This and That on Writing – Beginning the Journey

We all receive rejections at one time or another. As we start out on our writing adventures, it seems we get a lot of them. Most of these are poor marketing or the need to improve in one area or another – things we’ll learn as we go. I’ve found that out of maybe every 10-20 submissions, at the beginning, you might receive one acceptance. <–Note I said might!

Despite the popular belief that editors are sitting at a desk with a REJECTED stamp, laughing like a maniac as they reject one submission after another, this just isn’t the case. I believe – having now been an editor – that most all editors would rather send you an acceptance than a rejection. Reading submissions is very time consuming and it makes an editor feel like they haven’t wasted time when they can say yes.

Let’s look over rejection, acceptances, critiques, and markets – all areas that writers need to know about…

Rejections: You can cut down on these by doing more marketing research. Think of a manuscript as a puppy that you’re trying to place with the perfect family. If you had a small dog and you knew that the family you were thinking about only liked big dogs, would you even bother? No. You would scratch them off of your list and go to a family that you knew might like the puppy. But, depending on the breed, you would also have to take in different considerations. Does it shed, etc. You wouldn’t give a shedding puppy to a family that had allergies!

So, when a magazine or press rejects you, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer, it just means that your ‘puppy’ wasn’t the one their family needed or wanted and with them not accepting the ‘puppy’ it leaves it free to find a home that will truly love it. So, when one market says no, it leaves you open to find the perfect place for your story/article.

Acceptances: These are few and far between sometimes. With the economy downturn the publishing world is shrinking, so if you can find a place that loves your style of writing, take advantage of it. Don’t forget about them when you do your future writings, but consider them as often as possible. Building credits is extremely important, so the more pieces you get published early on the better you’ll do, and a place that will take you into their pool of writers is a special thing.

When you do receive an acceptance, make sure you respond as soon as you possibly can. Working with and being friends with others involved with small presses, I know that there are issues with people getting the contracts in. Why? I don’t know! You would think once you get an acceptance you’d want to get the contract in! It’s very unprofessional to make any market wait for a contract. You’re showing yourself as undependable and they might not consider you next time unless they’re in a pinch and really need a piece. I mean, why would you accept someone who won’t get back to you when you’re up against a deadline, when you know that this other person might not be as good, but you know they won’t hold you up or cause you stress?! Be professional and get the contract in ASAP!

Also, each market has their own ‘rules’ and their contracts are all different. If you have a question about a contract ask as nicely and calmly as possible, pointing out what you didn’t like or don’t understand – sometimes this can get complicated. If you have a friend that has been published and can give you some advice or will take the time to explain what copyrights are being handled and how, talk to them about it! Understanding what you’re signing is very important. If you do decide that you don’t like the contract, let them know right away, so they can find another piece to fill the spot. Remember, just because you were accepted, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. But, again, don’t keep a market waiting.

Critiques: The main rule to these is to find someone you trust and then listen to what they have to say. No one wants to hear what’s wrong with their writing, but if you can find a friend that will be honest with you and is knowledgeable, you can grow in leaps and bounds! It’s when you refuse to listen to the reader that you lose sight of what a writer is really trying to accomplish. If your reader doesn’t understand something, then you aren’t being clear enough and no one wants to read something that doesn’t make any sense, meaning no one will read your work and you won’t be successful.

Despite that though, there is a line. You should take only the parts of a critique you agree with – after thinking about it and checking the piece over when you’re calm and unemotional – and forget about the rest. At the end of the day, the work is yours and it needs to reflect you. One of the biggest things that makes a writer who they are and creates their fan base is their voice and flavor, otherwise we would all be the same and no one wants that.

Markets: There are a lot of markets out there, but the professional paying ones are slim to none. It’s okay when you’re first starting out to get published by nonpaying markets; it builds your credits and gives more meat to your cover letters. But it’s a good idea to try for paying markets whenever you can.

One way to nullify the sting of rejections is to make a list of possible markets before you do any submitting whatsoever. Write your piece and then look up and find as many markets as you possibly can, making a list ( is good for this if you’re writing fiction or poetry). This list should be in the order of paying/professional markets at the top, leading down into nonpaying markets. The first place you send your work will be the highest paying market that you think your work best fits into, although it might not be the top paying on the list. You’ll want a balance between the best paying and the most likely to accept and then you send it there. If it comes back, you just send it to another market. This way when something comes back you aren’t all bummed because you have somewhere else to try. It’s no longer a big dread of getting a rejection, it becomes a ‘I hope they let me know soon either way, so I know if it’s taken or I can send it somewhere else.’ With this mind set you don’t fear rejections, you just look at them as an opportunity to get published somewhere else. (See the ‘puppy’ analogy in the Rejections section.)

There is also market specific writing, where you do marketing research and find the place you think you can get into and then write something that fits just them – even when you do this, you still need make a list of markets, just in case. There is always the possibility of them getting a large amount of submissions and they just don’t have space for them all, leading to a rejection despite your careful planning. But market specific writing can increase your chances for publication, especially if you don’t want to have a bunch of pieces that you can’t find a home for because they just don’t ‘fit’ anywhere.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and that you find homes for all your works, but if you should get a rejection, remember, they aren’t really rejecting you, the ‘puppy’ just wasn’t right for them!



©Rebecca Besser, 2011. All rights reserved.


Interview with Daniel I Russell, Author of Samhane

Bec: To start off, please tell us a little bit about yourself –

Hey Rebecca.

Where to start? Erm, I’m originally from England but moved to Australia a few years ago. I write horror and have appeared in such places as Pseudopod, Sick Things, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Wicked, Festive Fear Global Edition and Dead West. I’m also the associate and technical editor of Necrotic Tissue horror magazine. I have three children, a wonderful partner and teach chemistry and physics.  Any spare time I use for sleep.

Bec: Tell us about your book –

Samhane is out towards the end of the month in print and probably digital versions. It’s a nasty, fetid little number, that’s been compared to Richard Laymon. If you like your blood thick and coagulating, you might want to spend a few days in the town of Samhane:

“For weeks, I have tossed and turned in my bed in turmoil over whether to publish this. But the people of this town must be warned. Everyone must be aware of the Danger lurking in the dark, waiting.”

Samhane. Just a sleepy town in the rolling hills of northern England. A nice place to live.

Few people know the truth.

Donald Patterson travels to Samhane in pursuit of a sadistic murderer and rapist. Unless Donald reaches Orchard House by midnight, his fiancee will be the star of the next torturous broadcast….

Brian Rathbone and his son are already in Samhane, hired by the mayor. Specialist exterminators, their talents have helped to deal with the ‘little problems’ that have begun to massacre the residents. But as events take a more sinister turn, Brian wonders about the true reason they are there….

Blood and carnage. Pain and suffering. Desire and sweet chaos.

Welcome to Samhane.

Bec: How many countries will Samhane be available in?

Samhane will be printed in English by Stygian Publications and Voodoo Press are releasing a German edition for distribution through Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Bec: Is this your first major publication?


Kind of.  Samhane has been released previously in 2008 as an ebook only with another publisher, as well as a thriller novella. Due to problems, I pulled both books and I’m glad to see Samhane getting a new lease of life, hitting shelves in print. Already I’ve seen such a great prerelease reception (the German edition went triple figures in the first week of prerelease) so it’s humbling and amazing to see how many new readers I’m reaching this time around. I just hope I meet their expectations.

Bec: What draws you to the horror genre?

I guess it’s the sense of freedom. I’ve never been one for holding back with my writing, and the dirty darkness allows me that opportunity. It would be quite bizarre if John Grisham, in the middle of one of his legal thrillers, suddenly wrote horny redneck werewolf or a chainsaw-welding mad man into the plot. I can get away with that. Plus, writing horror is a lot more fun. You make your own boundaries.

Bec: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From the literary world, here comes that name again. Richard Laymon started it with me, as reading his work, I thought, I can do this and I would enjoy doing this. He had a fast pace and the pages turn so quick, especially in such belters as Endless Night.

I like the feel of 80s horror movies, the zanier the better. I know we have gore-no, etc, nowadays, but there was something a bit more visceral about the 80s. Maybe it was the lack of CGI. I was born in 1980 so grew up in the decade of video nasties and whispered celluloid taboos in the playground. I guess that sowed the seeds.

Bec: Knife or hammer?

Both can be used creatively. If I’m eating dinner, the knife. Building a shed? Hammer. Killing someone in a book? Perhaps the hammer to stun and the knife for fun.

Bec: Blood spatter or spray?

Definitely both in my novels. As well as drip, gush, jet, splatter, pour… You get the idea.

Bec: Why clowns?

Because at times, don’t you want to be cheered up? A splash of colour on a grey day and a friendly painted smile can turn your frown upside down. Seriously though, I don’t know. Just like the man who pays for electric probes to be stuck up his anus…it’s just his thing. Not that I get off sexually with the whole clown thing. We tried it once, but it took too long to wash the custard out of the bedsheets.

Bec: What scares the crap out of you?

Now? I guess that every parents’ nightmare does change the emphasis from themselves onto their families. During the pregnancy of my youngest son, we had to have ‘one of those talks’ with the doctors. Decisions had to be made, and that was terrifying. I can watch any horror film you want, but it’s the childrens’ hospital documentaries that send more shivers up my spine. Just makes you think, what if?

Bec: Which would scare you more? Being a love slave to a demon? Or being a slow, live meal for a cannibal? Why?

Easy one. Sex slave to a demon sounds kinda fun, as you can have female demons (in my fiction anyway). They’d always be horny, which is a plus.

Bec: Do you have any other publications coming up that you would like to share?

Festive Fear Global Edition is out next month in time for Christmas, but this is already a sell out. There may be copies still available at The Merchant’s Keep. That features my story ‘It Comes But Once a Year’, starring one of the Samhane escapees. One of my clown stories will be appearing the German anthology WICKED through Voodoo Press. Every story is illustrated with some amazing artwork. Even if you don’t speak German, you gotta love the artwork! Other upcoming publications is the English version of the clown story, Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, in Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian horror, and Rainchild and the Trickster, a Native American/Lofecraftian tale in Dead West from Bandersnatch Books.

Bec: Fire or dismemberment?

Dismember and then fire to destroy the evidence, or at least make it easier to carry. To receive? Neither, thank you very much.

Bec: What is your favorite horror creature?

How can I pick just one? Any, if it is original and well done. Been reading some giant creature stories of late, courtesy of Brian Keene and Sarah Pinborough, so I guess that’s been my flavour of the month.

Bec: Are there any authors that inspire you, if so, why?

Apart from Laymon as mentioned, I’m aiming to get a few more violent-yet-magical deaths that Bentley Little does so well. I would also love to capture that feel of early Clive Barker, The Books of Blood type era. I also adore Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene, as they have boundaries (or lack of!) in a similar place as myself.

Bec: It’s a cold, quiet night at home, suddenly a human brain slams against a window of your home . . . What do you do?

I jump out of my seat, swing open the heavy, metal door to the cellar and run down the wooden steps. I turn on the hanging light and count the jars. If one of my brains is missing, the kids are in deep shit. They know not to touch daddy’s things.

Bec: Screaming, scared woman or kick-butt-I-can-handle-this woman?

One can become the other, and vice versa, under the right circumstances.

Bec: What scared the crap out of you as a child?

Everything scared me as a child! I was a complete pussy. Horror films, themepark rides, the dark, everything. But I always had this morbid curiosity about them. For example, if you’d watched a movie I was too chicken shit to watch myself, I would expect a graphic, blow-by-blow run down of it. That way, I could watch it without watching what. Oh, and aliens. The ones with the thin bodies and large eyes *shivers*.

Bec: Are there any words of wisdom you would like to share with fellow writers who are looking for success?

Don’t look for success! Do this because you like doing it. Your rewards should be words on the page and the feeling of accomplishment having finished that short story or novel. Any publications and royalty payments are just a bonus.

Bec: Where can we buy your book?

Samhane will be available direct from the publisher at and also on and other online retailers. Your local bookshop should be able to order them in. The German edition is on preorder right now at and

Bec: Thank you for sharing your time and insight with us! Best wishes with your book!

Thank you, Rebecca. I gotta go wipe a smear of grey matter from my window. Bloody kids!

Link to purchase Samhane for your Kindle ($.99):

© Rebecca Besser and Daniel I. Russell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Open Mind – Editing and Revisions

I have heard that there are writers that refuse to do edits or revisions for editors. Which actually confuses me somewhat. Don’t you want to be published?

I’m the type of writer that would redo the entire article/story so that I could fit into a publication. Open mindedness is my way. I have not yet had an editor want my to make changes that I didn’t agree made my piece better. One place, I went through two or three revisions before I was accepted. I still loved the story!

When you are closed off to considerating the possiblities of what your work could be with a few changes you sometimes shut doors to getting your work published.

Don’t get me wrong though, if they want to completely tear it apart and make it into something completely different, then by all mean stick to your guns if you feel wronged. I just haven’t seen or heard of anyone having that kind of experience with any publication they’ve been in.

Keep an open mind, make a couple changes every now and again, and who knows, you might be surprised and even please with the end result.

Note: When you get a rejection and they say they liked the story/article, don’t be affraid to ask an editor if they would consider it again with some revision. I have gotten in that way. Just don’t do it with form letter rejections. The only ones I’ve done it with are places that gave me personal comments.



© Rebecca Besser, 2010. All rights reserved.

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