by Sana Hameed, Age 15, United States
Artwork by Katie King
For a long time, I didn’t care for feedback because I believed everything born to my mind was perfect and unique. I received praise from my teachers, family members, and friends, so this belief persisted throughout the majority of my life. I now know my writing was “pretty,” at times cliché, and all together passable, so it did just that: pass.
Now that I can see the difference between acceptable and extraordinary, I strive to do better. Since I’ve started actively seeking feedback for my work, I’ve received some input worth sharing.
Here are some things to take into consideration before you submit your work to a contest or publication.
Have you revised and edited the piece to the best of your ability?
When revising and editing a piece, most people concentrate on conventions. Grammar, punctuation, and tense are usually what people concentrate on, but there are other things that fall under conventions which are overlooked, such as passive voice. For example, instead of saying, “Pizza was eaten by Linda,” say “Linda ate the pizza.”
In one of my short stories titled “Swerve,” the opening sentence read, “Seeing him turn off his emotions so easily hurt.” This is a slightly less obvious example of passive voice, but it was the first thing a publisher noticed when he examined my story for his anthology. As a result, the story wasn’t accepted, but the publisher was kind enough to provide feedback. The entire story was actually riddled with passive voice, which made the ideas more difficult to understand, so I went back and paraphrased what I had previously written. I changed the first line to instead read, “It hurt to see him turn off his emotions so easily.”
Are you proud of it?
When I first began getting pieces published in magazines and local competitions, some family members always asked to read the stories I crafted, and yet I always adamantly refused, claiming they were “nothing special.” If I had been truly proud of my pieces, I would have read them aloud at every opportunity.
I had not realized at the time that the purpose of entering various competitions was so everyone could hear my voice, not just strangers who roamed shopping centres or the local library, and not just people scrolling through online archives. I was embarrassed, not proud, and that’s mainly because the work that was published wasn’t my best work.
Now, before submitting any piece, I ask myself the question above. I imagine standing in front of an entire audience packed with people I know, reading the story I plan to submit. Is there something I wish to change? Did I convey the point I was trying to convey? My mind is always flooded with these questions as I struggle to answer. If the answer is anything less than a definite and resounding “Yes!” then I go back to the drawing board and see what needs changing. I re-read the story once or twice, grab my red pen, and re-read it again.
If I’m not proud of my work, why should someone else be proud to have it plastered across a page of their magazine or posted on their website? If you don’t put forth your full effort and don’t feel pride bubbling through your veins when you’re ready to click the submit button, then don’t submit your product until you do feel completely satisfied.
I hope all of this advice comes in handy. Proofread. Revise. Edit. Eliminate passive voice. And most of all, be proud of the product.
Sana Hameed is a 15 year old writer from the United States. She enjoys sharing “words of wisdom” bestowed upon her.