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Too Many Good Entries

by teaspill


You’ve finally done it! Strolling around Neopia has given you a brilliant idea for a Neopian Times article, a brilliant enough idea that you’re certain the whole world would love to read it! You race back to your neohome, pick up your lucky quill, and write with feverish joy. You’re going to be in the Neopian Times!

You run to the publishing office and gingerly slip your submission into the slot in the door, your hands (or paws) shaking in anticipation. You check your neomail every few hours upon returning home, anxious to hear a response, anxious to see that coveted acceptance letter. Finally, a week or two later, you find mail from theneopetsteam in your box. You retrieve the missive, and stare anxiously at the writing on the envelope. It reads, “Your Neopian Times submission.” At this point, one of four types of letters can reside within that envelope, and you’re eager to know which you’ll see.

Option one: You were accepted, and will appear in this week’s Neopian Times! Congratulations! (Hey, howd’ja pull that off so quickly? Give a girl some tips?)

Option two: Your submission was held over, and will be considered for publication in a future issue of the Neopian Times. Congratulations! This is by far the most common method of being accepted into the Neopian Times, and is generally followed by an acceptance letter within a few weeks of receipt. At this point you can let loose the streamers, blow party horns, and dance around -- but keep a hand on that lucky Cybunny foot. Just in case. Naturally.

Option three: Your submission was rejected for a concrete reason listed in the neomail. Generally these letters can be avoided by checking your submissions for grammar and paying close attention to the “Handy Tips” poster next to the submission slot. (You did read that... right?) In most cases, this is a relatively slight hurdle to clear. Simply revise your work with careful attention to the issues stated in the neomail, resubmit your article, and you’ve got a good chance of seeing your work in the Times.

Of course, occasionally these neomails will say that your subject matter just isn’t right for the Neopian Times. If that’s the case, you should simply remember that it doesn’t mean you don’t write good, helpful pieces. It just means that they’re not quite what the editor is looking for. Don’t be discouraged, just take up your quill and start on something new. It happens to us all.

Option four is everyone’s favourite, and the real focus of this article. In this outcome, your submission was rejected because there were “too many good entries” this week, and you’re informed that you can feel free to try again straight away. This, the so-called “TMGE,” is the bane of every Neopian Times writer’s existence. We have nightmares, and in them giant neomails flit about like Scorchios, breathing fire and shouting that we weren’t good enough this time, but we can try again next week! Ahem, went a little too far there. Regaining composure. Okay, go:

Getting into the Neopian Times is a lot like conquering Neopia: it rarely succeeds upon a first attempt. At least, that’s what my Grundo tells me every time I turn green with envy upon reading the accepted entries week after week. I’m betting he’s right. After all, writing for the Times is a special form of art. Browse through the articles and you’ll notice that, in spite of the varied authors and topics, the published works have a lot of traits in common. Light-hearted humor, a jovial tone, and a genuine desire to both help and amuse others are all hallmarks of Neopian Times articles. The more your article falls in line with the general mood of the Times, the more likely you’ll find yourself in print.

Consequently, whenever you find yourself holding a TMGE, the best thing you can do is sit back, relax, and read the Neopian Times. Really read it. Did an article make you smile, give you the warm fuzzies, or make you want to try something new in Neopia? If so (and doesn’t the Neopian Times always accomplish at least one of these?), think about how the author provoked that reaction in you, and whether similar methods might fare well in your own work.

After seeing what makes it into the Times and making your article as close to what you see as possible, you should take a look at your work independent of context. Really take a look at it. Don’t be distracted by your intense interest in the topic; not all of your readers will share that, and the goal is to make the article enjoyable for everyone. Don’t be blinded by your bypassed brilliance or shameful incompetence – odds are, neither really exists. You don’t have to be a great writer to get into the Times; you just have to put your heart into your work. And please, leave your ego at the door; the Times is about amusing others, not self-aggrandizement.

Don’t skim your article under the presumption that, as the writer, you already know it well enough. You don’t. You know what it’s like to write your article, not what it’s like to read it. These are often remarkably different experiences, and since how it reads is all that matters, you’d do well to know precisely how it does read! I can assure you that if you don’t enjoy reading it, no one else will either, and that’s quite a good reason to not be published in the Neopian Times. Really, imagine the embarrassment of being that Neopian who wrote that article no one wanted to read! Sometimes I really do want to thank the editor for rejecting me.

Now that you have some general guidelines in mind, and have perhaps revised a few flaws in your own work, you can look at a few more specific points.

How’s the pacing of your work? Does the middle drag or keep you reading? Does the introduction pique your interest, or feel like a useless passage to wade through? Does the ending feel satisfying, or like a tacked-on closer for the sake of form? Does your article feel too long and boring, or perhaps the opposite, too short and lacking in content? All of these are things that can, and should, be looked at an improved where necessary. They make the difference between a truly finished article and an article that, well, isn’t quite good enough to pass the TMGE test. The key is to have a critical eye towards your own writing, and to not be afraid to axe and completely rework your own piece. Don’t be embarrassed or discouraged; the key to being a great writer is being a great editor. You’ll get there with a little effort, I promise.

It may seem like a lot of work, but actually revising your TMGE’d articles can have great rewards. Though the rejection letter says you may try again next week, take my advice and actually try to rework your piece instead. With a little polish, you can turn your rejected article into one of those pieces that are just too good to pass up – that’s much better than just scraping your way in by a hair. Now run off and get to work. I want to see you published next month!

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