SIXTY-SECOND SUB TIPS: Coping with Rejection

Rejection is an ugly part of the business, but it’s going to happen no matter what you do or how awesome your work is. If you’re a writer, it’s best to develop a thick skin—get over that disappointment quickly, and turn around and send the piece someplace else. But if you’re really upset about a particular rejection—and it happens every once in a while, no matter how many hundreds you’ve received in your career—here are some coping methods we’ve found that really work.


♦ Call and writing friend and bitch—be sure to explain why this particular rejection is bothering you so much. Did you tailor the story specifically for this market, for example?

♦ Treat yourself—DVD you want? Book you want? Game, dress, waffle maker?

♦ Pick twenty other places to send the story to.

♦ Have your favorite beverage/snack/meal/dessert.

♦ Go out to dinner, or to the movies—something that’s immersive and distracting.

♦ Break/destroy something if you’re angry (you’ve probably got junk around the house you’ve been meaning to chuck anyway).

♦ Burn your rejection letter.

♦ Do some type of physical activity—go for a jog, swim, walk, or whatever you like to do.

♦ Start working on a non-writing project, one that will show progress, such as cleaning your house, making a scrapbook, putting together that model you’ve always wanted to finish.

♦ Share all around; you’ll gain lots of sympathetic support. However, IF YOU NEED TO PUT SOMETHING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BE SURE IT’S APPROPRIATE. Here are just about the ONLY appropriate ways to phrase it for social media:

“I just got a rejection letter. Bummed!”

“I just got a rejection letter from a market I was hoping to get into. Back to the drawing board!”

You really have to watch what you post on social media. Editors talk, just like writers talk. You don’t want to get yourself black-balled. If you want to be nasty—it’s fine, we’ve all done it—do it privately and with people you trust.

♦ Keep in mind that as much as writers don’t like getting rejections, editors don’t like sending them—with few exceptions, most editors were or are writers, too, and we know how it feels to be on the other side of the desk. No one takes glee in telling a writer “no thank you.” The worst part of the job is knowing you’re going to make someone feel bad or turn their day into a disappointment at best, crush their hopes and dreams at worst. Truly, it’s not much fun for editors, either.

SIXTY-SECOND SUB TIPS: Final Manuscript Polish Checklist

No manuscript, no matter how hard any of us tries, is perfect; there is always going to be at least one tiny mistake someplace. It’s the nature of what we do. Why? It’s because our brains, when reading, fill things in for us.

One thing that can help cut down on the number of typos/small errors is reading the story or poem aloud; there’s something about the connection between the brain and the mouth that magically exposes items like missing words, misspellings, and even sentences that might be unwieldy or too long.

Beyond that, what are some other items to check before you send your newest baby out into the world? Here’s a checklist we hope will help you, and happy submitting!


♦ Read aloud for typos, missing words, rough sentences

♦ Check paragraphs/sentences for double use of words/phrases too close together

♦ Check Properties for correct title and author name; correct if necessary. You must always hit “Save” after altering anything in Properties, or it won’t take.

♦ Make sure word count is correct

♦ Make sure font and point size in header (Last Name/Title/Page Number) are in same font as manuscript text

♦ Check against Shunn formatting: margins, et cetera

♦ Check to ensure that the text throughout is left-justified. Sometimes, a random paragraph here and there can get centered, right-justified or justified by accident.

♦ Remove spaces in between paragraphs under the Paragraph Tab

♦ Ensure tabs are replaced with hard indents of .5 in the Paragraph Tab

♦ Ensure any notes to self/Track Changes/odd typefaces or colors have been removed or changed

♦ Ensure double spaces are removed after each sentence—there should only be one space after each period, not two

♦ Ensure the em-dashes are not – or — , but –

♦ Check to ensure internal thoughts—or anything else that was meant to be rendered in italics—is in italics

♦ Make sure that, in your contact information, your address/email (this one especially) and phone numbers are correct

♦ Make sure that your scene breaks are separated with #. Unless the market specifies something different, this is the professional default.

♦ Make sure widow and orphan control is turned on.

♦ Make sure the “don’t hyphenate” box is checked. This will keep words from being hyphenated at the ends of lines.

♦ Check that any numbers are rendered correctly. For Chicago style, any numbers 1 – 100 are written out (as in, one – one hundred); there may be some exceptions. A quick Google of “Chicago Style Guide Numbers” will yield the information you need if you’re not sure.

♦ If you changed the names of any characters mid-stream, ensure that there aren’t any of the old names in there. Use the search function to type in the old names and ensure there aren’t any hangers-on.

♦ Check that all apostrophes/quotes are “smart.” Sometimes, when working with a document many times over on several machines, there are sections with flat text apostrophes/quotes.

♦ If you are having trouble fixing formatting or anything on your document, your best bet is to copy, cut, and drop it into a new document and save it as text and “start fresh.” However, you will then have to go through this entire checklist again.



Welcome to our Sixty-Second Sub Tips series, where we’ll take a close look at various aspects of the general submission process to get skills sharpened and foots in doors! The sixty-second part? There’s a Quick Review Checklist Box at the bottom of each post!

We have lots of goodies planned for this series, including a thorough pre-submissions checklist, can’t fail cover letter templates, and more. We’re aiming for once a month. Sign up using your email in the box at the footer of our website, and you’ll get a notification in your inbox when the next installment is published.

After our first Manuscript Musings post (now that the Spring 2022 issue is in the bag, another one is coming soon), some of our readers asked for tips on proper manuscript formatting.

Why is this important? Formatting a manuscript professionally is critical, because it ensures easy reading and room for notes (on paper or electronically, especially if Track Changes is used), which, in turn, keeps the publication’s workflow moving—which means a faster response time to writers.

Why should you care? The truth: editors have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to read and evaluate, and decision-making is always difficult. Anything that can be eliminated quickly is helpful. Therefore, those that aren’t formatted according to the project’s guidelines, or even just professionally, are an easy mark for rejection. In fact, it’s stated in many guidelines that improperly formatted submissions won’t even be read.

Unfair? No. Efficient business. Employers do the same thing when they’re screening job candidates. The similarities between the two processes are staggering: editors, like employers, are looking for the best match.

Professional formatting makes a positive first impression. It sends the message that you’re not only serious about your art form, you consider yourself a professional, which, in turn, indicates that you’re going to be easier to work with. Any manuscript will go through edits before publication, which means you’ll be working as a team with an editor. A properly formatted manuscript tells editors you know what you’re doing, resulting in less time, less hassle, and a better final product.

Scenario: Suppose there are two stories in the pile competing for one spot. They are equally our vibe, and equally excellent. One manuscript is professionally formatted. The other isn’t. I can’t speak for any other editor, but I can speak for myself. This is what would go through my head:

Professionally-formatted manuscript: Wow. This person’s a pro, so I won’t have to worry about having to spend time explaining how the process works or how to use Track Changes. This person will probably take my editing suggestions seriously and will be as open to compromise and discussion as I am, because we both want the best result. This person will probably understand that we’re on a deadline and will respond in a timely manner. The manuscript will be easy to prepare when we send it to layout, because we already know what we need to change to fit our format—three or four quick changes and off it goes. This is going to be a breeze. This is going to be fun.

Improperly-formatted manuscript: Formatting professionally is easy. If this person’s serious about the work, why didn’t this person do it? If it’s a lack of experience, then, does this person know how to use Track Changes? How much time am I going to have to spend walking this person through the process? Will it take forever to get the edits back because there’s a lack of knowledge about what’s a good suggestion and what isn’t? If it’s not professionally formatted because this person believes he or she is so good he or she doesn’t need to follow the rules, then there’s an arrogance there, so … is this person going to balk if I make a small change? Will we be able to come to any compromises if the person doesn’t like my suggestion? If it’s out of laziness, will this person just not respond in a timely manner or not want to do anything further and cause a disruption in our workflow? We’ll also have to strip the entire thing down to text and reformat it, because we don’t know what’s lurking underneath the code that might mess up our layout process later. That will mean I’ll have to compare the original with the plain text to make sure I don’t miss any paragraphing, bolding, or italics, and I’ll probably have to reformat all the smart quotes and everything, which is easy enough with search and replace, but one or two always gets missed, which means I’ll probably have to read it aloud more than once to make sure. I’m anxious about what it will be like to work with this person, and it’s going to be more work no matter what. Ugh.

Guess which one gets the coveted slot?

I have no problem appearing judgmental, because here’s the reality: a manuscript’s appearance sends a message. It’s no different from getting an email from a strange address full of typos requesting money versus an email from a trusted company that’s perfectly polished asking you to consider an investment. Which one makes you feel safer?

Professional formatting is easy. After you do it a few times, it just becomes second nature. As long as the guidelines don’t ask for something specific (like a specific font, or single spacing, or something like that), Shunn or SFWA formats are the way to go. Either one covers all the basics, and your manuscript is guaranteed to look professional—with minimal effort. These links give very specific instructions.

Shunn is preferable. I only included SFWA here because some publications will specify they want that one, and I wanted you to know what it is.

Shunn Classic Formatting for Short Fiction

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America [SFWA] Format

What about poetry? Shunn has a format for poetry, too, and it allows for the unique layouts and spacing of poems. So, yes, you can still go with a professional format for your poetry without messing with its original intended presentation. I’m bolding this because many poets don’t realize that double-spacing poetry is not required (unless, of course, that was the poet’s intent), and if the poem is visually spread out or designed, that’s okay, too. Editors expect poetry to appear in non-traditional form, but there are still rules regarding font, name/contact information, and other basics that won’t interfere with the character of the piece.

Shunn Formatting for Poetry

If you don’t know how to perform a specific task—such as removing the double-spacing between paragraphs—or a market requires a certain format-related item you’ve never even heard of, much less know how to do, there is no shame in that. We’ve all been there and learned by doing, and you can find anything on Google these days. Step-by-step instructions for your specific word processing program and version are just a search away.

Above all, the most important thing is that your name and contact information appear on the manuscript itself (unless the guidelines specifically tell you to take it off—some publications read blind, so make sure you’re paying attention and remove your info if that is what they ask for. We’ll talk about this in a future installment). Most publications have a team of readers and/or editors, and during the consideration process, documents get shared. In the best case, work can get lost in the shuffle. In the worst? That fabulous poem you wrote could be attributed to another writer. While both of these scenarios are unlikely, would you really want to take that chance? Mistakes happen. Ensuring your contact info is on the manuscript protects yourself and your interests.

Manuscript Formatting Quick Tips Box

We hope you found this helpful! If there’s anything you’d like us to cover, please leave a comment below or reach out to us through our contact page. We’d love to hear from you!