Early progression of an amateur writer

Thank you, Blueprint. Tell me it is going to be okay.

For this week’s installment of Readerly/Writerly, I would like to take a walk through the early progression of an amateur writer, one I will name YouMeHimHer, a most curious, conflicted creature.

Anonymity is important because some of this is embarrassing.

I should know.

Dear YouMeHimHer:

Thank you for sending us “—-“. We appreciate the chance to read this work. Unfortunately, it does not suit our upcoming issue. Best of luck in placing this writing elsewhere.

the —- editors

YouMeHimHer wakes up from a dream,

thinks maybe a short story could start that way, thinks, Maybe I can write it, then writes the first draft by hand while thumbing through The Sun Also Rises. The dream story includes plenty drinking (whiskey served neat and cold wine, the wine bottles so cold they “sweat”), and has a one-word title like “Dreamscape.” YouMeHimHer transcribes the story, prints it, puts it through one revision. What follows is a typhoon and then cartloads of scattered debris.

Because then YouMeHimHer:

Asks the universe if this is a good idea;

decides the work is publishable (finally settles on “Dreamswept” for a title), or that such a thing is worth attempting;

discovers Submittable, a new shade of yellow-orange to admire;

submits the story to one journal–a contest, coincidentally–which requires a fifteen-dollar submission fee and offers a payout of one-thousand dollars to the winner;

checks Submittable, learns that “Received” and “In Progress” are mostly synonymous, apart from their corresponding dopamine responses;

checks Submittable;

after six months, receives a rejection notice by email, a “form” rejection. It feels like something new. “Dreamswept” was not a winner. YouMeHimHer writes a naive response;

Dear —-,

Thank you for entering “—-” in the 2012 —- Short Story Contest. All stories have been given careful consideration by the staff of readers and editors, and we’ve enjoyed reading the multitude of stories that were submitted. The —- short story contest is always the highlight of our year as it attracts some of the best fiction we’ve ever read.

We had nearly 700 entries this year, and from that the readers narrowed the field to 39 semi-finalists. From those, the editors culled 7 finalists that were sent to the judge. Unfortunately, this year your story was not selected as a winner.

begins revising “Dreamswept”;

gets a new idea for a short story while sitting on the toilet after coffee on a lazy Sunday morning;

writes the first draft of a new story (a two-word title this time), which has a length of one thousand words;

encounters the term “flash fiction” for the first time, finds ten different definitions for the term;

during Google search for “flash fiction,” notices that many journals are on Twitter;

joins Twitter;

discovers Twitter lists, creates a list of literary stuff and journals to keep track of news, submission windows (and various writers and editors subtweeting each other);

offends someone for the first time;

understands, now, what a subtweet is;

vows never to subtweet;


performs a blanket submission of the revised “Dreamswept” story to a dozen journals;

learns of terms “simultaneous submission,” “multiple submissions,” and “accepted elsewhere”;

continues revising second story, including a reworked title (“Cold Lake”);

checks Submittable;

receives free issues of various literary magazines after another handful of misguided fifteen-dollar contest entries, devises plan to read them;

“Cold Lake” is accepted with surprising haste;

converts old travel journal blog–created while the author was living abroad–to an author blog;

add publications tab to author blog; “Cold Lake” is the lone entry;

posts blog announcing publication, no one reads it;

writes another short story, feels increasingly writerly;

attends a local reading;

creates an author page on Facebook;

puts all three stories in a pile and sends them out to more journals;

experiences radio silence lasting three to six months, maybe more;

receives a flood of rejection notices, all (seemingly) coming during the same one-week span (even receives two in one day and considers this some kind of notable record);

Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to consider “—-” for —-.

Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we regret that we aren’t able to respond to each submission personally. Unfortunately, your piece isn’t the best fit for our upcoming issue, and so we’re passing. We wish you success placing it in the right home and hope you’ll consider submitting to —- again in the future.

Best wishes,


learns about the different kinds of rejection, all the kinds, every goddam kind. Form rejections. Higher-tier rejections. Rejections with personal notes asking for more work;

sends more work to a journal that requested it;

receives a form rejection one month later;

learns to recognize rejection notices without having to open the actual email, thanks to phrases like “dear writer,” “after some deliberation,” and “thank you for the opportunity”;

Thank you for sending us this story. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, it’s not quite right for —- so we’re going to pass. Do feel free to send us more of your work though.

Thanks again, and best of luck finding a home for this piece.


The —- Staff

wonders, If the submission is “not for us,” then who the hell is it for?;

Thanks so much for sending —- to —-. We really appreciate the opportunity to read your work. Unfortunately, after some deliberation as a staff, we do not see the work fitting — current issue scheme.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this! Please consider submitting again to —-.


breaks previous record by receiving four rejection notices in one day, decides to stop counting;

encounters various “areas of debate,” including:

works with a supportive editor who offers encouragement and publication;

learns about the tiers of publication, tiers of journals, thinks Nah, it is all about the writing;

Thank you for sending us —-. We appreciate the opportunity to read your submission, however, cannot publish it at this time.

Thanks again, and best of luck.


thinks Yeah, it is not all about the writing;

opens Twitter, sees #AWP splashed everywhere;

sends first snail mail submission, learns of the self-addressed stamped envelop (SASE);

abandons author page on Facebook;

continues writing, has trysts with various types of dashes;

uses fewer dashes;

receives first snail mail rejection slip, puts it up on the wall;

takes snail mail rejection slip down off the wall;

queries a journal with regard to wait times (“might I inquire about the status of my submission?”), receives a form rejection in response;

wonders if writing has any purpose (why send another voice into the void?);

quits writing via official Twitter announcement that uses the word “hiatus” and spans four or five sequential tweets;

The status of this submission has changed.

puts in for paid time off at work and has a staycation; takes the bus to the coast or a lake with a backpack full of expired sunscreen, a beach towel, and Islands in the Stream; gets a sunburn and a rash; takes the bus home and gets mistook for a woman by an inebriated frat boy; takes antihistamines on an empty stomach; eats a breakfast burrito for dinner; drinks heavily; takes a shower; decides to stop drinking; calls family; sits on the porch during a sunset; decides to stop reading Hemingway;

wakes up to a rejection notice that includes an encouraging note;

Thank you for your recent contribution to —-. While we enjoyed reading “—-,” the piece does not meet our current publishing needs.

—-” was one of the top contenders for publication during this submission period, and it was very difficult to turn it away. We enjoyed your writing voice, and we hope you will submit to us again soon.



gets a story idea in an empty elevator;

reaches for the notebook;

falls in love again.


Filed under Featured Content, Readerly/Writerly, Writing

5 responses to “Early progression of an amateur writer

  1. A good read. I certainly hope YouMeHimHer soldiers on. I believe this story has a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post! Like reading about my life right here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Comments and lamentations:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s