could offer some great content for your readers! Let me know if you accept guest posts. Thanks!

Needless to say, emails like that don’t really do a lot for me. Now, since a lot of you are freelancers or at least freelance hopefuls, I want to use this post to 1) show you the right way to contact strangers, and 2) why you shouldn’t feel bad about sending cold emails.

Our basic requirements are as follows:

  • We’ll need to see 2-3 writing samples
  • You may not include affiliate (paid) links
  • The content must be 100% original (barring any direct quotes)
  • You have to suggest a couple of suitable topics
  • You remember that we are not internet or marketing stupid

Let’s break into the reasoning behind each requirement so that you can understand why each one is so important.

Samples help to show how skilled you are when it comes to writing. When selecting a sample to include, try to choose one that has a topic related to the business you are contacting. Always send at least 2, and no more than 5. Make sure that if they were published, the site they are hosted on is reputable, there are no spelling mistakes, and that any and all links work. It’s also best if the post is actually attributed to you and not someone else.

Affiliate links are not “the devil”, but if you’re writing content for a business, it’s underhanded and unprofessional to try to scrape a profit from their readers. Never include an affiliate link in an organic post  unless you have been given permission.

Original content is an absolute must. I don’t want to get dinged for duplicate content, and I also don’t want your recycled information. If you wrote a post for a business and it fell through and never went live, that’s one thing, but if your blog post was published elsewhere you had better think twice before asking me to give it to our readers.

Suitable topics are another must. Spend time reading any content that the business has on their site. Skim some of their blog posts and peruse a few of their articles. When you send your email, include 2 or 3 topic ideas that you really think will work for them. One of the worst things that you can do is to suggest a topic to me that would never fit with what we currently cover.

For example, I was recently contacted by a potential guest blogger who suggested, specifically, maintaining a pool. This was about a week ago and we’re on the verge of snow here in Canada. That topic is not timely, and it is far too specific for me to use since we cover much more general real estate content.

We’re writers and marketers, we know about the internet. We know that you want to get in some good backlinks, we know if you are actually talented when it comes to SEO, and we know when your writing skills are subpar. We aren’t dumb, we know the motivation behind your content is completely selfish, but so is our reason for accepting it—we like free content. So be honest and don’t bother trying to butter anyone up too obviously.

A Good Cold Email

That being said, I will judge you on your initial email, and it greatly affects my reply. If you frequently send out cold emails to businesses or individuals, I would suggest trying something like this:

Hi ________,

I’m a *insert writing profession* and came across your blog through *insert where you found them*. I thought that your post *insert interesting post name related to what you want to write for them* was very *insert an adjective or two of your choice*.

I am writing to ask if you accept guest post, and if so, what your guidelines might be. I have attached some writing samples in order to give you an overview of the topics I have covered in the past and my writing style.

I thought that a post about one of the following topics would be both a fit for your blog and beneficial to your readers:

*insert topic 1
*insert topic 2

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.

*insert name (example: Johnny Awesomesauce)

Are Cold Emails Bad?

No. They aren’t bad. Although most businesses will be savvy to the fact that you are only contacting them to either get your name in print or promote a client, we appreciate when you at least make a good effort to be polite, clear, and thorough.

Sometimes you may not get a response at all, other times you may get a short and direct “No.” But once in awhile, you’ll come across someone who wants to give you a shot and who, even if they do say no, will tell you why. I try to be that person as often as I can because as a writer I know that we are expected to accept rejection without an explanation, and it can be very tiring.

So if you’re trying to break into the writing profession by sending out a few cold emails, good on you. Take note of the tips in this post and understand that no matter how good you are, you are going to hear the word “no” often. But sometimes, you’ll get a “yes”, and when you see your post go live to thousands of readers, it’ll all be worth it.

Do you send out cold emails? Do you look for guest posting opportunities often?

I post funny things on Facebook sometimes, so if you like funny things, pay my page a visit. If you do not like funny things, just avoid it.

How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work Experience

How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work ExperienceWe are all aware of the vicious circle that new grads and professionals face—employers want you to have work experience before they will hire you, but you can’t get a job without having experience in your chosen industry.

So, how are you supposed to get work as a writer if you can’t get experience anywhere?

It’s time to use one of those writerly tools that you have hidden away in your back pocket—your creativity. If you can’t find work to put in your portfolio, you’re just going to have to make some for yourself. Because the writing industry is booming with non-fiction postings right now, I’ll focus on how to build your portfolio as an online content creator.

To start, you’re going to have to do some writing that will showcase your skills, whether you’re getting paid for it or not. As someone who has been part of the hiring process for a number of writers, I can tell you that we like to see a variety of pieces, but prefer when at least one is tailored to our industry.

So if you can’t find paid or volunteer work, or what you have done isn’t necessarily relevant or appropriate for the jobs you are applying for, you need to start creating content specifically for your portfolio. That means writing for the sole purpose of having pieces to show potential employers.

Based on what I would want to see, potential topics include:

  • Tech content related to new products, services, news, and more. Pick something that you want to know more about so that at least you are learning something new while writing.
  • Real estate content about landlords, renters, the housing market, DIY projects, selling and buying tips, and first-time buyer and credit information. This is stuff you’re going to have to know at some point anyway, why not start now?
  • Small business and entrepreneurship posts about startups, employment, marketing, and anything in between. You’re basically doing that now if you are trying to start a freelance career, so write about your personal experiences.
  • Industry news and changes related to the places you are hoping to be hired at. Don’t be so specific that you can only use one piece per application, make your content general enough that you can show it to a variety of employers.
  • Writing and editing advice and tips. Show off your skills by working your way towards becoming an influencer in the industry. You can cover things like the technical aspects or talk more about creating a company voice and language.
  • Digital marketing trends. Generally, employers hiring writers now want them to know about SEO and other content-based technicalities. Write about how SEO works, how to use it best, and why it is important.

Aside from writing about these topics, make sure that you showcase your abilities in being a versatile writer. Switch up the type of posts that you are making by writing in a variety of ways, such as:

  • List posts
  • Case studies
  • How-tos
  • Short-form posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Sales focused content
  • SEO heavy pieces

And make sure that you follow best online writing practices with your content, whether you are sending it as a digital attachment or printing it out. That means that you need to make sure that you:

  • Have titles and headers.
  • Break up big chunks of content.
  • Follow best linking practices (specifically regarding anchor text).
  • Use bullet lists.
  • Avoid multiple fonts and overusing bold and italics.
  • Cite sources.
  • Never, ever plagiarize.

Although you aren’t going to be able to say that you wrote this content for a popular website or other online publication, your desire to showcase your skills shows both initiative and determination.

It also shows that, regardless of your lack of experience in the industry, you are fully capable of creating quality content, and that you really do know what you are doing.

Just make sure that you edit carefully and that your samples really are well done. To get an idea of what your dream employer wants in terms of content, spend some time looking around their blog to get a feel for their style and tone before you apply. That will help you to figure out which pieces are best to send them.

And don’t forget to switch up your style between pieces. It’s nice to see versatile writers who can go from sleek, enticing copy, to informational guides, to casual blog posts.

Once you feel that you have enough content, create a digital or printed portfolio, and show recruiters and hiring managers that you have what it takes.

Do you have a portfolio? Do you find it hard to get work as a writer?

I’m on Facebook if you want more.

Stop Publishing Typos

 

book-731199_1920If I had a nickel for every time I heard a self-published author excuse their typos due to being unable to afford a professional editor, I would have at least $5.00 by now.

While a manuscript with one or two errors is passable, there’s no reason to send something out into the world that a grade school English teacher would cringe at. Seriously, enough with the half-finished manuscripts, people.

Not being able to afford an editor is no excuse to send a hack-job of a manuscript out into the world—doing so can have even bigger repercussions than just firing up the self-proclaimed grammar Nazis of the online world. Publishing content with multiple errors and mistakes hurts your personal brand and will almost definitely affect your success as a writer.

How? Think of it this way—you, as a writer, are like a business. Your words are what you use to market yourself, from your back cover copy to your query emails. Just like a business, you need to be aware of how you present yourself to the public, whether it’s just a small group of other authors, or you are self-publishing through Amazon. If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen. Just as if a business were to sell damaged products at a discount. Sure, people would buy them, but that business would

If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen.

You need to think of your readers as your potential employers, because in a way, that’s exactly what they are. You’d probably never intentionally submit a resume with a mistake in it, so why on earth would you do so with your story?

I can hear you asking how you are supposed to send out error-free content when you can’t afford to pay $75/hour for an editor. Start by doing the following:

  • Once your story is written, turn off your spell check and read through it on your own.You will see more errors when you aren’t being distracted by irrelevant suggestions from Word.
  • Use Grammarly. The free version is good enough to get you through the basics, and it is much more intelligent than your average word processor’s editor. I use the premium version at work and the free version at home.
  • Find someone to trade drafts with. There are other writers out there just like you, I promise. Find one you like and ask them to review your draft.
  • Refuse to settle for “good enough”. If you want to be recognized for your work on a bigger scale than your local writing group, put in the extra time. Self-editing sucks. We all know it. But do it anyway. Do it once, then do it again.
  • Take your time. Stop trying to pump out books as fast as you can. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Keep going until it’s better than you thought it could be. Then start to think about publishing. Quality, not quantity.

There are too many e-books out there that, unfortunately, aren’t worth the money that they are being sold for. If you want a strong personal brand as an author, and you want to sell more than 25 copies, you’re going to have to start thinking bigger than just a good idea. Do your best to produce something worth putting out there, and then do even better. The tips discussed can help you to make your manuscript more than just a beginning and an end.

A story is much more than its telling.

What do you think, are typos OK in  published stories? Are you focused on quality or quantity?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

What Exactly is Poor Writing?

What Exactly is Poor Writing?Any of you who have editing experience can back me up when I say that it is a very tiring process, especially when the piece you are reviewing is poorly written. And while the perceived quality of writing is subjective, there are a few key indicators that it isn’t just you, that the writing itself is the problem.

Poor writing doesn’t necessarily mean bad spelling and questionable grammar. It can refer to the structure and style as well. When reviewing your work, or that of others, be sure to pay attention to the following things to see if the piece just doesn’t mesh with your preferred style, or if it really does need to be reworked.

Beginnings. Whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or a paragraph of copy, every piece of writing needs to have an opening line at the very least, if not an entire paragraph or even page. How that beginning is crafted can tell you a lot about someone’s writing skills. Weak beginnings cause readers to lose interest immediately, and they act as one of the most important parts of content.

Transitions. Transitions are when you go from one thought to another. They are what leads the reader from the end of one idea to the beginning of another smoothly so that there is a consistent flow to the writing. Poorly written transitions are jarring and they throw the reader out of the content, causing confusion and backtracking.

Syntax. Syntax is a tricky little beast. It’s more of an ingrained skill than one that you can pick up from studying. It’s the proper structure of sentences and words within them, and while it can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is using proper syntax, there’s no denying when it is being misused. Poor syntax is confusing, jarring, and hard to read. I relate it to trying to swim through molasses.

Vocabulary. Repetition, lack of variety, and a penchant for either over-complicated or under-complicated word choices are all indications that the content isn’t ready for publication. While every writer has a style (that’s how Rowling was found out when she wrote The Casual Vacancy“), refusing to add a little spice to your content by means of a new word once in awhile can give off a feeling of laziness and amateurism.

Reading level. Reading level doesn’t just mean whether your content should be rated R or not. It means what grade level would be able to read the piece without difficulty. If the content is for a YA audience, then the language should match that. Just as there would be a difference between a blog post and an article for a scholarly journal. If the reading level doesn’t suit the audience, they will either lose interest because the content is too simple, or they will become frustrated because it is too hard to understand.

Punctuation. Surprisingly, punctuation can have a slot all of its own. When you see content that is written like this: “the wind HOWLED!! they couldn’t decide whether: to run or to stay in the cave?”, you know it’s not ready. Poor use of punctuation is a good way to see that the writer doesn’t have a grasp on the basics and that they need to do some more learning before they send anything else to someone for review.

Conclusions. Just like beginnings, there are conclusions to everything. Emails, lines of copy, short stories, research papers, and books. They all have endings, and while endings are never the same, and can be crafted from many different styles, how they are written can leave a reader feeling like they wasted their time.


Any one of these on its own can be a small issue that just needs some polishing, but when you combine a few of them into a single writing sample, it’s fairly easy to see that whatever you are reviewing requires some heavy edits.

The good news is that all of these things can be fixed with healthy doses of reading and writing. Often, I find that the best advice to give when handing back poor writing is to tell the writer to read more. Read pieces similar to what you are trying to create and pay attention to how they handled problem areas.

If you have issues with transitions, look at how other writers navigate through them. Pick up tricks and tools from other content before you take to the keyboard again so that you will already know how to fix your bad habits when they rear their heads.

What’s one of your worst writing habits? How did you fix it? Do you find that reading helps to make better writers?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

paper-794329_1920Most writers submit something to a publisher at one point or another. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a fully-written book, we all split open our chests and bare our fragile, sensitive souls to complete strangers at some point during our journey.

And it sucks. No matter if your piece is accepted or not, the waiting, the wondering, and that moment you see an email in your inbox with the publisher’s name in it all make you want to puke when you think about it. The process of getting published is, if we’re being honest, pretty awful.

And that’s just on its own, leaving out the fact that everyone gets rejections, no matter how good their writing is. If you submit anything to anyone, there is a ridiculously high chance that you are going to receive, at one point or another, an email that inevitably starts with, “Unfortunately…”. And even for seasoned writers with hearts of stone, reading that word can make you doubt everything about yourself and your skill.

But it doesn’t end there. Often, even after you have waited months to hear whether or not your work was accepted, when they decline, they won’t offer any feedback as to why. How can you improve without knowing where you went wrong? How can you submit to them again if you don’t understand exactly why your story wasn’t a fit?

As you can see, it’s all one big awful experience that induces crippling anxiety, grows self-doubt, and chips away at your self-confidence.

But, in all its awful glory, there still lies a glimmer of hope. The faintest sparkle in the darkness when you finally get a letter that says your story was accepted. And that’s what makes it all worth it, right?

And who ever said finding the right publisher for your story was going to be easy? When you think about it, there are a limited number of quality publishers out there for your genre and type of story. Most of them accept international submissions. So you are competing with a very large pool of content from writers with varying degrees of experience. What are your chances of being published?

Let’s talk about that for a moment, and I’ll use a bit of simple (I promise) math to make my point.


 

In marketing, we determine the success or failure of an initiative by examining the conversion rate. For example, if we create a new landing page and the purpose is to get people to sign up for a newsletter, the conversion rate is determined by examining how many people come to the page versus how many sign up for the newsletter.

Say 100 people visit the page, and only 10 sign up (the other 90 visitors leave the page without taking any action). That would be a 10% conversion rate. Sounds pretty low, right? No! A 10% conversion rate is an indication of a highly successful landing page.

So, a 10% conversion rate is good in marketing, but what does that have to do with submitting stories? Everything.

If we scale it down, and apply it to a realistic submission process, we can say that to get a high conversion rate of 10% when sending in stories to publishers, we would have to get 1 acceptance for every 9 rejections. 9. NINE. Nine people saying, “Unfortunately, your story was not a fit…”. That’s a whole lot of rejections.

But that means it isn’t totally unrealistic to think that, even after getting 2 or 3 (or 8) rejections, you should keep going. Hell, even a 5% conversion rate is high, and that would mean that you would have to get rejected 19 times before getting published. And that’s only for one story.

So don’t stop. Don’t give up after you hear “No” once, twice, or even thrice. Make a list of publishers that you think are a fit for your piece before you even start sending out your work. Find at least 10, and work your way through it. Push for that 10%, because if you don’t, you might miss out on your chance.


 

One of the only things in the world that really has a 100% conversion rate is life to death, and it’s far to short to waste your time feeling bad because not all of your stories get accepted the first time, every time.

How many times would you submit a story before giving up? What rejection advice do you have for other writers?

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