Writing Contests & Rejections: Turn Rejections Into Acceptances

Hi – did you miss me? I was having so much fun with my family last Saturday that I forgot to log this blog. That’s right. James took me over to Bonita’s house – who is Bonita? She’s the Mother of our four children. As I was saying, James took me over to Bonita’s house so we could play with one of my sons, Bailey, and one of my daughters, River. Boy did we have a fantastic time!


Left to right: River, Bailey, Ollie, Bonita


Having fallen behind in posting to my blog reminded James this morning while we were out walking – he walks while I run around – that there were writing contests he was falling behind in sending submissions. He told me that if he sent three a day for the next five days that he could get them all done. I couldn’t help but notice how excited he got because he stepped up his pace and was almost, but not quite, running to get home.

When we got back James hurried straight to his computer and opened his email and found four notices from contests to which he had already submitted work, and he didn’t win any of them. I noticed that James’ excitement evaporated when the smile on his face disappeared. I knew it was time for me to take action, so I put my chin on his arm, which made him smile and bend down to kiss my snout.


That’s me, Ollie, and James’ hand, right before a kiss.


It was then he told me that it might be time to examine those pieces of writing to see what might make them better. James doesn’t like to admit it, but he had been submitting them to other writing contests and been declined – James prefers “declined” to “rejected” since it is softer. So, James made a note not to submit them again until he had had a chance to review them and make changes, as revisions were evidently required. That, he told me, is how you turn declines/rejections into acceptances. Editing, also known as revisions, is key.

Another way to turn declines/rejections into acceptances is to know what type of stories, poems and art the journal typically accepts. If James’ writing style isn’t in line with what they print, he knows not to submit to them. A story about two lovers shouldn’t be sent to a science fiction journal unless the lovers are in a science fiction story. Makes sense, but is so often overlooked.

James also knows that the story might not need any further revisions/edits even though it is being declined. That might be because the journal has already published a similar story, or it might not fit with the other stories being selected for that issue. James told me a bit of information he learned in school, “timing is everything.”

Now James knows that winning any writing contest where thousands of other writers have entered is nearly impossible. Being nearly impossible, though, won’t prevent him from trying again. Why, you might ask? Because, as James has told me, if you don’t try then why write in the first place? He writes stories to be read. That’s why he submits them to publications. Immediately after giving my snout that kiss, James dove into making sure three new contests were sent a short story, a poem, or a piece of flash fiction (that’s a tiny short story James has recently begun writing).

Smiling at me so that his teeth showed, which means he’s extremely happy, James said it was time to write a new blog. He asked me what I wanted to write about. After contemplating the red ball we played with yesterday and returning mentally to my family’s gathering, I decided I’d dictate to James about turning declines into acceptances. He liked that idea so much that I got a special treat. I have to dictate to him because my paws are too big for the keyboard.

James and I would like to know if you’ve been submitting your work, whether writings or art, to any contests. If you have, we’d love to know about them and your experience. Please consider sharing them in the comments.

I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

 Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com 
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

5 thoughts on “Writing Contests & Rejections: Turn Rejections Into Acceptances

  1. Hi Ollie and James! Boy, did I sure miss you guys! This is an excellent blog post. I love how James uses the word “decline” instead of “rejection. I love it so much that is what I call it when I get a “decline” and I do get a lot of those.

    However, James is right, Ollie. If we don’t try, then we definitely won’t get any of our stories read or accepted.

    That’s why I’m submitting more of my work, too. As a matter of fact, I took the time to set up a writing, posting (on my blog) and submitting plan.

    We must set up such a plan I order to hold ourselves accountable and not give up! We must be “like a machine” as James taught me, and go for it!

    I recently submitted an article to a magazine called Five2One. The article is about my experience having two kids who are transgender. Ollie, it’s ok if you don’t know what that means. James will explain it to you. (Make sure you get a treat when he does, and tell him it’s from me!)

    The article will be published soon, but I don’t have a date on that yet. When it’s published, I will be happy to share it with you guys. I also submitted two poems to them and I’m waiting to hear if they will publish them. I think I have a good chance, but if not, I will keep sending them out until they find their “home.”

    Today I am working on a couple of short stories, poems, and flash fiction pieces to submit to some journals and contests that have looming deadlines.

    I’m also working on a blog post to share this week.

    Oh, I’m so happy you got to go see your kids, Ollie! I have four kids. I love them and miss them a lot. They live far away from me, but I talk to my two oldest sons frequently on the phone. They’re awesome.

    We also adopted a new puppy this weekend. We named him Bailey Crockett Deal, and call him Crockett. He’s a black Labrador retriever, with just a little Border Collie from his Momma’s side. He’s so cool!

    Love and miss you guys! Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Afternoon, Ollie. Please tell James that I have only submitted one story to a magazine, but it was not part of a contest. I expect to find out whether I have been ‘declined’ in the near future. Otherwise, my main project (other than my blog) is a novel, and that’s a ways off from being finished, so I don’t expect to be submitting that anywhere for quite a while. I admire James’ tenacity in submitting so many things – and versatility in doing so many kinds of work – please let him know that too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ollie, tell James that if he’s not a member of a writing group, he should join one. I’ve been submitting stories for years and seldom got so much as a “decline”, just never heard from them. After my writing pod critiqued my stories and I rewrote, revised, rewrote, and revised, one finally got accepted and published! Lately, I’ve been getting kindly-written “declines”, which keeps me hopeful another acceptance is in the stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James has been in writing groups and absolutely loved them – he told me the feedback was always helpful. He writes to be read – that’s his goal. Thank you!


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