Beware the “Submission Itch” and Other Common Mistakes Writers Make

“You are what you submit,” says a former managing editor of a literary magazine. It behooves you to submit only your best work, and yet, the submission itch—the mad rush to release one’s work to the world—is a common malady.  Before you submit, make sure you’re not making these three common mistakes.

“Writers are often too much in a hurry to get their work out there. They can’t be bothered to make it as good as it could be. Blame it on social media or instant gratification. Whatever the reason, many writers think putting the final punctuation mark in place means it’s time to submit,” wrote Nathaniel Tower, former managing editor at Bartleby Snopes literary magazine, in an article on Submittable’s blog. He should know; he has read 20,000 submissions in eight years as an editor.

3 Common Mistakes

Be careful what you submit to publishing houses, literary magazines, and websites. Be mindful of these common mistakes (I’ve made the same mistakes in the past!).

#1 Don’t be in a hurry to submit.  If you finished a manuscript in one month as a challenge, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to submit. In other words, don’t submit your NaNoWriMo manuscript on the first week of December. Don’t touch your first draft for a couple of weeks or longer before you go back to polish it. Then let more time pass before you polish some more.

#2 Don’t submit until you get some feedback. This is directly related to the first item. Writers who submit without any feedback are giving in to the “itch” to submit. Just stop. If you have a writing critique partner or a writing group, get feedback. Some writers pay a professional development editor to edit their work.

#3 Don’t submit to a publisher or literary magazine without reading their books and publications.  At the very least, familiarize yourself with their website and authors. Always double check their submission guidelines.

 “An editor can usually tell within the first page if the submitter has actually read some of the magazine’s stories,” wrote Tower. “Quite a few submissions make editors say, ‘Wow, we definitely would never publish anything like this.’”

Now it’s time to go back to that short story or novel or essay. Make it shine. Don’t succumb to an amateur’s submission itch.

Read Nathaniel Tower’s article:

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Submitting Your Work

Read other tips for writers:

Common Mistakes about 10 Common Phrases

Beware of the Deadly Info Dumps in Your Novel: 3 Signs to Watch For

Tips on Polishing Your Novel from Paula Munier’s “Writing with Quiet Hands”


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